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BC NDP platform: really good, but not as good as it could be

Bradley Hughes

April 29, 2013

The BC NDP platform is a welcome shift to the left for the party. The NDP has put forward plans to reverse some of the massive tax cuts that the Liberals are responsible for. They will add a new income tax bracket for those earning over $150,000, raise the corporate income tax to 12%, re-instate part of the corporate capital tax and expand the carbon tax. They have also come out against two multi-billion dollar tar sands pipeline projects, the Enbridge pipeline and the Kinder-Morgan pipeline expansion.
Raise taxes and fund programs
The new tax revenues will be spent on a number of projects that will help address the twelve years of damage the Liberals have done. These will include: money for transit, green projects, and retrofits; re-introducing grants for post-secondary students; freezing the fares on BC Ferries, hiring new teachers, education assistants, librarians and counsellors in the public school system; linking income assistance rates to inflation; introducing a family bonus to help lift families with children out of poverty; improving funding for home support and community care.
This is a blow against the prevailing myths of austerity and lack of government funds. The NDP is showing that there is an appetite to raise taxes and fund government services.
More taxes needed
However, it only deals with a small portion of the damage done by the Liberals. The Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives calculates that Liberal tax cuts have reduced provincial revenues by $3.5 billion a year. The partial roll back by the NDP is only expected to produce $988 million a year after four years. This is less than 30 per cent of the loss.
Since they won't go after that money, there will be no reduction of tuition fees which have more than doubled, income assistance will be left at poverty rates, we will continue to suffer a shortage of nurses and hospital beds in BC, and class sizes in the public schools will remain untouched. The NDP plan to provide up to 1,500 units of affordable housing a year will take 77 years to provide spaces for 116,000 people that Social Housing Coalition BC estimates are in a housing crisis in BC.
LNG = climate change
The money they will spend on transit and other green programs is undercut by their commitment to: “support sustainable LNG development and export as part of a diversified and prosperous economy.” BC will continue to feel the effects of climate change from catastrophic forest fires to massive flooding of the Fraser river. The only way to avoid this is to transition in as few years as possible from fossil fuels to renewables. Digging up more gas and oil is the exact opposite of what we need to do.
Missed Opportunity
This is a huge missed opportunity for the NDP and for BC. The NDP could win this election on a much more radical program then they have put forward. The world is moving to the left, and Canada and BC are no exception.
In 2012, polls by the Broadbent Institute, the Trudeau Foundation, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives all demonstrated this left turn. According to them, the majority of British Columbians approved of the Occupy and the Quebec student strike movements, and are willing to pay more taxes for in return for a broad range of government services..
Furthermore, 67 per cent of people in BC thought corporations pay less tax than they should, while a large majority felt the same about the richest 20 per cent of people. This was true no matter who they would vote for: 74 per cent of Liberal voters, 77 per cent of Conservative voters, 87 per cent of NDP voters, and 86 percent of Green voters.
On top of this, the people of BC turned on the Liberals long ago. Polls put the NDP well ahead of the Liberals long before Adrian Dix won the NDP leadership.
The NDP may have squandered this opportunity, but the popular support for Occupy and Quebec's students suggests that a large popular movement can be built here. A movement like the successful anti-pipline movement can be built up to join with teachers for smaller class sizes, to join with nurses for more health services and with construction workers to replace fossil fuel extraction with renewable energy plants.
Together we can force an NDP government to do the right thing, let's get started!

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