If there was one word to describe the fiscal plan unveiled by the NDP last week, the word would be courageous. The NDP committed what could be a first in political history by promising a series of deficits and tax hikes one week before an election.
Carole James and Bruce Ralston, NDP MLAs, announced that if the NDP form government they would broaden the scope of the carbon tax to cover vented emissions from oil and gas operations. As Michael de Jong, B.C. Liberal MLA, put it, this was quite the conversion from the NDP stance in 2009 when it whole-heartedly opposed the notion of a carbon tax in B.C. and during the campaign cited the negative effects a carbon tax would have on B.C.’s middle class. The conversion has left the NDP not only supporting the carbon tax, but also demanding the broadening of its scope and that it no longer be revenue neutral.
The proposed expansion of the carbon tax to venting oil and gas industries sends a clear signal that if the NDP were to form government the natural resource sector would not be a priority for leader Adrian Dix and that under the NDP the prospects of a natural gas boom in B.C. will diminish. In contrast, the B.C. Liberals have said they will use the revenues from the natural gas industry to pay down the deficit and create a prosperity fund.
Budget surpluses won’t be a priority for Dix as well because in the NDP fiscal plan, they commit to balancing the budget deficits over a business cycle and have clearly stated they will present deficit budgets for the next four to five years, or as they call it the “business cycle.” If the best a party can do is commit to trying to balance a budget with unexpected revenues, then their fiscal plan is hardly a plan and is more along the lines of a shot in the dark. This raises the question: why are the NDP still not able to balance the budget even after the series of tax hikes they wish to impose and how much are they really spending that hundreds of millions of dollars in tax increases are not able to cover?
As de Jong would say, “there’s only one thing worse than going to see a really bad movie, it’s seeing it for the second time.” The fiscal plan presented by the NDP is a teaser to a really bad sequel.
Written by a B.C. Liberal contributor to Vancity Buzz.
Image: BC NDP
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