Energy Program Won’t Offset 28% Hydro Hike

The B.C. Liberals’ new energy program won’t do enough to help families who are struggling to afford the Liberals’ 28 per cent hydro rate hike, say the New Democrats.

“Hard-working families across British Columbia are struggling to make ends meet because of this government’s endless cost increases,” said New Democrat leader John Horgan. “This new tinkering won’t do much for the average family being gouged with a 28 per cent increase in their electricity bill.”

Horgan was responding to the B.C. Liberals’ announcement of a new makeshift energy rebate program, which won’t help low-income families who can’t afford new appliances in the first place.

He noted that because of the Liberal government’s massive hydro rate increases, many homeowners will not see substantial benefit from the initiative. He added that for those that do, the benefits simply don’t go far enough.

A more effective way of helping low-income families was proposed by Horgan in the spring legislative session with the Hydro Affordability Act. The act would have given the British Columbia Utilities Commission the authority to require B.C. Hydro to offer a discounted lifeline rate in order to maintain the affordability of energy for eligible low-income British Columbians, but the B.C. Liberals rejected it.

“The B.C. Liberals canceled LiveSmart B.C. and the PST exemption for Energy Star appliances,” said Horgan. “These new programs don’t even get us back to where we were.”

“The bottom line is this summer families across B.C. are going to be paying more for necessities. Whether it’s for hydro, MSP premiums or ferry fares, the B.C. Liberal government continues to make life less and less affordable

Fraser Health Review Acknowledges Problems

The review of Fraser Health highlights the serious problems that the B.C. Liberals have created in our health care system, but doesn’t do enough to fix them, say the New Democrats.

“When action was needed to address serious issues like hospital overcrowding, emergency room wait times and inadequate staffing levels in Fraser Health, the ministry failed to take action, and responded by promising this review instead,” said New Democrat health critic Judy Darcy.

“But the changes outlined in this review fall short of what people in this region deserve. There is no commitment to sustained funding to bring the region in line with the rest of the province, and no commitment to more staff in hospitals.”

Fraser Health has the lowest per-capita funding in B.C., despite being the fastest growing region. The review allows for an investment in community care in the region, but doesn’t address the diverse, urgent needs across the system, said Darcy.

“To truly take the pressure off the acute care system, the B.C. Liberals need to make strategic investments in a range of areas that have been neglected for years, specifically integrated teams in community health centres, home support, residential care beds and mental health and addictions,” said Darcy.

While investment in community care is a good thing, she added, just next door in Vancouver, the B.C. Liberals are dismantling primary care in community health centres across the city, which provide precisely the kind of primary care that is needed in the Fraser Health region.

“The last thing that people in this region need is more disjointed approaches to health care, and more rhetoric without action,” said Darcy.

“Unfortunately, this review is short on real-world solutions. For instance, while changes like cutting down overtime sound appealing, the bigger picture is that this need for overtime is caused by chronic understaffing, which is not being addressed.”

Darcy said she is pleased to see the report finally released, but disappointed that people in this region are not getting the help they deserve, even when this review confirms that outcomes in Fraser Health are not good enough.

“While the B.C. Liberals continue to put off making real changes across this system, people in this region are coping with inexcusable wait times. They need solutions, not more promises

Three New B.C. Ferries To Be Built In Poland

The B.C. Liberals have obviously given up on the idea of creating jobs for British Columbians with their recent decision to not build new B.C. ferries at home.

“Building three new ferries is going to create a lot of good jobs in Poland that could have been filled by British Columbians,” said New Democrat ferries critic Claire Trevena. “The B.C. Liberals should have a plan in place to ensure that contracts like this worth hundreds of millions of dollars will create jobs here in B.C. and benefit our shipbuilding industry.”

B.C. Ferries announced Thursday that three intermediate class ferries will be built by Remontowa Shipbuilding S.A. in Poland.

Trevena pointed out the three ships are just a small part of a fleet that is due for major renewal in the coming years.

“This is an industry that creates good jobs for British Columbians. We should be doing everything we can to help it thrive, but the B.C. Liberals are doing nothing.”

New Democrats introduced the Provincial Shipbuilding Act in the legislature in May, which pushed for a provincial shipbuilding strategy to be developed and for measures that would ensure vessels built with public money are built in Canada. The legislation was blocked by the B.C. Liberals.

A study by the Columbia Institute looked at the economic benefits of the shipbuilding industry and found that for every 100 jobs created in the industry, 135 jobs were created elsewhere.

“According to this study, the construction of three ferries would have meant a $378.5 million boost to the provincial economy. British Columbians are missing out, and this government has no plans to fix the problem,” said Trevena.

In addition, if these ferries were built in B.C., Trevena added, the province would have saved the $51 million earmarked in these contracts to cover Canadian taxes and import duties.

“The B.C. Liberals have maintained a singular focus on building LNG, while ignoring other important sectors of the economy. It’s time they made a commitment to good jobs and stopped neglecting our province’s shipbuilding sector.”

Happy Hour Not So Happy for BC’ers

The B.C. Liberals have mismanaged the implementation of happy hour in B.C., leading to questions about whether they are capable of handling a full overhaul of the province’s liquor laws, say the New Democrats.

“Businesses rely on the government to make well-thought-out decisions. They need to trust that their government won’t suddenly change the rules and make it harder for them to do business,” said New Democrat liquor critic Shane Simpson.

Changes intended to allow businesses to lower their prices during happy hour were introduced Friday, but the new rules will mean that some businesses may actually have to raise their prices.

“This is what happens when you do your consultation by social media – you bring in changes that have winners and losers,” said Simpson.

Simpson added that the poorly thought out changes also show the B.C. Liberals failed to think about businesses outside urban areas. Prices in rural B.C. are often lower than in urban centres, so businesses in much of the province won’t be able to take advantage of the new rules.

“The Liberal government’s inability to properly manage even these basic changes raises concerns about how they will address more complex questions around health and safety that also surround these initiatives. They need to take a closer look at the way they are rolling out these policies, and ensure that the long-promised overhaul of liquor laws – including the plan to allow liquor in grocery stores – is implemented with more careful consideration.” said Simpson.

“This government promised real changes to our liquor laws, but from what we’ve seen so far, the Liberals can’t be trusted with even the most basic changes.”

B.C. Chamber of Commerce Proposal to Make Homeownership More Affordable Shot Down

The Liberal government was too quick to dismiss a proposal this week that would make buying a home more affordable for hard-working British Columbians, say the New Democrats.

“The Liberal finance minister really showed what side he’s on when he shot down an idea from the B.C. Chamber of Commerce that would lower the property transfer tax for B.C. residents,” said New Democrat finance critic Mike Farnworth. “He clearly isn’t on the side of hard-working B.C. families.”

John Winter, CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce proposed a shift in the property transfer tax to favour B.C. residents – one per cent over the entire purchase instead of the current 2-tiered structure. The proposal would see purchases from foreign investors make up for the loss to the provincial treasury.

“Without even taking a moment to reflect, the B.C. Liberal finance minister shot the idea down,” said Farnworth. “Young families with children are getting priced out of the housing market. New ideas that help address issues as important as housing affordability deserve to be taken seriously.

Farnworth said he has contacted Mr. Winter’s office to discuss the proposal further.

“The 2014 projected average price of a detached home in Victoria is over $600,000” said Farnworth. “In Vancouver, it’s over $1.2 million. Even our Northern communities can’t escape the escalating cost of buying a home. The average cost of a home in Terrace shot up more than 15 per cent last year.”

“Every idea that makes purchasing a home more affordable for B.C. families is at least worth exploring.”

Increasing Calls for Ban of Flavoured Tobacco Products

B.C. youth and New Democrat health critic Judy Darcy are calling on the B.C. Liberal government to protect the health of vulnerable young people by banning the sale of flavoured tobacco in British Columbia.

“The B.C. Liberal government has so far failed to step up to the plate and show leadership on banning flavoured tobacco,” said Darcy, MLA for New Westminster. “The current legislation simply does not do enough to protect youth from the harmful effects of tobacco and nicotine, and New Democrats firmly believe this needs to change.”

On Tuesday, Darcy met with young people at her office in New Westminster where they spoke about their concerns. Darcy noted she’s been hearing from youth of all ages who oppose the flagrant marketing of flavoured tobacco products to kids and support an outright ban.

“As a youth myself, I am disgusted that we are letting tobacco companies get away with marketing these products to young people by making them taste and smell less dangerous. They are in essence luring in and targeting youth who are least aware, and most prone, to falling into a terrible life-long habit,” said Saba Fatemi, UBC student and former head of the Cancer Society Club at New Westminster Secondary School.

“The government shouldn’t delay a decision that could affect a person’s health.”
Darcy introduced the Tobacco Control Amendment Act in the legislature in April. The bill would amend the original Tobacco Control Act to prohibit the sale of flavoured cigarillos as well as flavoured tobacco products. These products are packaged to resemble candy and cosmetics and many produce a sweet smelling smoke rather than the traditional cigarette smoke odour.

“We are now in a situation where politicians, the B.C. Cancer Society and youth themselves are in agreement that a ban on flavoured tobacco is in the best interests of young people. All we are missing is leadership from the B.C. Liberal government,” said Darcy.

“They had the power to pass the legislation in the spring session but they failed to do so. Come October when we sit again, I sincerely hope they’ll be ready to make the commitment that the majority of British Columbians are calling for.”

 

B.C. Liberal government continues to fail on jobs

Friday’s release from Statistics Canada shows the B.C. Liberal government continues to fail on jobs, and the New Democrats say that isn’t surprising considering the Liberals are neglecting virtually every sector in the province.
“The B.C. Liberals only have one card in their deck, and that’s gas,” said New Democrat finance critic Mike Farnworth. “Our potential for LNG is important, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of every other sector in the province.
“Our LNG industry could show benefits years down the line if the Liberals don’t mess it up. But when and if it gets off the ground, it won’t offset the damage we’re seeing now due to Liberal neglect of the other important sectors.”
Today’s Statistics Canada numbers show B.C. shed another 1,900 jobs last month, and the province continues to rank near the bottom when it comes to private sector job growth since the premier made job promises in September 2011.
“A year after the premier said she will create jobs in the private sector, Statistics Canada Numbers showed she failed,” said New Democrat jobs critic Harry Bains. “Her excuse was to say wait until next year, but at the two-year mark, the numbers showed she was still failing.
“We’re quickly approaching the premier’s third anniversary of jobs failure.”
Statistics Canada also showed the unemployment rate increased to 6.1 per cent, the worst unemployment rate of the western provinces.
“It’s no wonder that nearly 12,000 people have fled British Columbia over the last two years, looking for job opportunities in other provinces,” said Farnworth.

Nisga’a Nation and Avanti Mining Agree to Reopen Kitsault Mine

New Democrats are applauding an agreement reached between the Nisga’a Nation and Avanti Mining that will help create 300 full-time jobs in the Northwest.

“Reopening the Kitsault Mine is a $1 billion project that will create jobs and grow the economy, both in the Nass region and throughout the Northwest,” said New Democrat leader John Horgan.

“It is essential as we move forward with resource development in B.C. that these plans include First Nations, and protect our land, air and water. This agreement shows that when we follow good processes, we achieve good results.”

Robin Austin, New Democrat MLA for Skeena noted that the agreement includes a smelter royalty deal and addresses Nisga’a environmental protection concerns.

“I am very pleased to see that the Nisga’a Nation and Avanti have reached an agreement that will create jobs and opportunity in the region now and into the future,” said Austin.

Austin added that he is hopeful the agreement bodes well for addressing outstanding concerns with neighbouring First Nations.

“There are some negotiated protocols to address environmental impacts and I’m hopeful that with this agreement in place, Avanti can move forward with neighbouring First Nations to address any cumulative effects of the increased economic activity.”

B.C. Liberal Government Settles with Boss Power

A settlement finalized this week between the B.C. Liberal government and Boss Power will hit taxpayers with a $30 million bill, serving as a stark reminder of how costly Liberal economic mismanagement has been for taxpayers.

The B.C. Liberal government agreed to give Boss Power a $30 million award for interfering inappropriately with a mining application, despite a court-appointed industry expert determining that a more fair evaluation would be $8.7 million. If the Liberals hadn’t botched the application in the first place, there wouldn’t even need to be a settlement.

This isn’t the only example of recent B.C. Liberal bungling when it comes to the economy. Here are just a few more:

Environmental assessment exemption for gas plants

The B.C. Liberals were forced to reverse their exemption of some natural gas processing plants and ski resorts from environmental assessments, having failed to consult with First Nations, damaging relationships that will be central to building an LNG industry.

LNG tax framework

The Liberals have failed to meet their own deadlines for an LNG tax framework. In the meantime, China and Russia entered into a $400 billion deal to supply natural gas, and the premier has hinted that the tax framework may have to be even lower if we are still going to be able to compete.

Mining tax

The B.C. Liberals were also forced to backtrack on their surprise post-election mining permit fees which could have caused many junior miners and prospectors to go out of business.

Denying jobs for B.C. workers

When entering into a deal with HD Mining for an underground mine in B.C., the company made it clear they intended to supply their own workers for the mine over hundreds of British Columbians looking for work. A briefing note showed the B.C. Liberals weren’t concerned about creating jobs for British Columbians at the mine. B.C. has nearly a quarter of Canada’s temporary foreign workers but only 13 per cent of the national population.

HST

The economic wizardry of the B.C. Liberals behind the HST is well documented. They deceived voters by promising not to bring in the tax, and then snuck it in, costing families and small businesses more. B.C. businesses have had to grapple with multiple rule-changes and uncertainty.

Failure to deliver jobs

The premier spent $17 million of taxpayers’ money on ads promoting her grandiose job promises. But B.C. is sitting third from the bottom in Canada for private sector job growth. Nearly 12,000 people have left B.C. over the last two years, looking for job opportunities elsewhere.

Raiding a dividend on hydro profits that don’t exist

Economics 101 will tell you that a dividend is when you collect a share of a profit. The B.C. Liberal government raids more than $400 million in dividends each year from BC Hydro, despite the fact no profit actually exists. The B.C. Liberals do this by hiding billions of dollars in debt at BC Hydro in deferral accounts, or as the Auditor General of B.C. says, “Creating the illusion of profitability where there is none.”

Spring Legislative Session – Costs Up, Jobs Down, Promises Broken

The B.C. Liberal government rises from the spring legislative session today after driving up families’ costs, shedding more B.C. jobs and breaking key election promises.

“While too many British Columbians are struggling to find family-supporting jobs, the B.C. Liberals choose to pile on new costs,” said New Democrat leader John Horgan.

Statistics Canada data shows B.C. had the worst jobs record in Canada this past year, suffering a net loss of 4,400 jobs.

Instead of helping the now nearly 150,000 unemployed British Columbians, the B.C. Liberals opened the session by imposing new increases to MSP fees, ferry fares and hydro rates. Since the B.C. Liberals were first elected, they have increased average MSP fees 92 per cent, ferry fares 63–­88 per cent and hydro rates 64 per cent. The government also refused to end the punitive clawback of child support payments for single parents on disability and other income supports, reinforcing B.C.’s country-worst child poverty rate.

“The B.C. Liberals not only ignore the needs of B.C. families, they ignore their own slogans,” added Horgan. “They broke their promise to protect our food supply and broke their promise to bring stability to B.C.’s schools.”

After promising to protect agricultural land during the 2013 election, the government is set to ram through a law without public consultation by the end of Thursday, stripping protection from 90 per cent of BC’s farmland.

And after promising to bring labour peace with B.C. teachers, the premier escalated tensions during bargaining by publicly accusing teachers of making negotiations “all about money… never about quality of education,” despite leading a government that took away the right for teachers to negotiate class size and composition to improve quality.

“British Columbians deserve a government that listens and makes their lives easier, not harder,” said Horgan. “It’s clear the B.C. Liberals aren’t interested in being that government, so I plan on spending the summer talking to British Columbians about how New Democrats can make their lives better.”