Wilkinson says Liberals would eliminate B.C.'s provincial sales tax for a year

RICHMOND, B.C. — B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson says he would eliminate the provincial sales tax for a year if the party wins next month's election, a move his main political opponent questioned because of the impact the loss of tax revenue would have on government services.

Under the Liberal proposal, the PST would return at three per cent in the second year, down from the usual seven per cent on most goods and services. At a campaign event in Richmond, Wilkinson said Monday that cutting the tax would help stimulate the province's economy as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Liberals said cutting the tax would cost almost $7 billion in the first year and just under $4 billion in the second year, but Wilkinson said now is not the time to worry about the details of recouping that loss. The tax cut would benefit people with lower incomes the most because they spend a higher proportion to cover the sales tax, he added. NDP Leader John Horgan said he hasn't seen an assessment of the impact of the Liberals' proposed tax cut on the province's revenues, but he hopes Wilkinson will tell voters what services wouldn't be provided as a result.

"Andrew Wilkinson’s plan to hand the wealthy and the well-connected a big tax giveaway would mean fewer resources for hospitals and longer wait times for people," he said in a statement. "Those are the wrong priorities, especially right now." Wilkinson said any suggestions that a Liberal government would cut health and education services are wrong and he's committed to providing those services in a time of need. Speaking at a campaign event in Victoria, Horgan said the NDP government implemented tax deferrals and breaks at the start of the pandemic, and there will be more details when the party's platform is released next week.

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau criticized Wilkinson's proposal, saying people need "a basic level of economic security" to help the province recover from the pandemic.

She also called the proposal "antiquated" and says there are more effective ways to spend $7 billion.

"For Andrew Wilkinson to suggest that a tax cut is the path forward at a time when we need to invest in our province more deeply than we've ever needed to before, is showing such astonishing lack of imagination," she said during a campaign event in Vancouver.

She said the Greens are an evidence-based party and their policies would be informed by experts and economists while working to address growing income inequality in B.C.

"Both of the other parties will tout what a strong economy we have," she said. "When we see the rates of housing precariousness, of homelessness, when we see the rates of people who can't find work, then I would say that our economy isn't serving everybody."

-- By Brenna Owen in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2020.

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