B.C. ELECTION 2017: Greens promise to balance budget, make tax system more progressive

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver shares a laugh prior to a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 24, 2017.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

VANCOUVER - British Columbia's Green party is hoping its promise to balance the province's books will shore up the group's economic credentials and translate into more support at the ballot box come election day.

Green Leader Andrew Weaver released his party's full platform at a campaign event in downtown Vancouver on Monday, pledging to overhaul the tax system in order to pay for investments in childcare, education, public health and the environment.

"This plan, here, is all about putting people first," Weaver said, holding up the 98-page document.

"Not unions first. Not big labour first. Not corporations first. Not multinationals first. This plan is about putting the people of British Columbia first."

The Green party platform forecasts operating deficits in the second and third years of a four-year mandate with a $216-million surplus in the final fiscal year.

The plan would create a new ministry for mental health and addictions, and earmark $80 million for various mental health initiatives, including early intervention community centres, youth programs and more supervised injection sites.

READ MORE: Key developments from Day 14 on the campaign trail

If elected on May 9, a Green government would match the federal government's $460-million investment in public-transit infrastructure and invest in free daycare for working parents with kids under the age of three, Weaver said.

The party would pay for its campaign commitments by overhauling provincial taxes, which includes doing away with tax credits on items such as hockey sticks and upping the corporate tax rate to 12 per cent, one percentage point higher than its current level. The Greens also want to make the tax system more progressive by raising rates on those who earn more than about $108,000 a year and rolling medical services premiums into payroll and income taxes.

"This election, I would argue, is about trust," Weaver said.

"People do not trust the B.C. Liberals. They want the B.C. Liberals to move on. They've been in power far too long. The B.C. NDP have had 16 years to inspire people. They haven't."

Asked about the economic impact of his economic policies, Weaver said hiking corporate taxes would not kill jobs.

"Business has no problem paying their share," he said. "What business wants to know is what the rules of the game are. What matters in business is certainty."

New Democrat candidate Shane Simpson attended Weaver's announcement and said afterwards that much of what the Greens are proposing aligns with NDP positions.

This election is ultimately about voters choosing whether they want change, and the only logical option is the NDP, he said.

"Mr. Weaver and the Green party are not going to replace this government," Simpson said. "At this point they are not a party that's ready to start talking about forming government in a serious way."

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