B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson addresses Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler, Sept. 13, 2018. (UBCM photo)

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson addresses Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler, Sept. 13, 2018. (UBCM photo)

Wilkinson targets health care tax costs for municipalities

B.C. Liberal leader says ICBC monopoly has to go

In his first speech to municipal leaders, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson focused on their frustration with a jump in employee medical premium costs they face next year.

The sudden increase for 2019 from continuing to pay Medical Services Plan premiums plus a new employer health tax leaves local governments with unpleasant options, Wilkinson told delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler Thursday. They are to cut programs, lay off staff or raise property taxes.

“Next year in Maple Ridge and New Westminster, you’ll see 400 per cent increase in health care premium costs to municipalities,” Wilkinson said. “In Oak Bay it goes from $86,000 to $450,000, another 400 per cent increase. In Prince George, from $330,000 to $1.6 million. In Saanich, $208,000 this year to almost $2 million next year.”

Finance Minister Carole James has provided exemptions to the tax on payrolls of $500,000 or more for non-profit organizations, and promised to increase budgets for school districts, universities and health authorities. But municipalities will see no relief, James confirmed Wednesday.

Wilkinson also targeted the NDP government’s speculation tax on vacant homes, noting that two thirds of the people who pay it are B.C. residents.

“Our housing problems will not be solved by piling on new taxes,” Wilkinson said.

RELATED: James unmoved by speculation tax concerns

Delegates struggled with the pending legalization of marijuana. Resolutions called for increased enforcement of odour control in medical cannabis growing, as the B.C. government prepares to licence Liquor Distribution Branch and private stores, as well as online sales.

Wilkinson said it should be up to communities whether they want to allow marijuana retail sales.

The B.C. Liberal leader also called for the province to end the ICBC monopoly on mandatory vehicle insurance, as the corporation faces increased accident rates and claim costs.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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