B.C. Liberals vow income tax freeze

The B.C. Liberal Party released its election platform Monday, promising to freeze personal income tax rates for five years

Premier Christy Clark is campaigning on a platform of holding the line on taxes and using resource revenues to pay down debt.

Premier Christy Clark is campaigning on a platform of holding the line on taxes and using resource revenues to pay down debt.

The B.C. Liberal Party released its election platform Monday, promising to freeze personal income tax rates for five years and return to its plan to eliminate small business income tax.

Premier Christy Clark released the platform at a campaign event in Vancouver, challenging NDP leader Adrian Dix to do the same and to participate in a one-on-one debate on the different visions for the province.

The B.C. Liberals’ personal tax freeze does not extend to income above $150,000, which was subject to a 2.1 per cent increase in the government’s February budget. That increase was budgeted to last only two years before returning to the current 14.7 per cent rate.

The NDP has proposed to raise the rate on income above $150,000 a year to 19 per cent, permanently.

The B.C. Liberals had earlier planned to eliminate income tax for small businesses with annual revenues of $500,000 or less. But faced with deficits after the 2008-09 financial crisis and the rejection of the harmonized sales tax, the government decided in 2012 to hold the small business tax rate at 2.5 per cent until the province’s financial picture improved.

The party’s new plan is more modest, trimming the small business rate by half a point in 2015 and another half point by 2017.

The B.C. Liberal platform leans heavily on long-term debt repayment for government, BC Ferries and BC Hydro using liquefied natural gas export revenues. Clark said a conservative scenario of two large LNG export facilities and three smaller ones could provide enough revenue to pay off the province’s debt in 15 years.

“The NDP’s fiscal plan is a plan to kill liquefied natural gas,” Clark said.

NDP MLA Carole James rejected that claim, saying the party has endorsed LNG exports.

“LNG revenue is an opportunity, but it’s not going to solve all of our challenges,” James said.

The NDP has decided on a staged release of policies, which started in Prince George Monday with promises for new investment in reforestation.

Other highlights of the B.C. Liberal platform include:

• $3 million a year to upgrade rest stops and visitor centres around B.C.

• a B.C. film promotion office in Los Angeles

• funds to develop an aerospace and defence contractor industry

• a five-year freeze of the carbon tax, previously announced