Reaction To B.C.’s Provincial Budget

Critics of the B.C. Liberals didn’t waste time in labeling the government’s proposed budget as “business unfriendly.”

Finance Minister Michael de Jong delivered his 2013 budget yesterday, gearing up for the provincial election in May. De Jong says the plan delivers on the government’s commitment to balance the budget, while investing in early childhood development and helping B.C. families save for their children’s future training and education.

But John Cummins, leader of the B.C. Conservatives, says the budget will hit the business community hard, citing the one percent corporate tax hike (up to  11 per cent from 10 per cent) and the government’s failure to address concerns like the carbon tax and soaring cement imports from China and the United States.

“It defies logic that the government would raise taxes on British Columbia’s job-creators at a time when jobs are supposed to be everyone’s number-one priority,” Cummins says. “Yet this budget slams the private sector with a corporate-income tax hike that will take a half-billion dollars away from B.C. businesses in just a two-year period. It simply is not helpful for job creation.”

New Democrat finance critic Bruce Ralston also believes the proposed budget lacks credibility and doesn’t address the challenges facing the province.

“Many British Columbians are struggling to find jobs and to access post-secondary education, yet the Liberals’ budget offers next to nothing for students or those looking to re-train,” Ralston says. “Critical issues like skills training, climate change, and reinvesting in B.C.’s land base are completely missing…and they’re leaving B.C.’s resource economies such as mining and forestry behind.”

Not everyone agrees that the budget is bad for business. Associations like the Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC) and the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce have issued releases that are supportive of the government, endorsing the prudence of its plan.

 “The provincial government is faced with limited options in these challenging economic times,” says Bruce Carter, Greater Victoria Chamber CEO. “The balanced approach, avoiding drastic measures in either service cuts or tax increases, is laudable.”

The Chamber says that, while the elimination of the Light Industrial School tax credit (which currently reduces the property taxes for businesses like scrap metal yards, wineries and boat-building operations) is unfortunate, the proposed asset disposal will create entrepreneurial opportunity as the private sector is best positioned to re-invigorate these dormant assets. They also praised the decision not to raise the small business tax rate.

Given that the provincial election is set for May 14, chances are high de Jong’s budget will not be passed before the brief legislature session ends in late March.