Province digs deeper into ICBC, Hydro piggy banks

B.C. budget pulls more cash from Crown corporations, MSP fees

The B.C. government intends to pull more money out of ICBC in the years ahead.

The annual dividend from the public auto insurer – which goes into general government revenue despite repeated demands from critics for lower premiums instead – is estimated at $160 million a year in each of 2015, 2016 and 2017, according to budget documents.

That’s an increase from estimates of $155 million for 2015 and $125 million for 2016 in last year’s budget.

By the end of 2017, the province will have raided $1.5 billion from ICBC coffers since 2010.

The money comes from the profits on ICBC’s optional insurance side, which can’t be used to reduce basic auto premiums because the two sides of the business are segregated.

Critics accused the government of building its budget surplus by having Crown corporations like ICBC and BC Hydro charge customers more than is required and then transfer funds.

Electricity rates are rising six per cent while BC Hydro’s net income – most of which is remitted to government – climbs from $549 million last year to about $700 million by 2017. The province has promised to eventually reduce and eliminate the Hydro transfers.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation was critical of the latest 4.2 per cent increase in Medical Service Premiums, calling it a continuing tax hike that exceeds inflation.

A family of three will pay $150 per month in MSP premiums, up 40 per cent in five years.

The pattern of service fee increases and income tax restraint is a recurring one in B.C. budgets.

But New Democrats say it’s particularly unfair this year because of the government’s decision to reduce the income tax for the wealthy earning more than $150,000 a year.

“Instead of giving a break to families who are struggling, the B.C. Liberals singled out the top two per cent of income earners for a $230 million tax cut,” said NDP leader John Horgan.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the higher tax bracket  was created as a temporary measure two years ago to shore up the budget and it’s being eliminated on schedule, as promised. 

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