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Tax and spend: a climate and jobs platform for the BC election

Bradley Hughes

April 10, 2017

The International Socialists are too small to run in the upcoming provincial election in BC. However, we feel that the following planks should be in the platform for any party that would represent the working class. A complete election platform would cover much more than these few points.

We know that real change comes from strikes and demonstrations in our workplaces and communities, so even though it’s unlikely that the mainstream parties will put the interest of the majority first, these are the goals that can inform the fight for reforms from whoever wins the provincial election.

$15/hour minimum wage on the day the legislature opens

Across Canada and the US workers are fighting for a $15/hour minimum wage. This is barely enough to lift minimum wage workers above the poverty line, but it is a significant increase over the current minimum wage of $10.85 and only $9.60 for liquor servers.

The winning candidates will gain an annual salary of over $100,000. This puts them in the top 8% of wage earners in BC. For each month that MLA’s delay raising the minimum wage to $15, the least well-paid workers in this province will forgo $600 in wages. Ask the candidates in your riding how they can justify making such exorbitant wages while keeping the least well-paid wage workers below the poverty line.

Implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Article 43 of the UNDRIP declares, “The rights recognized herein constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.” As such, everything in the Declaration that falls within the responsibilities of the province should be enacted into law. That must include Article 14.3, that requires the state to provide “education in their own culture and provided in their own language.”

Article 26.1 (“Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired”)

and Article 32.2 (“ States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples . . . to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories”) would immediately bring a halt to environmentally destructive mega-projects like Site C Dam, the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal. All of which are planned on Aboriginal lands, despite their opposition to these projects.

Restore income taxes on corporations and the rich

The BC Liberals have given away tens of billions to the richest few in this province, in personal and corporate tax cuts. Income taxes on individuals making over $100,000 a year (the richest 8 per cent) should be restored to at the very least the rates used in 1999, when the BC NDP was in government. This increase to personal income tax would raise provincial revenues by around $2.7 Billion. Restoring corporate taxes from their current level (11 per cent) to what they were in 1999 (20 per cent) would generate $2.9 billion.

Together, restoring both individual and corporate taxes to their 1999 levels would give the incoming government more than $5 billion a year to spend on making our lives better. There are no shortage of problems created by nearly two decades of austerity budgets by the Liberals. Spending an extra $5 billion a year would help to reverse some of that damage.

Cancel planet destroying mega-projects and fund climate jobs

According to the publicity from the Site C dam, the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and the Pacific North West LNG terminal, at their peak employment they will provide 2,000 jobs at Site C, 4,500 jobs at Pacific North West LNG and 15,000 jobs building the KM pipeline. Few of these projects’ sub-contractors are unionized. Provincial funding of climate jobs can put these construction workers and many others to work close to home in good paying union jobs.

A recent study by The Centre for Spatial Economics estimates that for every $1 million spent on building infrastructure in BC, 9.6 jobs are created. If the whole $5 billion went to infrastructure, we could create nearly 50,000 jobs. Or more than twice as many as the current mega-projects. But this is the low end of possible job creation. Climate projects will create many more jobs than this average. Retrofitting homes and public buildings will create 20 jobs for every $1 million, according to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The Columbia Institute reports that “retrofitting 100,000 homes per year in BC would keep 14,000 to 30,000 people directly employed.” A Greenpeace Report on green jobs in Alberta estimates that each retrofit costs around $15,000. For $1.5 billion, a 100,000 homes could be retrofitted a year—creating  he same number of construction jobs as the combined total of the Site C Dam, the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal. Since they are paid for by the province, the province could insist that contractors be unionized, providing good union jobs close to where people live, right across the province.

Expanding local public transit and adding rail links between cities and towns would also increase our standard of living, while reducing green house gas emissions and providing good jobs. The Mayor’s Transit Plan for the Vancouver region is expected to create 4,380 jobs per year over the next ten years. This is at a cost of $5.3 billion after the Federal government contributes its promised $2.2 billion. Per year this would cost $530 million. The same Columbia Institute report estimates that 18.5 jobs are created for every $1 million spent on transit and ground transportation. The lower mainland has about half the people in the province, so we could spend the same amount a year on public transit and inter-city rail elsewhere in the province to create another 9,800 union jobs outside the lower mainland.

The Canadian Geothermal Energy Association has calculated that for less than half of the cost of the Site C dam project an equal power output could be created by multiple geothermal power plants. This would create 4,400 construction jobs, at a cost of $400 million per year for eight years.

This spending plan would create more than 40,000 jobs and still leave $2 billion to seismically upgrade our schools, expand our hospitals, reduce tuition fees, provide student grants in place of loans, build social housing, and more. The only barrier to this are the politicians who protect the profits of the wealthy few, instead of improving the standards of the vast majority of us by providing unionized jobs, raising wages, and dealing faithfully with the claims of the First Nations.

We can only overcome this barrier by building a working class party in our workplaces, schools, communities. Such a party would fight for these priorities between and during elections. The International Socialists wants to build such a party. Join us!

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