B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena. (Hansard TV)

B.C. VIEWS: More NDP myths to be shattered

Ferries aren’t highways, and other political realities that bite

The B.C. NDP government is “reviewing” a lot of things right now. ICBC, B.C. Hydro, B.C. Ferries, environmental assessment, hydraulic fracturing, the labour code, education funding and so on. Name a provincial government function and it’s probably being reviewed.

This is to be expected after a change of government. Back in 2001, the B.C. Liberals embarked on a “core review” to determine what the province didn’t really need to do. Now it seems to aim in the opposite direction, and there are “bumps in the road,” as Premier John Horgan has been saying lately.

A recent bump is the revelation that B.C. Ferries isn’t going to be made “part of the highway system.” This was a mantra of the NDP, and coffee shop wisdom across Vancouver Island, for many years. It was a constant refrain of North Island MLA Claire Trevena, a resident of Quadra Island who now finds herself the transportation minister.

Making the ferry service “part of the highway system” was code for massively increasing the already huge public subsidy so fares could be slashed. As one of the tireless advocates for this idea liked to say, the magic solution was to “suck it back into government” and get rid of the quasi-independent corporation that carries the debt and operates as a highly regulated business.

When the latest petition calling for this was delivered to the legislature, Trevena quickly ruled it out. People just want affordable service, not a change of structure, she said, having absorbed a big dose of financial reality during a few months in government.

Another constant NDP opposition demand was that B.C. create a poverty reduction plan with annual goals. Every other province has one, you know. (I guess that’s why poverty has been pretty well solved in Manitoba and Newfoundland.)

They’ve had to extend the deadline for delivering this made-in-B.C. program. Listening to the same advocacy organizations make the same demands for instant solutions turns out to be like listening to people who chose to move to a remote island and now don’t like the cost and inconvenience.

Speaking of islands, homeowners there are now spared from the burden of the “speculation tax,” which was announced in February as taking in vacation homes from the Fraser Valley to the Gulf Islands to Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Kelowna. This blew up in Finance Minister Carole James’ face, as people with second residences protested that they are not speculators.

James hastily rolled back the plan to cut the rate for B.C. and Canadian residents, and to exclude rural areas. What’s left of it lands on selected cities where a tight rental market won’t change due to this misguided effort.

It appears there won’t be a do-over on the much larger employers’ health tax, set to land on payrolls of $500,000 and up next year. This is another instant fix that is turning out to have unintended consequences. “Making employers pay” for health care is right up there with making ferries part of the highway system. It’s a dumbed-down slogan that doesn’t work as policy.

Many employers already pay their employees’ Medical Services Plan premiums. Now they’re told they have to pay a new tax on top of that next year, with the premiums to be phased out the following year.

It’s a massive bill for municipalities and the provincial government itself, as well as many businesses. If it doesn’t change, 2019 will not be a pleasant year for the NDP government, as its own agencies like hospitals and schools struggle to cut costs.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Charity Langley car show starts tradition of caring for people with cancer

Ken Johnson wanted an event that to feature his late friend’s vehicle, and it grew into a car show.

UPDATED: Langley’s downtown business entity given 10-year extension

Langley City’s businesses can strategize future after new BIA bylaw was approved, president says.

Cloverdale horse barn goes up in flames

Fire crews work for hours to extinguish blaze on 184th Street

Self-guided Langley mural walk first of many new tourism experiences

Brochures are available for visitors and residents who want to check out some Langley City wall art.

VIDEO: Geocaching attracted adventure seekers to new Langley City event

Dozens of teams came out to discover a mix of art and nature during a new treasure hunt.

VIDEO: Annual Langley City Legendary Water Fight a fun way to beat the heat

Fire department crews bring water-filled trucks and hoses to the pool to douse patrons.

5 to start your day

Heat warning issued, man climbs a crane, a dog-sprinting event, and more

Non-union construction industry fears exclusion in B.C.

Premier John Horgan imposes ‘project labour agreements’ for public works

Climber with broken leg rescued after fall into ravine near Hope

The 26-year-old had a flare to show rescuers where he was.

Trump, Putin sit down a bit late for closely watched summit

Trump and Putin arrived Monday at Helsinki’s presidential palace for a long-awaited summit.

In TV interview, Trump claims queen called Brexit ‘complex’

Asked the queen’s view on Brexit, Trump said: “She said it’s a very complex problem.”

Exotic corpse flower begins to emit its putrid scent at Vancouver conservatory

A unique and exotic tropical plant, acclaimed for its size and abhorred for its smell, is blooming at a Vancouver conservatory.

CREA reports June home sales down 10.7% from year ago, but up from May

The Canadian Real Estate Association says home sales in June were down 10.7 per cent compared with a year ago.

Tens of thousands give heroes’ welcome to Croatia team

Euphoria gave way to a mixture of disappointment and pride for Croatia fans after their national team lost to France in its first ever World Cup final.

Most Read