Liberal pre-election promise to reverse more than 10 years of making life less affordable for families lacks credibility

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In her pre-election cabinet shuffle, the B.C. Liberal premier said she wants to “make sure that we are addressing those issues of affordability that are faced by families all across the province, many of whom feel like they're struggling.”

Adrian Dix and the New Democrats agree that families have been struggling with affordability over the last decade, and a look at the B.C. Liberals’ own record on the economy shows why.

“After more than 10 years of the B.C Liberals making families pay more and get less, a pre-election Liberal pledge to suddenly care about affordability for British Columbians lacks all reasonable credibility,” said New Democrat finance critic Bruce Ralston.

“On one hand the premier is hinting tax relief may be on its way, but on the other hand her government says revenue is dropping and there isn’t any money for things like tax relief. It’s no wonder British Columbians feel they can’t trust anything this government says.”

As former Liberal government key advisor and chief of staff Martyn Brown said in his book Towards a New Government in British Columbia, governments like the B.C. Liberals “are not being fully honest or transparent about the tax burdens they are imposing” when they are “raising fees, licenses, premiums, penalties, levies, utility rates, tolls and other hidden forms of taxes.”

Here is a look at how B.C. Liberal economic policy has resulted in British Columbia families paying more and earning less:

Paying more

  • Hydro rates: On April 1 of 2012, hydro rates increased by more than seven per cent, or about $70 per year for the average residential customer.
  • Ferry fares: Ferry fares also increased on April 1. Since 2003, when our ferries were privatized by the Liberals, fares have gone up by 47 per cent on major routes and 80 per cent on minor routes. For the major routes, a family of four on a one-way trip can expect to pay about $94, or $34 more than in 2003.
  • Transit fares: Metro Vancouver has the highest transit fares in Canada, at $5 for a three-zone pass.
  • The HST: The Liberals still haven’t eliminated their HST. The tax drives up the costs for thousands of goods and services and families will continue to pay it until Apr. 2013, even though it was voted down in a referendum in Aug. 2011. As Brown put it in his book, “it was so clearly a tax shift that took more money from [voters’] pockets to facilitate lower taxes for businesses.”
  • MSP: Medical Service Premiums were increased by six per cent for the third year in a row on Jan. 1, 2012. They will increase by another four per cent in January of 2013. At that point a B.C. family will pay $1,596 per year for MSP, which is 85-per-cent more than they paid in 2001 when the Liberals formed government.
  • ICBC: Basic coverage went up by more than 11 per cent on Feb. 1, 2012. While there was a small drop to optional rates, these changes disproportionately hurt those who can only afford basic coverage.
  • Advanced Education: Tuition increased another two per cent on Sept. 1, 2012, pushing post-secondary education even further out of reach for many families. Tuition has doubled since the B.C. Liberals formed government in 2001.

Earning less

  • Stagnant wages: Statistics Canada reports that between 2001 and 2011, average weekly wages grew more slowly in B.C. than in any other province: 28 per cent versus 33 per cent for the Canadian average.

On average, B.C. workers bring home less per week than workers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Newfoundland. Between 2001 and 2010, B.C. had the third lowest growth of average weekly wages and the lowest growth in the average hourly wage.

  • Inequality: A January 2012 report by BC Stats said according to the latest data available, “compared to other provinces, B.C. ranked dead last in 2009, with the largest gap between the top 20 per cent and the bottom 20 per cent of income earners.”