An NDP government would replace Medical Services Plan premiums with a system that taxes people based on their ability to pay, Victoria-Beacon Hill candidate Carole James said Wednesday.
It’s the first indication from the NDP about how it intends to recoup the costs of completely eliminating MSP premiums within four years if it wins the May 9 provincial election.
The party’s platform states only that a “non-partisan MSP elimination panel will advise on how to protect health care funding, while phasing out this unfair flat tax.” It said the change would save families up to $1,800 a year.
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James told a news conference in Victoria on that the plan is to switch to a “progressive tax system” rather than charging people the same amount whether they earn $1 million a year or $43,000.
“So will the highest income earners pay a little more? Yes,” she said. “And will we protect low- and middle-income earners? Yes.”
James noted that other provinces have already adopted such systems, while the B.C. Liberals have doubled premiums since taking power in 2001.
“We’re not creating something brand new,” she said. “This is something that every other province across our country has done, switched over to a progressive tax system.”
The B.C. Green Party advocates a similar approach, but the B.C. Liberals attacked the NDP’s strategy, calling it a “secret plan to hike income taxes.”
B.C. Liberal candidate Mike de Jong, who served as finance minister the past five years, said eliminating MSP premiums entirely will cost $1.7 billion a year in revenue and chastised the NDP for failing to include the figures in its platform.
“There’s an old saying on the farm: ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,’ ” de Jong said.
He was challenged by the media, however, about his own promise to eliminate MSP premiums if the Liberals win re-election. De Jong announced in the February budget his plan to halve premiums effective Jan. 1, 2018, and wipe them out entirely depending on the “province’s fiscal capacity in the future.”
De Jong made clear Wednesday, however, that eliminating the premiums is an “objective” and the Liberals have no plans to eliminate the premiums any time soon.
“This is what we can afford to do over the next three years, and we don’t anticipate any further reductions unless our economy were to grow beyond what we anticipate in the fiscal plan,” he said.
B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver has long advocated abolishing B.C.’s MSP premiums. The party’s platform says a Green government will roll the premiums into payroll tax and personal income tax. The platform says the Liberals’ proposed 50 per cent cut in premiums fails to fix their “regressive” nature, nor does it replace the lost revenue.
“The B.C. Greens plan would incorporate a compensating amount for lost health premiums into the tax systems following the model used in Ontario,” the platform states.