Wilkinson defends tax cut plan, says it would not lead to government service cuts

VANCOUVER — B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson defended his party’s planned PST cut ­Tuesday, saying it would help the ­province’s struggling forestry sector and small businesses.

Wilkinson was speaking in Campbell River, in the North Island riding where he hopes the Liberals can win a seat. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena, who has been MLA since 2005, decided not to run again for the B.C. NDP.

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Although Trevena took the riding by 3,200 votes last time, the Liberals see an opening for candidate Norm Facey because of heat Trevena took over the NDP’s handling of the forestry crisis. She was blasted by those in the industry during a meeting last year for the government’s lack of action.

Wilkinson said the Liberal’s plan for a tax cut is a response to being in a “deep crisis” and will help rebuild the economy by helping British Columbians save money.

“Our society is facing its biggest challenge ever in our lifetimes,” he said, at the news conference. “We have a rampant pandemic disease that is now in its second wave and we have a society that is suffering a major economic setback and just like a wartime economy it’s time to focus the capacity of government to make things better for people.”

Wilkinson announced Monday that a Liberal government would scrap the seven per cent PST for one year at a cost of $7 billion, in the hopes it would encourage consumers to spend more, thus boosting revenue and employment for businesses still ailing from COVID-19. He said the investment of putting money back in ­people’s pockets is “completely ­warranted” and that it would be inappropriate to start ­cutting government services when ­people are most in need.

“This provincial sales tax cut will not lead to any disruption in services in British Columbia. We’re in a crisis. It’s time to put everything into rebuilding B.C.”

Wilkinson said the goal would be to get the budget back into balance “someday soon” but noted that most governments in the world will have deficit budgets for at least two to three years because of the pandemic.

Following the announcement, the NDP argued that many items, such as rent and food, are PST exempt, and a PST cut would primarily benefit the wealthy, who have more ­disposable income to spend.

Wilkinson countered ­Tuesday, saying that the PST is a regressive tax and hurts low-income people the most because they have to spend the highest amount of their income on ­consumption goods.

The PST cut was the second major tax announcement during Wilkinson’s campaign, after he said last week that if elected he would scrap B.C.’s speculation tax in favour of a new capital gains tax on condo presales.

The NDP tax, implemented in 2018, adds a surcharge onto homes and condos that people leave vacant more than six months of the year in key parts of the province.

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