Kris Sims was one of the few people to not go before the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services with a spending request.
The nine-person committee is currently touring B.C. collecting public input in advance of the next provincial budget, and Sims, the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, drove from the Fraser Valley to Cranbrook, where the Committee was in session Thursday, Oct. 12. She came armed with a Top 10 list of items the CTF and it’s 15,000-strong B.C. membership wanted to see.
“We’ve boiled things down to a Top 10,” Sims said after her presentation before the committee. “We’ve asked our supporters — we’ve got 15,000 supporters in British Columbia — what do you care most about and how strongly do you care about this topic, or not. And I took that multi-question survey and boiled it down and used to flesh out this top 10.”
1. Balance the Budget. “If there’s one thing that gets our supporters riled up, getting people writing letters to the editor and calling talk radio stations, they say ‘balance our budget.’ They don’t like to see deficits, they don’t like to see province going further into debt, because they know what it does to their own household.”
2. Cancel the B.C. Carbon Tax. “People are fed up with it,” Sims said. “And top of that we found out during the last mini-budget that it’s not even going to revenue neutral anymore, and it hasn’t been revenue neutral for several years. The Fraser Institute, one of our colleagues, found that the previous government had been taking old tax credits — years old — and adding them to the balance sheet of the current budget, for the carbon tax, to make it look balanced and neutral. It wasn’t. It was costing families $800 a year. Further, the NDP just said they’re dropping the charade. They’re not even going to pretend it’s revenue neutral. They’re calling it a tool and it’s just going up.”
3. Eliminate the Medical Services Premium: “We were very happy to see the MSP cut by 50 per cent by the previous government,” Sims said. “And this new government has committed to finishing it off — eliminating it 100 per cent. And we were very happy to see they are not going to make British Columbians apply for it — you don’t have to queue up, you don’t have to wait on the phone. Everybody gets it.”
4. Stop raiding Crown Corporations: “If you’ve got a budget shortfall, don’t turn around and scoop money out of places like ICBC and BC Hydro,” Sims said. We are ratepayers for those services, and when we see our money going to things other than auto insurance and hydro prices and just being used to paper over a budget shortfall, that really ticks people off.”
5. On ICBC: “The Finance Minister listed it as one of the biggest fiscal threats to the province,” Sims said. “We agree. We think it needs an overhaul, not just a tune-up. We think ICBC should be turned into a co-op. Turn it into something like Mountain Equipment Co-op or VanCity. it. Make it owned by B.C. drivers, so if you choose to take your basic auto insurance out with this nice new ICBC co-op, you can do that. And then open that co-op up to private competition from other companies. So if you’re a great driver, you can shop around and get a lower rate. B.C. has one of the highest auto insurance rates in all of Canada. Being forced into the monopoly is really what grinds people’s gears here, and not having a choice.”
6. Don’t kill the Site C dam: “We say this with cautions,” Sims said. “By now we’re in it. When we asked our supporters, they said don’t kill it, be as stringent and prudent and careful as possible, but we’ve invested so much money in it now, better to see it through. We want to get some return on this major taxpayer investment. If we bail out now, BC Hydro at least is saying that it will cost $7 billion. We don’t know what the actual cost will be, but that’s a lot of money to have invested in something and get nothing in return.”
7. Get government contracts, including boards and councils, under control. “One of the heads of Translink makes more than the Prime Minister of Canada, as does her second-in-command,” Sims said. “There are tons of boards like this, and they’re basically permanent government. People don’t hear about them or know about them, they’re not elected, but they’re paid an outrageous amount of money, and almost all that money comes from either a ratepayer or directly from taxpayers. We really want that scrutinized.”
8. Eliminate the vote tax: “The government has imposed a transition fund — a vote tax of $16 million that’s coming out of taxpayers’ pockets,” Sims said. “When you break it down per vote it doesn’t sound like a lot of money. But most people don’t want their tax dollar going to a lawn sign or an attack ad. If you’re running for any political party, raise your own money. Have a telethon, have a bake sale, go online — don’t take it out of tax coffers.”
9. Don’t block the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion: “We understand there are concerns,” Sims said. “We also understand the Trudeau Liberal government has approved it, and that lots and lots of people and lots of boards have reviewed this. If we rely on these important economic engines of our economy, and we allow them to continue things like Kinder Morgan, it helps the tax base.
10. Reduce spending and lower taxes: This is our raison d’etre. This is the reason we were founded. Governments become addicted to tax dollars. They seem to mean well. They want to continue to grow, to help us live our lives, and as they hire on more people and get more involved with our lives, they need more revenue. And the only place that revenue comes from is taxpayers. We’re saying stop. The men and women on the pre-budget committee are getting swamped with spending requests. We’re there to say stop. Cut your spending, and reduce our taxes. And as far as we can tell, we among the only people going to these meetings saying ‘please stop!’”
The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services is holding public hearings over a four-week period, stopping in 12 communities around the province.
“During these pre-budget consultations we try to go to a community that isn’t as often served by mega-media,” said Sims of her trip to Cranbrook. “We find that when that when people are giving their pre-budget consultations in smaller towns in different areas they bring up different topics. We also think it’s important to highlight the fact that these folks are travelling all over the province. They’re not just doing consultations in Vancouver and Victoria. We think it’s important to point that out.
“We’re bracing ourselves for extra spending. But to be fair, there was excess spending going on with the previous government as well. So we do our best to take a cold, hard look at the mathematics of every budget, of every party, of every government, regardless of their political stripe. And, hey, if they balance the budget and cut our taxes and reduce spending we’re don’t care what party they are, that’s great news.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation came into being as a response to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 1990. “We’ve been around for 25 years now, so I think people are getting used to our message.”