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B.C. political parties focus on pocketbook issues on eve of provincial election

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark makes an announcement about the BC Liberals during a press conference at the Mobify offices in Vancouver, B.C. on Monday, April 10, 2017.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jimmy Jeong
April 10, 2017 - 4:41 PM

VANCOUVER - British Columbia's two main political parties are promising to keep more money in taxpayers' pockets on the eve of the provincial election campaign.

Liberal Leader Christy Clark promised tax cuts, credits and freezes today while NDP Leader John Horgan says his party would eliminate tolls on two bridges linking the suburbs to Vancouver if the party wins the May 9 election.

The Liberals released their platform one day before the campaign officially begins, making a series of promises that would cost $157 million in new spending over three years.

The party is promising a personal income tax freeze and new tax credits for seniors and family members who care for them.

In addition to eliminating tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, Horgan is also promising to freeze BC Hydro rates.

FILE PHOTO - British Columbia NDP Leader John Horgan speaks to a reporter after unveiling his election campaign bus in Burnaby, B.C., on Tuesday April 4, 2017.
FILE PHOTO - British Columbia NDP Leader John Horgan speaks to a reporter after unveiling his election campaign bus in Burnaby, B.C., on Tuesday April 4, 2017.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The pledge comes barely a week after electricity rates jumped by 3.5 per cent, following a BC Hydro warning in November that rates would climb another 16.5 per cent over the next four years.

Horgan says B.C. residents have no choice but to pay the increases in order to power and heat their homes, adding that a rate freeze and removing bridge tolls would make life more affordable.

Horgan has also pledged to improve services including health care and education, build infrastructure such as hospitals, roads and transit, while also tackling climate change and creating jobs.

Clark says if the Liberals are re-elected, they would cut the small business tax to two per cent, phase out provincial sales tax on electricity for all businesses, and commit to four more balanced budgets.

Clark also touted previous promises to eliminate unpopular medical services premiums, cap bridge tolls at $500 annually for commuters and create a new tax credit for people living in communities that are dependent on BC Ferries.

The Liberal platform was released at a Vancouver-based technology company as the party is also promising to spend $87 million in a technology strategy and for teaching coding to students in grades 6 to 9.

FILE PHOTO - B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver speaking to a supporter at Thompson Rivers University March 27, 2017.
FILE PHOTO - B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver speaking to a supporter at Thompson Rivers University March 27, 2017.

Here is a look at some of the promises being made by the three main political parties.

Liberals:

— The cost of the party's promises amounts to $157 million in new spending over three years.

— Four consecutive balanced budgets to eliminate the province's operating debt by 2021.

— A four-year freeze on personal income taxes, and no change to the carbon tax until 2021.

— A cap on bridge tolls and a new tax break for people living in ferry-dependent communities.

— New tax credits to help seniors, including a tax credit for those caring for seniors or family members with disabilities, and doubling a tax credit for seniors who renovate their homes.

NDP:

— A $10-a-day childcare plan based on Quebec's system.

— Eliminate tolls on the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges linking suburban commuters to Vancouver, while also freezing BC Hydro rates.

— Ban corporate and union donations to political parties.

— Increase the minimum wage, which is slated to rise to $11.35 an hour by September, to $15 an hour.

— Stop plans by Kinder Morgan to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline across B.C. to Burnaby.

Green party:

— Free pre-school for three- and four-year-old children and free daycare for children up to age three who have working parents, while families with a stay-at-home parent would receive up to $500 a month for a child up to the age of two.

— Change the law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 per cent below 2007 levels by 2030, while extending the carbon tax to fugitive and vented emissions. Fugitive sources are unintentional emissions from the processing and delivery of fossil fuels.

— Increase funding for the public education system over four years, beginning with an additional $220 million in 2017-18 and rising to $1.46 billion in 2020-21.

— Implement grants based on need for post-secondary students, and offer tax forgiveness of up to $2,000 a year for up to five years to help graduates repay debt from tuition fees.

— Establish an emerging economy task force to look at the changing nature of business over the next 10 to 25 years that will report to the government by July 2018.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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