Opinion

Editorial — Taxing by stealth

The provincial government is busy dropping financial bombshells, and the net effect will mean it is reaching deeper into most British Columbians’ pockets.

The most obvious attempt is the announcement Tuesday that ICBC plans to seek a rate increase. It says claims are going up, and its financial cushion has been lessened as the province has taken $700 million in dividends from ICBC in the past two years.

This situation is eerily familiar to that of BC Hydro. Its rates are going up by about 25 per cent, and while the need for increased capital projects is cited as the reason, the province has also been helping itself to Hydro’s surplus in recent years.

The province has every right to raid the piggy banks of these Crown corporations— it is the sole shareholder. However, what it also needs to do is admit that Hydro and ICBC customers are paying higher taxes, because they pay more to those two corporations than necessary.

The provincial government  frequently brags about B.C.’s low income tax rates. This is commendable, as low income taxes do attract residents and jobs. But if income taxes are lower than they should be, and Hydro and ICBC customers have to make up the difference, there needs to be some honesty on that frront.

The province also has boosted medical service plan premiums in recent years. It is worth pointing out that most other Canadian provinces charge no such fees to their residents, so again lower income tax rates mask the fact that B.C. residents pay additional fees.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon said Monday that B.C. faces a bigger revenue shortfall, and then in effect blamed residents for voting against the HST. He said the HST was a better tax system and the province was losing out by abandoning it.

It seems that he has a problem with democracy. The HST was defeated in a referendum almost solely because of the government’s arrogance and unwillingness to properly sell the tax to residents. That ham-handed approach continues, as Falcon’s comments prove.

The provincial government is hypocritical when it says that it wants to put all its policies through a “families first “lens. If that was the case, it wouldn’t be raiding Hydro and ICBC surpluses, and would assess income tax at a realistic rate.

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