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BC Liberal Platform Promises Limited New Spending, Caps to Bridge Tolls

‘We want to make sure that life stays affordable for people,’ says leader Christy Clark.

By Andrew MacLeod 10 Apr 2017 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

The biggest new spending promised in the BC Liberals’ 2017 election platform released today is $30 million a year to cap the tolls on bridges in the Lower Mainland.

“It’s a big issue of affordability for people, and remember it applies to the two bridges that are tolled now and future bridges as well,” BC Liberal leader Christy Clark told reporters after the release. “We want to make sure that life stays affordable for people.”

The Liberals had announced over the weekend that drivers would pay no more than $500 a year on the currently tolled Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, as well as on the future Pattullo Bridge and the bridge to replace the George Massey tunnel.

NDP leader John Horgan has promised to eliminate the tolls on the existing bridges, a promise Clark has criticized as being too expensive.

“Lots of commuters who don’t use toll roads have their roads paid for too,” Clark said, saying that capping tolls would be fairer for people living south of the Fraser River.

According to the BC Liberal platform, the cap will cost the government $30 million a year.

In total, the Liberal platform commitments will add $157 million a year in spending by 2020 to the government’s $52-billion budget.

Other commitments include $15 million from hunting licence fees for a new wildlife society, $12 million for an earthquake early warning system for schools, hospitals and emergency command centres, a $10-million tax deduction for ferry users in ferry dependent communities, and $10 million to increase the value of charitable tax credits.

Clark said the biggest commitments were already included in the budget the government tabled in February, including $1 billion to cut MSP premiums in half for households earning up to $120,000 a year. The platform describes it as “a middle class tax cut.”

“We are the only party with a plan to cut taxes for British Columbians,” she said.

Both the NDP and Green Party have promised to eliminate MSP premiums entirely.

Clark also talked about steps the government has taken to address the housing crisis in Vancouver, including providing loans to first time buyers.

“We can afford to do this because our economy is growing, because we’re controlling government spending and we’re creating jobs,” she said. “That’s where it all really begins. That’s what makes it possible for us to make some of these changes and make some of these investments.”

The platform included no promise to raise basic welfare rates, which have been frozen since 2007. Clark said the Liberals have raised disability rates and focused on helping people move from welfare to work.

The platform gives more prominence to the technology sector and less to LNG, which was a focus for Clark four years ago but has failed to live up to the government’s hype.

“The big focus is on everything,” Clark said. “We are number one in the country in job creation not because we’ve focused on one thing, but because we’ve focused on a diverse economy.”

The 129-page platform also promises four more years of balanced budgets.

“This election is about a choice,” it said. “Move forward with Today’s BC Liberals to create jobs in a growing economy while controlling spending to keep taxes low, or backwards with the BC NDP or BC Greens to bigger government, job losses, and higher taxes.”

Election Day is scheduled for May 9 with the official campaign period expected to begin Tuesday.  [Tyee]

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