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New Democrats, BC Liberals battle over the future of MSP premiums

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. Global Nerws

The BC Liberals and NDP are waging a war of words over the future of Medical Services Plan (MSP) premiums.

Last week, BC Liberal president Paul Barbeau sent a letter to NDP president Craig Keating, saying the NDP was making “false claims” in fundraising emails when suggesting the Liberals would bring back MSP if the party formed government.

“Let me make this very clear to you and everyone in your party: the BC Liberals will not bring back the MSP,” the letter reads.

“I trust the BC NDP will now cease making the false claims. You might be best advised to focus on defending the merits of your record as life becomes less and less affordable for hard working British Columbians.”

READ MORE: Concerns growing from small businesses over the Employer Health Tax

MSP premiums have been a hot button political issue for years. The BC Liberals reduced premiums for British Columbians, while the NDP have committed to getting rid of them entirely next year.

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In order to cover the costs of MSP, the province has brought in an Employers Health Tax. The BC Liberals have criticized the tax for unfairly targeting small businesses.

The NDP have responded to the BC Liberals’ letter.

“It is encouraging to see your party’s belated admission that MSP premiums are costly and unfair for people,” Keating writes.

“However, while your letter claims the BC Liberals won’t bring back MSP, the actions of your party and caucus indicate the opposite.

“On November 3, 2018, at the BC Liberal Convention in Vancouver, delegates passed a resolution. It stated that instead of eliminating MSP immediately by replacing lost revenues with the Employers Health Tax, a BC Liberal government would ‘return to the original intentions of the BC Liberal Party commitment to replace the required revenues by growing the provincial economy.'”

WATCH: B.C. Budget 2019: Elimination of MSP premiums

B.C. Budget 2019: Elimination of MSP premiums
B.C. Budget 2019: Elimination of MSP premiums

The NDP says it is clear from that statement that “under the BC Liberal plan, British Columbians would continue paying MSP premiums for years.”

“If your letter is intended to indicate a shift from this established policy, British Columbians deserve more details about how you will pay for any new plan,” Keating adds.

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MSP has been widely criticized for being a regressive tax, because people who make $200,000 a year pay the same as someone who makes $60,000.  The Employers Health Tax is set to generate $1.85 billion annually.

READ MORE: B.C. Government ignores advice from MSP task force, brings in payroll tax

In a recent fundraising email, the NDP wrote, “Andrew Wilkinson’s BC Liberals have made it clear that, if they get back in government, they’re going to undo all our hard work. They will keep you paying costly MSP fees.”

The provincial government hired a three-person advisory committee to make suggestions on how to pay for getting rid of MSP. The suggestions included a combination of personal income tax and payroll tax as well as a tax on sugary drinks.

“I can’t blame the NDP for wanting to distract voters from their record,” Barbeau writes.

“Rather than eliminate the MSP, the NDP has simply replaced it with a punishing payroll tax that targets small businesses and local governments — driving up costs for all British Columbians and putting jobs at risk.”