Opinion

Hard work to grow the B.C. economy is necessary

Mary Polak told a large crowd at her annual fundraiser on Friday night that Premier Christy Clark is working her cabinet ministers and MLAs harder than ever.

“Our noses are to the grindstone,” she said.

Anyone who is at all familiar with the two Langley MLAs knows they are both very hard workers. Polak is now minister of environment, but she has held a number of positions in cabinet and  before that as a parliamentary secretary. She is diligent in dealing with her portfolio, yet manages to spend a lot of time in the constituency as well. Her hard-working assistant, Cathy Gibbs, is present at many other functions, so there is little excuse for anyone to say Polak is inaccessible.

The same is true of Rich Coleman, who has been in cabinet steadily for the past 13 years, currently as minister of natural gas development, minister of housing and deputy premier. He was the key elected official in the successful and surprising BC Liberal re-election campaign last spring, and was one of a very few who stated both privately and publicly that the BC Liberals were going to win.

Coleman’s current job, to get at least a couple of LNG developments from the proposal to the construction and operation phases, is a very demanding one, but he is optimistic that there will be some LNG plants built in B.C., despite intense competition from several other parts of the world, including the U.S.

It’s important for taxpayers that he succeed, because the tax and fee burden on B.C. residents is getting to be a little over the top. This is from a government which is not throwing money around recklessly, for the most part; has limited public service salaries and kept spending on political perks to a minimum. It’s the reason the BC Liberals are at war with the B.C. Teachers Federation — the government is trying to control costs, and a recent court ruling that is being appealed would likely have added another $500 million in annual costs to the education budget.

Nonetheless, the B.C. government badly needs more revenue, because the constant hikes in Medical Service Plan premiums,  BC Hydro and ICBC rates (some of which go to pay dividends to the government — a hidden tax) and in several other areas make it harder and harder for the average person to keep up, let alone get ahead.

The cost of living in this province is already brutally high, particularly on the Lower Mainland, and steady  boosts in government-related fees and taxes are hurting the overall economy. Many local businesses have noticed drops in sales and cross-border shopping hits at them as well, and at least some of that is a direct result of higher taxes here — notably the high fuel tax.

I’m not suggesting that the provincial government drop taxes and fees and run a big deficit. It is responsible to do the best to balance the budget.

But if B.C. is unable to substantially grow its revenue, and that has to come from additional economic activity and not taxes,  there are major problems ahead. Taxpayers are at their limit.

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