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News

Fact Check: Does BC Really Have Canada’s ‘Lowest Middle Classes Taxes?’

Sorry, Christy Clark. Government’s own budget docs don’t back you up.

By Andrew MacLeod 20 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.

During Thursday morning’s wide-ranging leaders’ debate, BC Liberal candidate Christy Clark repeated a claim that she’s made numerous times that British Columbia has the “lowest middle class taxes in the country” for families.

Unfortunately for Clark, the government’s own budget documents don’t back her up.

Those documents compare what a family of four would pay in tax in each of Canada’s provinces at three different income levels.

In the middle scenario, only considering income tax, a two-income family making $60,000 a year would pay $1,216 in B.C., significantly more than the $656 they’d pay in Saskatchewan, or $767 in Ontario.

Of course provinces also charge taxes on sales, fuel, property, carbon, health care plans and more. When those are added in, the family in B.C. is paying $2,400 more in total tax each year than they would in Alberta and $1,200 more than in Saskatchewan.

If that family made $90,000 a year in B.C., according to the government’s budget document, their total tax bill would be $2,000 more than in Alberta.

And if they made less, $30,000 a year in the government’s example, they would pay more tax in B.C. than they would in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta or Saskatchewan.

Hosted for radio station News 1130 by veteran broadcaster Bill Good, the hour-and-a-half debate covered a wide range of topics including housing affordability, Site C, the 2012 wrongful firings from the health ministry, medical service plan premiums, bridge tolls and transportation plans.

It was at times scrappy, with the NDP’s John Horgan accusing Clark of using “alternative facts” and making stuff up. “Where’s Sean Spicer?” he asked at one point, a reference to Donald Trump’s press secretary.

And Green Party leader Andrew Weaver talked about the “unicorn in every backyard” type promises the BC Liberals made on the way to winning in 2013.

“The BC Liberals promised a prosperity fund from LNG revenue,” he said. “The reality is they’re funding it from general revenues, coming out from increased hydro rates among other things.”

A second debate is scheduled for April 26 and will be televised. It will be the last in person debate for the leaders ahead of the May 9 voting day.

The full debate can be viewed here:

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