VICTORIA – New Democrats on the legislature’s finance committee stood up for British Columbians by refusing to back the Liberals’ Harmonized Sale Tax while pushing for recommendations to protect public services in the committee’s final report released today.
“Though there were many issues we were able to find common ground on with government MLAs, at the end of the day we could not vote for the report because it contained recommendations we fundamentally disagreed with,” said New Democrat MLA Doug Donaldson , deputy chair of the committee.
“The only recommendation related to the B.C. Liberals’ HST that New Democrats would support would be to stop it entirely. As the committee heard time and time again during our travels around the province, the HST is a $1.9 billion tax shift from corporations to consumers, and will be a big blow to families and many small businesses.”
The finance committee provides direction to government on spending priorities, submitting the Budget 2010 Consultations Report after soliciting input from organizations, businesses and individuals from around the province.
Donaldson said there were 49 recommendations in all, eight of which relate to fine-tuning of the HST, which the B.C. Liberals said during the election they were not going to introduce but then announced shortly after votes were cast.
“If the Liberals wanted to bring in the HST, they should have put that choice before voters during the election, rather than trying to tinker with a broken promise after the fact,” said Donaldson.
“Fortunately, there is still time to stop this tax. The enabling legislation will not come before the provincial and federal legislatures until the spring, and New Democrats will continue to work with British Columbians of all political stripes who are mobilizing against the HST.”
Donaldson noted New Democrat MLAs on the committee voted for 37 of the 49 recommendations, and used their position to push for recommendations supporting funding for education and the arts, both of which were severely cut by the B.C. Liberals after the election.
“During the campaign, the Liberals promised to protect vital public services, including health care and education, but since the election they have broken promise after promise. We welcome the support of government MLAs in calling on their B.C. Liberal colleagues to listen to British Columbians who want to ensure our public services are protected,” said Donaldson.
New Democrats also voted against four recommendations that could weaken environmental regulations, further devastate rural health care, give a tax break to the wealthy, and reinforce the B.C. Liberal deficit lie.
In addition to Donaldson, New Democrat members of the finance committee include MLAs Bruce Ralston, Michelle Mungall, and Bill Routley.
Carole James and the New Democrats have been holding the B.C. Liberals accountable for breaking their word on the HST, and for backtracking on their election promises to protect health care, education, and other vital services.