VANCOUVER – Christy Clark’s Liberals are ramping up attacks on the NDP’s ability to manage British Columbia’s economy, accusing the party of releasing a platform that will cost billions with no way to pay for it.
The New Democrats’ platform includes $10-a-day child care and eliminating tolls on two busy bridges in Metro Vancouver. But the party says a new tax on housing speculators and raising taxes on the top two per cent of earners and corporations will help it balance the budget.
Carole James, the NDP’s finance critic, dismissed the Liberal accusations on Wednesday as “fearmongering.”
“Let’s remember that last election, Christy Clark literally put ‘Debt-free B.C.’ on the side of her campaign bus,” said James, referring to Clark’s promise to eliminate the debt through a liquefied natural gas industry.
“In four years since then, she’s added $11-billion to B.C.’s debt. It’s really quite incredible to see Christy Clark making these claims after her own credibility has been shredded time after time.”
Michael de Jong, the finance minister in Clark’s government, held a news conference where he said the Liberals’ analysis of the NDP platform reveals $6.5 billion in costs that the party has not accounted for because of what he called costing errors and a failure to account for interest costs on increased spending.
Eliminating tolls on Port Mann and Golden Years bridges costed at $761.4m over four years, according to de Jong. #bcelxn17
— Jeremy Lye (@JJLye980) April 19, 2017
De Jong, says if the NDP wants to eliminate MSP it would have to raise PST by two per cent, income tax 20 per cent, or corporate income tax by 52 per cent.
But the NDP is not the only party planning to get rid of the premium, so do the B.C. Liberals, and de Jong found himself having to talk up his own record as finance minister to explain why the Liberals are saying it’s just the NDP that would have to raise taxes.
“I’ve done five of these, they’re budgets, all five of them have been balanced. All five of them have withstood scrutiny from the auditor general.”
— Jeremy Lye (@JJLye980) April 19, 2017
The analysis does not include the NDP’s revenue assumptions or 40 additional uncosted promises, de Jong said in a statement.
The NDP’s platform calls for $7-billion in additional borrowing, but James said that will only raise the debt-to-GDP ratio by one per cent over five years.
Clark, wearing a blue hard hat while campaigning in Surrey, said B.C. is leading the country in job creation and economic growth and the New Democrats threaten that progress.
“Their platform creates not a hole in our budget, it is a crater, a giant, smoking crater of a hole to the tune of billions of dollars that they are going to fill with your money in the form of new taxes,” she said.
The Liberals have been in power since 2001 and have a released a platform that promises $157 million in new spending over three years above what they already committed to in the government’s budget tabled in February.
Both the NDP and Liberal platforms are based on the underlying numbers in the budget.
The Liberals have accused the NDP of poorly managing B.C.’s finances in the 1990s, but James defended her party’s economic record.
“The people that I talk to on the doorstep want to talk about today. They want to talk about the future,” she added. “They’re tired of hearing the same old storylines from the B.C. Liberals.”
The New Democrats are planning to take a $500-million “LNG prosperity fund” created by Clark and apply it towards eliminating bridge tolls. They’re also promising to eliminate medical services premiums and freeze BC Hydro rates.
The NDP platform commits to balancing the budget this year and the following two years, but the party says it is concerned that the Liberals’ pre-election budget does not reflect real needs in those years.
NDP Leader John Horgan campaigned Wednesday at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where he promoted his plan to eliminate interest on student loans and offer a $1,000 completion grant to people who finish their studies.
Horgan said the numbers in the NDP platform are “very solid.”
“(The Liberals) think they own this money. They don’t,” he said. “These are tax dollars that have been put into a pot by hard-working British Columbians and they want a government that’s going to make choices that benefit their lives.”
With files from Jeremy Lye