Lise Beare.

Lise Beare.

‘MSP cuts just giving back’: NDP candidate

Local MLAs defend B.C. budget.

B.C.’s budget that cut Medical Services Plan premiums in half for middle income earners is just giving back what the government has previously taken away, says a local NDP candidate.

MSP premiums have doubled under Liberal Premier Christy Clark, said Lisa Beare, running for the New Democrats in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows in the May 9 provincial election.

“Now they expect to win votes by putting them back to where they were in the first place,” Beare said Thursday.

The budget isn’t going to make people forget that the B.C. Liberals have no real interest in making life better for B.C. families, Beare added.

“This budget doesn’t erase the $1,000 more a year families are paying just for Hydro, car insurance and MSP premiums since she became premier.”

Finance Minister Mike de Jong said last week that MSP premiums will be cut by half next January for families with a total net income of $120,000 a year.

That could save a family of four about $900 a year.

That’s just the first step, however.

“MSP premiums are going to be eliminated,” said Doug Bing, Liberal MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows.

And the cost for reducing those premiums will come from the government’s budget surplus, instead of just being covered by higher income taxes, Bing pointed out.

Other provinces have just covered the cost of the missing premiums by raising income taxes. Bing said MSP premiums are a popular topic when he knocks on doors.

“We do actually have the lowest income tax for middle income people,” Bing said.

People, however, will have to register with the government so it can verify income before it applies the discount.

The 2017 budget also raises the income levels for exemptions from paying MSP premiums by $2,000, so that individuals can earn up to $26,000 a year before they have to pay MSP premiums.

Liberal MLA Marc Dalton pointed out that employees covered by employer health plans will also see an increase in their take home pay to reflect the reduced premiums.

Dalton said the change is significant.

“We’ve heard lots about it, over the years.”

The B.C. Chamber of Commerce noted that the budget was the fifth balanced budget in a row.

Removing the PST on business electricity bills also will help business operations, the chamber added.

The Kwantlen Student Association also praised the government for lowering interest rates on student loans to the prime interest rate. That will save the average graduate $1,500 a year in repaying student loans.

More money will also be spent on education, $740 million over three years. That follows a Supreme Court of Canada ruling forcing the province to honour contracts on class sizes.

People on disability income assistance will get another $600 a year. However, income assistance remains unchanged, with a single person earning $610 a month.

The province’s economy is supposed to grow by two per cent this year while total government revenue is forecast to be $51 billion this year.

Maple Ridge News