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Taxing the taxman

In many municipalities, the NDP’s Employer Health Tax means higher property taxes
Carole James Quarterly Update

As someone who tirelessly fought the hated Medical Services Premium tax for years, I was thrilled when the BC Liberal government cut it in half. I was even happier in 2017, when the Liberals, NDP and Greens all ran on platforms to get rid of the MSP completely.

Unfortunately, the NDP pulled a fast one.

They simply swapped MSP for an employer health tax, a new payroll tax that takes effect January 1. This decision is cascading into a series of property tax increases as municipalities, with their large and expensive workforce, grapple with having to come up with more money to pay their new tax bill.

The irony of taxmen struggling under a tax burden would be funny, if they didn’t just simply pass the cost onto us taxpayers.

Those stories are now flooding local media. In Vancouver, it looks like a 1.7 per cent tax increase just to cover the NDP payroll tax.

The City of Victoria is looking at a 1.45 per cent increase to cover the NDP tax. Little Lantzville needs to raise $19,000 – one per cent – to cover its tax bill.

Kamloops plans to take the payroll tax out of their reserves, but also notes other downloaded provincial costs: nearly a quarter million dollars more for ICBC and BC Hydro, and $425,000 more in carbon tax (a 14 per cent single year jump).

Nanaimo needs a million bucks for their employer health tax – a fact that the BC Liberals will likely hammer home during the upcoming byelection to replace Leonard Krog. Prince George is looking at finding $710,900 – a 0.69 per cent tax hike.

If I were still a muckraking municipal councillor (instead of the muckraking ICBA Communications guy I am today), I’d pin this directly to the NDP Government.

Most property tax bills include itemized lists from other governments. Municipalities include those to communicate to their residents that they are not the only driver of tax increases.

For example, my Langley Township tax bill includes line items for Langley School District #35, the Municipal Financing Authority, TransLink, Metro Vancouver, BC Assessment, and the Fraser Valley Regional Library.

Langley even puts phone numbers next to these agencies, in case taxpayers want to call them directly.

A crafty mayor or councillor might want to put forward a new line item for this budget cycle: “The NDP Employer Health Tax,” with Carole James’ office number, and the cost to taxpayers. Heck, add a few lines to include the carbon tax, BC Hydro and ICBC: why should municipalities take the heat for the province’s increases?

This would point taxpayers to the culprit of those tax increases – the provincial government. It takes the target off municipalities and puts it squarely on John Horgan.

Jordan Bateman has a long history of public policy work, championing small business and fiscal responsibility. Currently the Director of Communications for the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA), Jordan also served six years as the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and was a two-term Langley Township Councillor