Bennett praises MSP cuts; opposition disagrees

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett lauded his party’s decision to reduce Medical Services Plan premiums.

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett lauded his party’s decision to reduce Medical Services Plan premiums as part of the 2017 budget but a political opponent called it a cynical move by the BC Liberals.

As part of the budget, the Liberal government announced that MSP premiums would be cut in half for British Columbians with annual family net income between $29,000 and $120,000, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

The changes mean annual savings of up to $900 for families paying full premiums and up to $450 for individuals paying full premiums. Two million British Columbians will see their premiums reduced by half. Another two million British Columbians don’t pay premiums at all. MSP is the provincial health insurance program that covers medical services for residents.

“I think it’s grown to be quite a burr under everyone’s saddle,” said Bennett to local media following BC Liberal Finance Minister Mike de Jong’s release of the budget on Feb. 21. “This will help people feel they’re being treated more fairly, and it’s one of the ways we could put money back into people’s pockets.”

Former Fernie mayor Randal Macnair, the BC NDP nominee for the Kootenay East riding, said the MSP reduction was “clearly a ploy to win votes.”

“It’s kind of like someone puts three stones in your shoe and you have to walk around with those stones for ten years and then they take one stone out and they think you should be happy about it,” he said. “If you think you can treat somebody badly for a decade and then all of a sudden decide to be nice… it just doesn’t work that way.”

Macnair acknowledged that the reduction would make a modest difference to some people but noted that the premiums are identical for any person with a family net income between $29,000 and $120,000

“A senior on a fixed income is still paying the same amount as someone working full time,” he said. “So it’s still a regressive tax.”

Macnair criticized de Jong’s previous claims that MSP is important because it reminds residents that healthcare is not free in this country.

“He was a fervent supporter [of MSP] and now all of a sudden he’s flipped,” Macnair said.