Election 2020: BC’s economic challenge

This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative

“ … The challenge is the economics that is going to come home fairly quickly.  We’ve had too many people off business; off work. The bills are building and we must address that,” said BC Liberal candidate Norm Facey, in the only interview he granted Cortes Currents.

Photo credit: Accounting by Foam via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

“I’m not saying we’re going to run in and balance the budget – because we’re not. We are going to run in and take care of people. We’re going to make sure that services are extended. We’re going to reduce costs. We are going to make sure that people come first and we get a recovery that includes everybody, not just a few.”

BC's economic challenge: growing provincial debt
Years where the debt was paid down are in green, those when it rose are in pink. Data taken from a statement from the National Bank of Canada, various online annual BC Government Accounts, and the provincial debt chart on BC Tax Tips by Roy L Hales

The Biggest infrastructure investments 

While many frame this election as Liberal tax cuts vs NDP incentives, the Liberals just announced ‘the biggest infrastructure investment in B.C. history.’ They plan to spend almost $31 billion over the next three years on new highway and transit projects, schools, hospitals, and new housing all across B.C.

This is actually similar to the NDP’s new Recovery Investment Fund, whose estimated cost is roughly the same.

(Professor Werner Antweiler, from UBC Sauder School of Business, isn’t convinced either plan would boost the economy, though they could stimulate voting.)

Giving people money

The Liberals also propose big tax cuts, including $11 billion from the provincial sales tax over the next two years

Premier John Horgan claims it would be more effective to give low and middle income British Columbians a cheque and is promising $1000 to families and $500 to singles

Contrasting Liberal and NDP Governments

NDP candidate Michele Babchuk contrasted the previous Liberal administration with the current NDP government.

“A John Horgan government is focused on a an economy that works for everyone, not just the people at the top. The old BC Liberal Government took money from BC Hydro and ICBC to fund tax breaks for the rich, then increased the rates that people had to pay. MSP doubled. ICBC went up 36%. Hydro went up 87%. Bridge tolls were in place and housing skyrocketed,” she began.

“We introduced three balanced budgets, while improving services for people; got rid of MSP [fees]. We’re turning around ICBC and reducing rates by 20%. wages went up 17% in three years.”

COVID

“Then COVID 19 hit. We announced:

  • an unprecedented $8 billion to support people and kickstart BC’s economic recovery; 
  • a PST rebate on machinery and equipment, so that people can invest in their business; 
  • a 15% tax credit for hiring new employees. 
  • grants to support 15,000 small and medium businesses, while protecting 200,000 jobs
  • grants for people to get trained in high demanding fields like health care and child care
  • And 7,000 new family supporting health care jobs to fight the pandemic.”

She concluded, “We are putting people at the centre of our recovery, let’s keep going.”  

The Liberal Account of these years

Of course the Liberal version of these events is very different. In a recent press release they state, “Under the NDP-Green coalition government, taxes have increased by over $5.7 billion since 2017 – that’s an average of $3,025 per household for this year. They’ve added 23 new or increased taxes, including sneaky taxes on soda and Netflix, that far outweigh the benefits of eliminating MSP premiums …”

They conclude, “A BC Liberal government led by Andrew Wilkinson will restore BC’s economic advantage by reducing the burden of taxes and red tape, making our province a global destination for technology and innovation where we attract and create the jobs of the future.”

It’s the small companies

Green party candidate Alexandra Morton suggested, “If the government forms a Ministry of Climate Action, and inventories what is required to pull us into a Green economy, companies could be invited to submit proposals.”

Her voice grew more animated when Morton added that corporations are not leading the province’s recovery. 

“What a champion the small businesses are, in job creation. It’s not the big companies, that have been bullying all of us, it is the small companies [that are employing people],” she said. 

* Though a 6.3% increase was applied for it December 2018, it was not granted until the following month (i.e. – 2019). This appears to be the last rate increase to date. Data compiled from ICBC, CHEK News , “Decline and Fall of ICBC, Fraser Institute and Canadian Underwriter – by Roy L Hales

The larger answer

She continued, “The larger answer to your question is going to be highly individualized. I’ve been talking to mayors and small businesses across my riding and I am so impressed at the initiatives that are underway in places like Tahsis, Zeballos and here in Sointula.” 

“ … I am so impressed with the measures that are going on at the Strathcona Regional District and the fibre optic cables that are being laid to bring high speed connectivity to communities – which everyone is asking for, it is so important.” 

“I also look at food security and what needs to be done to create larger gardens and small farms. People already know their communities. Speaking to people in Campbell River, they know where the arable land is and some of it has trees on it. So maybe the province has to release those trees, they get logged and processed in a local mill and then take that land and turn it into sustainable gardens for our communities.” 

“There is no one size fits all for the post COVID response. I just see an enormous amount of willingness in people to adapt and work extremely hard.”

Top photo credit: Elk Falls Suspension Bridge over the Campbell River courtesy David Stanley via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Compiled from submitted photos

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