“This is a program that was brought in by the Social Credit government in 1988, was maintained by the New Democrats for ten years, and has existed ever since.”
Liberal leader Christy Clark is coming to the defence of AdvantageBC, the program The New York Times exposed for giving tax breaks to foreign corporations without getting much in return.
Speaking at a campaign event in Richmond on Friday, Clark says she doesn’t have the numbers, but believes it’s working.
“The program is intended to attract jobs, maintain jobs in British Columbia. The evidence suggests that it is.”
Clark says the program has program has brought in more money than it has handed out since it began and that B.C. actually needs to grow those types of programs in order to attract head offices that bring high-paying jobs with them.
The New York Times story notes statistics for the program haven’t been available since 2009.
In responding to questions, Clark also didn’t hesitate to slam the article, calling it “very dense and confusing.”
Numbers on the program have been released from the BC Liberals campaign, however, those are the publicly available numbers which are almost 10 years old.
“A 2009 estimate economic output was $175 million higher as a result of a program that costs about $20 to $25-million a year,” the statement says.
It also says “the review also estimated 1140 direct and indirect jobs were created between 2004 and 2007 alone, plus $12 million in additional tax revenue to government.”
There is no word as of yet on more recent numbers, or who the companies benefiting from the program are.
Asking for a closer look
Meanwhile, NDP candidate David Eby is calling for an investigation by the Auditor General.
He says the circumstances around AdvantageBC call for a scrutinizing look.
“Well I mean it’s hard to point to something that smells more of corruption than giving secret government tax breaks to companies that are also major donors to a political party.”
He says an NDP government would refer it immediately to the Auditor General if elected.
“I think this is the tip of a very dark iceberg. We’ve had serious concerns about the lack of enforcement of anti-money laundering protections, and we’ve had serious concerns about where money’s coming from into our real estate market.”
Eby continued by saying the first thing he would look for on the list of companies involved would be real estate firms.