Jack mintz a revolt brews in b.c. as its anti-pipeline premier guzzles up taxes gas mask bong review


A tax revolt is bound to start building up in British Columbia as the provincial government hikes one tax after another. On Tuesday, there were 100 protestors on Vancouver’s West Side demonstrating the government’s new school tax, and local MLA Dave Eby cancelled a planned town hall over “safety” concerns after he learned protests were planned there, too. Perhaps the public is ready to say enough is enough. It should. The B.C. government is showing itself to be relentless in its desire to spend and tax.

The school tax itself won’t actually hit all that hard, but many Vancouverites are just weary from getting hit again and again. Beginning in 2019, a 0.2-per-cent annual tax will apply to properties valued between $3 million and $4 million, rising to 0.4 per cent for property valued in excess of $4 million. Sounds like a tax on the rich, but in Vancouver, after years of escalating prices, it’s easy to be house rich and not income rich. A house worth $4 million (a bit more than double the price of an average detached house in Vancouver) will be subject to an additional $2,000 in tax.

This might be more acceptable if the Horgan government weren’t already picking B.C. pockets with so many new taxes. On top of the school tax, a new speculation tax is to be applied annually to secondary residential properties, with a rate of 0.5 per cent for B.C. residents, one per cent on other Canadian residents from outside B.C. (largely Albertans), and two per cent on foreigners. A non-refundable tax credit from provincial income tax will partially offset the speculation tax up to $2,000, but B.C. homeowners with secondary homes worth more than $400,000 will still be out of pocket. Also, property-transfer taxes on sales worth more than $3 million are being more heavily taxed in Vancouver, and the tax is now being extended to some other parts of B.C. as well.

Still, Horgan’s thirst for revenue has yet to be satisfied. He raised corporate income taxes a point to 12 per cent, and B.C.’s combined federal-provincial rate of 27 per cent now compares pretty poorly to the 21-per-cent rate available next door in Washington state. Personal income taxes have increased 2.1 points on top of the federal four-point hike in 2016. With the top federal-provincial rate hitting almost 50 per cent, B.C. has become less competitive for skilled talent, especially compared with Washington state with its fired-up business climate stoked by U.S. tax cuts. Maybe Horgan thinks that if he taxes highly skilled workers hard enough, he can cool Vancouver’s housing market by driving them away.

Horgan’s NDP government also hiked the carbon tax to $35 per tonne, making heating, transportation and other energy-intensive products more expensive. That would hurt less if the revenues were returned as general personal and corporate tax rate cuts, as the B.C. government had always promised it would do in the past (although even Liberal governments broke that vow and used the revenues to fund boutique tax credits). B.C. made it clear in last year’s budget that its not even pretending to return the money anymore: The carbon tax is officially just another tax grab.

B.C. did carry out its promise to eliminate health premiums, but that will be largely offset by a new payroll tax on employers. The public will think they’re getting tax relief, but won’t realize they’ll pay for it as the employer’s payroll tax turns into higher prices or smaller paycheques. Meanwhile, tobacco taxes are up. Fuel taxes are up. And there’s a new tax hike on luxury cars, no matter if they’re gas-guzzlers or electric.

With so much focus on Horgan’s opposition to Alberta pipelines, the NDP government might have thought the public wouldn’t notice all the tax increases. It helps, also, that they’ve mostly targeted a minority of better-off residents or have made the tax less visible by applying it to businesses. But eventually, all chickens come home to roost. Skilled workers will look at high housing costs and taxes in Vancouver as less attractive than living in more affordable markets. Businesses unable to compete will look elsewhere to locate at least some of their operations.

The last time B.C. went through years of tax hikes in the 1990s, the share of investment the province enjoyed compared with the rest of Canada eventually fell from 16 per cent in 1994 to 12 per cent in 2011 as it stopped being competitive, while Alberta’s rose from 16 to nearly 27 per cent over the same period. B.C. also saw its standard of living fall to no better than the national average. If the NDP keeps the taxes coming, the province will have more troubles than a pipeline could hold.