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Health Tax and Educational Opportunity Are Good for the Economy, Premier Says

Horgan tells business crowd that reconciliation with Indigenous communities a key to province’s economic development.

By Andrew MacLeod 16 May 2018 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

Speaking Tuesday to a Victoria business audience, Premier John Horgan talked about steps the British Columbia government is taking to address inequality and why doing so is good for the provincial economy.

“We need to make sure that our human capital keeps pace with our infrastructure and we need to make sure all of us are on the same page when it comes to giving a hand up to those that need it the most and the benefits that will accrue to all of us as a result,” Horgan told the crowd of a few hundred people at the luncheon hosted by the five Chambers of Commerce in the Capital Region.

He acknowledged there have been concerns raised about the Employer Health Tax, but said it will be fairer than the Medical Services Plan, which charged people the same regardless of whether they made $50,000 or $500,000 a year. “It’s a flat tax. It’s a regressive tax. We’re the only province that has one.”

Eliminating the MSP takes a $2.6 billion burden off individuals and families that will instead cycle back into the economy, he said.

Horgan also pointed to the government’s elimination of tuition fees for English as a second language and adult basic education, saying the policy would help individuals taking those courses as well as businesses that employ them.

“When I talk about fighting inequality, the greatest tool we have at our disposal is public education and a K-12 system that is second to none despite a decade and a half of fights and divisiveness,” he said. “It is investing in public education, investing in our post-secondary institutions that will free us to realize the full potential of all our citizens and all the businesses represented here today.”

Horgan also framed working on reconciliation with Indigenous people as an important economic policy.

“We need to work on reconciliation to the benefit of all of us, Indigenous communities and everyone else here in British Columbia,” he said. “That means recognizing inherent rights, that means respecting Indigenous knowledge, experience and culture, and most importantly committing to genuine reconciliation.”

The only way forward is to work together, Horgan said. “This is not social policy. This is economic policy. Not just for us, but most importantly for Indigenous people who have been here for millennia. We’re late arrivers. We need to acknowledge that and move on.”

Similarly, he said that the government’s support for child care is aimed at helping business in the province grow. “Affordable, accessible child care is an economic question. It’s not a social policy.... The sooner we get on that, the better off our economy will be.”

Questions to the premier, vetted by organizers, focused on the Employer Health Tax, the speculation tax, transportation and how the spat with Alberta over Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline plan might affect tourism.

Horgan’s defense of the government’s policies included arguing that the speculation tax is needed to bring more properties into the rental market and that protecting the province’s coast from oil spills is key to B.C.’s tourism industry.

He also committed to finding a way to use the E&N Rail corridor to again move people, though he acknowledged there doesn’t seem to be a business case for rail on the line that runs between Victoria and Courtenay. “That will happen in the term of this government,” he said.

The cost for a table of 10 at the luncheon at the Crystal Gardens was $1,350.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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