B.C. Liberals paid, not working

It’s been two months since the British Columbia government cancelled a 15 per cent personal tax cut due to go into effect

It’s been two months since the British Columbia government cancelled a 15 per cent personal tax cut due to go into effect

Jan. 1.

Finance Minister Colin Hansen justified the move, saying it ensured “flexibility” for the next premier who will take office after the Feb. 26 B.C. Liberal leadership contest (during which 97 per cent of B.C. residents will not get a vote).

This decision clearly showed that until March, despite everyone getting paid, the B.C. Liberal government was going to be on autopilot.

The brave souls around the cabinet table also decided to raise Medical Service Plan premiums $7 a month for couples and families, an $84 tax grab that amounts to a six per cent increase, well in excess of inflation.

They also forgot, or didn’t bother, to index the income levels for premium assistance to inflation, so a couple of pensioners who see their Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security go up the maximum $794.40 could lose more than one-third of that to higher B.C. medical premiums if they get bumped into a higher premium assistance income bracket.

All of this in a year when payroll taxes – Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance contributions — will take an extra $152 from the average B.C. working couple.

Since Gordon Campbell announced his departure in November, he’s collected almost $40,000 in salary and the cabinet raked in more than $500,000. Add in the parliamentary secretaries, legislative committee chairman and deputy chairmen, the government whip, the deputy whip, and the B.C. Liberal caucus chair and the payroll tops a $1 million.

Add in their constituency budgets (but not the rent) and we’re talking $2 million, since Campbell’s resignation.

This doesn’t include their travel allowances, and the $61 daily food allowance while travelling or meeting in Victoria – no receipts required. It doesn’t include the payroll for B.C. Liberal caucus staff or ministers’ political aides.

For $2 million or more, B.C. voters might have expected someone in the B.C. Liberal shop to go through the motions of running the province these past two months while the leadership contest rages on.

They would have been disappointed.

Investigative journalist Sean Holman, editor of news website Public Eye Online (www.publiceyeoneline.com) noticed a 13-page request-for-proposals on the B.C. government website: the tender document showed the government planned to hire a team of experts to investigate executive pay practices at BC Hydro, ICBC, BC Ferries, the regional health authorities and the universities.

It’s a good idea: lots of eyebrows were raised when Ferries CEO David Hahn’s pay package went from $228,239 to more than $1 million in a six-year period. The call went out on Dec. 15. Then on Dec. 16, the tender document just disappeared. A spokesman said it was published “in error.”

Somebody made the “mistake” of asking for the report by March 15: an expert opinion on whether the pay levels for public sector CEOs are “problematic.” It would have landed, like a hot potato, on the new premier’s desk, just 17 days after he or she is chosen. No chance of that happening now.

Gregory Thomas is the B.C. communications director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

100 Mile House Free Press

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