In their first major promise of the 2020 election campaign, the BC Liberals on Monday promised to eliminate the provincial sales tax for one year if elected on Oct. 24.
Leader Andrew Wilkinson told a news conference the tax will then be reduced to three per cent the following year.
“Every government in the Western world is anticipating deficit spending for the next few years,” he said. “That’s the fact of the matter to pay for health and education, to maintain the services we want, to build all the projects that are already underway.”
B.C.’s provincial sales tax right now is seven per cent.
The promise comes in an attempt to help reboot an economy struggling due to COVID-19.
In August, the Business Council of B.C. suggested the provincial government cut the PST in half for two years to help the economy recover.
Under the BC Liberal proposal, a family of four earning $60,000 per parent would save $1,714 in the first year alone, followed by an additional $979 in the second year.
The commitment provides more financial relief for those who spend more versus those who spend less.
“Eliminating PST puts more money in people’s pockets, stimulates growth for struggling small business, and helps British Columbians who are struggling to get by. This is a vital step to rebuild our economy,” Wilkinson said.
BC NDP Leader John Horgan was asked at his own campaign on Monday whether his party would also consider a PST cut.
He said his platform will be coming out soon, but wouldn’t indicate what economic measures the party will take.
“When Mr. Wilkinson makes promises about taxes, they have historically been about people who are wealthy and well connected and not regular people,” Horgan said.
“If he is going to take that money out of the budget, I hope he will tell British Columbians what services he will take out of the budget.”
Wilkinson’s proposal is estimated to cost $6.881 billion in the first year and $3.932 billion in the second year in lost revenue for the province.
Wilkinson made the announcement in Richmond, a potential battleground in the election. Horgan was scheduled to be there Monday afternoon.
Horgan started his day in Victoria, committing to cut health-care wait times by investing in four new MRI machines.
“Ensuring British Columbians have faster access to quality health care has never been more important,” he said.
“Andrew Wilkinson’s plan to hand the wealthy and the well-connected a big tax giveaway would mean fewer resources for hospitals and longer wait times for people. Those are the wrong priorities, especially right now.”
BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau, meanwhile, was in Vancouver on Monday to announce more candidates as the party struggles to be represented in all 87 ridings. The nomination deadline is Friday.
She called Wilkinson’s promise on the PST “an astounding lack of imagination.”
She said she would reveal her party’s full election platform later this week.
– With a file from Robyn Crawford