People who follow provincial politics know that it was no ordinary throne speech and budget handed down by Premier Gordon Campbell’s government.
In her speech announcing the new budget, finance minister Carole Taylor called it a “turning point” for the province and one that “overturns the notion that you have to choose either a healthy environment or a strong economy.”
One of the most significant components in the budget is a revenue-neutral carbon tax of 2.41 cents per litre that will be applied to gasoline purchases, increasing to 7.24 cents per litre in 2012. That is the equivalent of a carbon tax rate of $10 per tonne of emissions, increasing to $30 per tonne in four years in $5 annual increments. A provincial cap and trade emissions program will also be introduced this spring.
This is the first carbon tax levied in North America, and has been strongly supported by groups like the David Suzuki Foundation.
To help offset the cost of the new tax, all B.C. residents will receive a one-time $100 Climate Action Credit in June, while lower income individuals and families will continue to receive an annual credit of $100, plus $30 per child.
As well, British Columbians will see their personal income tax rates reduced by two per cent in 2008, and five per cent in 2009 on their first $70,000 in earnings.
According to Joan McIntyre, the MLA for West Vancouver-Garibaldi, that will save families roughly $2,000 a year. In addition, small business tax rates will be cut by one percentage point, while corporate tax rates have been lowered an additional one per cent to match Alberta.
While she has received some negative feedback on the gas tax from her constituents, she says she has received at least as much positive encouragement. McIntyre said the same is true for, Finance Minister Taylor, who estimates that she gets at least seven positive letters for every negative response.
“The (finance) minister referred to this budget as a turning point in our history, and I really agree with that,” said McIntyre. “Especially while we’re celebrating our 150 th year it’s appropriate to be proud of our past history, but also to look at where we’re heading. We know we have to head in a different direction, and I think the public is maybe a little ahead of government in recognizing that.
“The budget has been received very well. I was at the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce meeting on Friday morning, and the response there was very positive. We used to get letters asking us to put in a carbon tax, and now people are thanking us for having the courage to do it.”