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Local MLAs react to provincial budget

A tax hike there an increased premium here, that’s all that needed to bring balance to B.C.’s books, says the Liberal MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission.

“It’s a matter of really pulling up our socks,” Marc Dalton said Wednesday.

“It’s not a typical, pre-election gravy train budget. It’s a matter of living within our means.”

Finance Minister Mike de Jong introduced what he said was a balanced budget Tuesday, with temporary (two year) income tax increases of two per cent on those who make more than $150,000 a year.

Under the financial plan, the corporate tax rate jumps one point to 11 per cent, effective April 1, but is still among the lowest in the country.

NDP leader Adrian Dix has promised to increase the corporate rate to 12 per cent, where it was in 2008.

For the next three years, the revenue coming and the money going out should be balanced, said Dalton.

According to the government, the measures, including sales of government assets, will create a $197-million surplus next fiscal year, a $211 million surplus the following one, and a $460-million surplus in 2015-2016.

Two goodies were offered. Parents can now get a $1,200 head start on a registered education savings plan for their kids thanks to a one-time grant of that amount.

That’s eligible for every child born after December 2006. Families with young children also get some help, thanks to the childhood tax benefit, by which they can receive up to $55 per child, per month; while the province will pump another $76 million over three years for new child care spaces.

Another element will keep greenhouse growers in Pitt Meadows happy because there will be an 80-per-cent rebate for greenhouse growers on the carbon tax.

“That will help out the agricultural community,” Dalton said.

But the carbon tax, he added, will survive, and the government is also working on a pension plan that people voluntarily join.

Another budget feature is an additional $4 million over three years to support the Agricultural Land Commission for increased oversight of the Agriculture Land Reserve.

Smokers will also pay another $2 for a carton of cigarettes, effective Oct. 1, if the government is re-elected and the budget is passed.

NDP MLA Michael Sather (Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows) said the Liberals are counting on the sale of assets, which it may or may not sell, to balance the budget.

Not selling the government’s property in the Little Mountain area of Vancouver would amount to a loss of $300 million.

“That could put a pretty big hole in the budget.”

In a rambling farewell speech to the legislature, on his Facebook page, Sather criticizes the recent Throne Speech and announces his retirement as a politician, once the term ends in May and an election takes place.

Sather said it was the eighth throne speech he’s heard and it was “remarkable for its lack of substance.”

He says there are only two proposals in the budget: to establish a prosperity fund funded by resource revenues which he opposes  – he notes natural gas prices have dropped 30 per cent – and to establish a seniors advocate, which he says the NDP have long supported.

There was no talk of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection Agreement.

“The deal would give Chinese companies operating in Canada more power than Canadian companies under what is called the enclave legal status,” Sather said.

“Arbitration is done behind closed doors, and damages are unlimited. Chinese entities already in Canada can contest all government or court decisions.”

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