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andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca

Today in the Legislature I rose to speak in support of Bill 2 – Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2017. Bill 2 introduces the legislation needed to implement the government’s budget.

Below I reproduce the text and video of my speech.

For those who read to the end, you will see that a BC Liberal MLA heckled me and claimed that the Massey Bridge cost was $2.6 billion instead of the $4.5 billion I stated. A simple Google search indicates I was correct. However, there appears to new information to suggest it would cost much, much more.


Text of Speech


A. Weaver: I rise to take my place in this debate on Bill 2, Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2017.

As we know, this bill before us is a bill that sets the stage — the measures put forward in the budget, in the required legislative changes — to implement those promises in the budget.

Now, there is some precedent here for there to be unanimity in supporting a budget measures implementation act. I take you to March 24, 2015, when the member for Abbotsford West said, after division was called: “In glorious unanimity, we move to Committee of the Whole House.” That was after the Budget Implementation Act was supported unanimously by members of opposition at the time and members of government at the time.

So there is precedent, even though a budget was voted against, to vote in support of a budget measures implementation act. I’m not so sure, actually, that the official opposition at the time meant to do that, but the reality is that there is precedent. I am interpreting that as a sign of good faith. I look forward to this government, who had the bold claim, the audacity to state, speaker after speaker after speaker, that the B.C. NDP budget is largely based on what the Liberals had already. So if they truly believe that, then I look forward to hearing them stand and speak in support of each and every one of the measures that they had in their original budget.

But as we’ve seen yesterday, as we’ve seen here in the House, it’s a game for the official opposition. This is not about the formation of good public policy. It’s about a game. It’s about the quest for power and the game of politics, not about doing what’s right for British Columbians.

This is a budget, as reflected in this Budget Measures Implementation Act, that is people-focused. It’s one that recognized that after 16 years, it’s time to take a look at what is happening to everyday British Columbians. We had — and I admit, and I support — a strong economy in British Columbia. There was a strong economy in British Columbia. Things went awry in about 2010.

It was in 2010 that members opposite, those of them who were here, decided that they would take this province down a direction and a quest for the impossible. With promises of, as I’ve said before, unicorns in each and every one of our backyards, they began the quest and journey to the unimaginable, of bringing to B.C. a $100 billion prosperity fund.

A $1 trillion increase in GDP, 100,000 jobs, elimination of the PST, debt-free B.C., thriving schools and hospitals because of an LNG industry that was going to bring wealth and prosperity to all.

I wish I had written down the quotes of the then Minister of Natural Gas. When I stood in this Legislature and questioned the logic, questioned the facts, questioned what earth they were living on to think that this was going to happen, I was told, in essence, and I paraphrase: “The member opposite doesn’t know what he’s saying. He needs to do his research. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. I meet with the companies, I know what’s going on, and I’m looking forward to the member opposite eating his words.” Well, two years later…. It’s almost three years now. I think it’s the former minister of hot air — sorry, Natural Gas — that should be eating his words.

The danger of this, which was created by going down this quest, is it sent a signal to the market — now, I’m going to use good free enterprise language — that if you want to do business in B.C., it’s LNG or nothing. I’ve had tech leader after tech leader after tech leader after tech leader after developer after business leader after CEO tell me that they were frustrated since 2010. They were frustrated because in B.C., it was all about LNG. University presidents, schools — re-engineering our education system, all for LNG.

For the members opposite, it was a big game. They knew they had no chance of winning the 2013 election, so they had to throw a Hail Mary pass, a Hail Mary pass of hope that British Columbians would hang their hats on, one they failed to deliver.

They have the gall to stand here and suggest that our economy is thriving because of their fiscal mismanagement. The reason why our economy is thriving is single. No, it’s not because of a burgeoning resource sector. Frankly, it’s ironic that members opposite suggest that they support rural B.C. Communities in rural B.C. are hurting right now precisely because of their fiscal mismanagement, because they seem to think that, in British Columbia, we’re going to compete with Indonesia in just digging dirt out of the ground. No, we’re not. We compete by being innovative, by bringing broadband to these communities, by bringing the tech sector to the resource communities, by working on the value-added — precisely the measures that are reflected in the Budget Measures Implementation Act.

It’s ironic. I say to rural British Columbia: “Take a look at what you’re doing voting in the B.C. Liberals, who have put you in precisely the position you so want to get out of because of their fiscal mismanagement.” This is an opportunity we have here today to reinvigorate rural B.C., whether it be the Cariboo, the Kootenays, the northwest, the northeast, central B.C., southeastern B.C. or southwestern B.C.

We get it over here. Resource industries are precious, but we have to compete in a modern economy. That means we have to bring together the tech and the resource sectors and work and support the value-added, which this government seemed to think didn’t need to be done. It’s all about LNG.

Hon. Speaker, you wonder why they’re sitting in a time-out. You wonder why they’re sitting in a time-out, and so many British Columbians are so delighted by the arrangement we have now. It’s because of their reckless fiscal management. They have the gall, as I say, to try to paint themselves as good managers of this economy.

Our economy is booming. We have strong GDP growth. The reason why is simple. It’s not resource. It’s because of an out-of-control speculative housing market, largely driven in Metro Vancouver, and the construction market associated with that. The members opposite bemoan the loss of construction jobs. We can’t meet construction job demand right now because of the irresponsible policies or the lack of stepping in to deal with an out-of-control real estate market. Condos being built and presold to offshore buyers before they’re even built so that…. When they’re built, they remain empty because people across the world recognize, in today’s turbulent times, that they need to find a safe haven for their capital.

There are 7½ billion people on this planet and under five million in the province of British Columbia, 7½ people of which…. If we talk about the 1 percent, it’s still an awful lot of millions of people, hundreds of millions of people.

When you’re looking for a safe haven in tumultuous times, and you see a jurisdiction, the Wild West, that has no rules, you look to park your capital in this jurisdiction. You park your capital in one of the safest investments a person could ever make — real estate, land, agricultural land.

What is the consequence of this? That British Columbians who have lived here, were born here, can’t even afford to live and work in the place where they were born. That’s not good economic management. That’s reckless mismanagement that many jurisdictions around the world have dealt with, years ago, through the introduction of policy measures to deal with foreign speculation in a market.

Today I introduced another bill. I can’t speak about it here, but today, before the House…. As we know, measures have been proposed by the B.C. Green party and by the government when they were in official opposition.

The now official opposition are sitting there in a well-earned timeout, are going to do so for a long time, because they look at this problem like deer stuck a headlight and refused to take the necessary steps. Even when they did, introducing the so-called foreign buyer tax, they botched it. They botched it by essentially taxing you if you own a passport. But agricultural land was excluded, so you could actually move speculation into the ALR.

A foreign entity wasn’t actually described as a partnership. So, in fact, you could find a loophole to get away from it there. A foreign corporation isn’t going to invest. A foreign individual can’t invest. But if a foreigner gets together with a Canadian or a British Columbian and forms a partnership, that’s exempt from the foreign buyer tax.

You can’t make this stuff up, except under a B.C. Liberal government that has no idea about managing the economy, despite the fact that they have excellent communications staff — or they did; they used to — who are able to try to convince, or frankly, con British Columbians that they are good managers of the economy.

They tried to paint the opposition, here, as fiscally reckless, based on the tired narrative of what happened in the 1990s. We talk about the fast ferry scandal, but instead we should be talking about Site C.

Just today we hear — as, again, predictable, and we’ve been saying for a long time — there will be cost overruns on Site C because the river diversion is delayed by a year because if the fissure on the north bank and the geotechnical instability there. Was that foreseeable? Yes. It’s $8.8 billion now? No way. We’re pushing over $10 billion now, and it’s going to end up closer to $15 billion. A number — $13 to $15 billion — that I’ve been saying, again, for four years.

The people of British Columbia need to take a hard look at this government’s record. A government that’s investing their money, taxpayer’s money, to build a project that’s going to produce power at something like 13 cents a kilowatt hour, which they have to do to deliver into contracts to LNG industries that don’t exist. So they’re going to have to sell it on the U.S. spot market for four cents a kilowatt hour.

What sort of business model is it, other than a B.C. Liberal business model, to invest capital — your capital, taxpayer — to develop a business plan that’s going to lose 10 cents for every kilowatt hour of energy produced.

At the same time, what are the lost opportunities? The lost opportunities involve things like the collapse of the clean energy sector in British Columbia, the partnerships with local First Nations across B.C. that wanted to get going. We’ve got Borealis wanting to get going near Valemount. We’ve got solar projects in the Kootenays. We’ve got wind projects on Vancouver Island. We’ve got a Prince Rupert wing project. But they can’t get going.

This is foreign capital, industry capital, private capital, that wants to be invested in B.C. now, where the industry takes the risk, not the taxpayer. But again, this is B.C. Liberal economics — use taxpayers’ money, put the taxpayer at risk to subsidize corporations that, in the case of LNG, don’t even exist. It’s remarkable that they have the gall to suggest that they’re good managers of the economy.

If we go through the Budget Measures Implementation Act, there are a few transitional provisions. There are a few changes that need to be made with the cancelling of tolls. And there is a fundamental change.

I must admit that there is sense of irony here. An irony that I’m delighted with is that, again, we’re going to hear speaker after speaker on the other side raie against the opposition, or the now government — it’s hard to get used to; it’s very refreshing to say, I might add, but it’s hard to get used to — about the leadership being shown on the carbon pricing.

Leadership. That’s what this budget shows. Ironically, members opposite used to have that leadership. It was their government, under a leader, somebody who had a vision, that understood the direction and the opportunity that climate change had, a leader who recognized that by putting in a carbon price, it was sending a signal to the market — there’s that free-market, free-enterprise language again — that was telling business that we want to be clean and green here and we want to show the world that we’re leaders, and it blossomed.

Again, we’re going to hear this. I’ve already heard one person say it: “Oh, the carbon tax. Oh, it’s going to kill rural communities.” Again, fear, fear, fear, when, in fact, it is precisely those rural communities that are going to benefit from the carbon tax, as they did when it was introduced the first time by the B.C. Liberals. How do I know that? Because I served on the climate action team with the B.C. Liberals then. I don’t know how many times I went to communities across the province and listened to B.C. Liberals talk about the importance of the carbon tax and how it was not going to hurt rural communities and how it was going to incentivize innovation in these communities and how First Nations across the province are going to see the opportunity with clean energy. And they did.

But now they switch their tone, because there are zero principles over there. Zero principles. It’s all about the game of politics and the quest for power. So we’re going to hear them rail about the carbon — fear to the taxpayer — when in fact what’s happening here is British Columbia is once again recognizing that mitigation of climate change is the world’s greatest economic opportunity, just like other jurisdictions in Taiwan, in China, in India, in Quebec, in Europe, across the world are recognizing. They’re not chasing LNG. They’re chasing the new economy, and this budget sends a signal to market that it’s time to do that again in B.C.

I can’t tell you the number of people who have been so excited about this development. I have a never-ending stream of clean energy folk coming to my office, dismayed with what they’ve had to deal with since 2010 and excited about the potential now. I’m sure they’re opening champagne bottles tonight as we find out that the fissure on Site C is going to create cost overruns. With 70 percent of the contingency already used up — and we’ve just got the project going — this is going to be a very, very expensive project, and the evidence we need to stop it is coming in right now. So to the clean energy industry, I’m excited that you are going to get the opportunity to actually see your projects start to move forward again.

I’m going to come to the tolls again. Now, I spoke against the tolls. We were the only party in the election to say we would not remove tolls because we thought it was bad policy. We thought it was bad policy because it sent a message that we’re not willing to toll transportation. No future infrastructure projects will be built with tolling. The Pattullo Bridge, which was supposed to be built as a toll bridge, will now have to be built by other means.

We didn’t think that was good public policy, but we understand that we were in the minority there because both the B.C. Liberals in the throne speech — the clone speech, I think it’s being called — and the B.C. NDP in this throne speech and in their election platform were consistent in promising it. So we understand what’s going on. We understand, though, and we’re pleased about the recognition that mobility pricing in British Columbia at least is going to have a conversation. The mayors in Vancouver are commissioning reports on this. The government has said they’re interested in exploring and working with the mayors.

That’s how policy is built. You gather information. You build it from the bottom up. You seek support from mayors and communities. And you move forward. That is why the Massey Tunnel cancellation, or on hold for further review, is something that we too are so excited to support. Now, the reason why, of course, is if we just flash back, oh, to 2012 — oh, that magical year, 2012, keeps coming up — we were supposed to be moving forward with a plan to twin the tunnel. But no, no. The Liberals nixed that and had the gall, once more, to tell British Columbians that somehow this government is irresponsible by saying that spending $4½ billion on a 10-lane mega-highway that’s going to put the traffic jam….

An Hon. Member: It’s $2.6.

A. Weaver: It’s $2.6? We can challenge the numbers. A member opposite is saying $2.6. I’ll go check afterwards. The number in my mind was $4.5. I will withdraw it and correct it to $2.6 if that is indeed the case.

The reality is, twinning a tunnel is a fraction of that cost — number one. Number two is it kicks the traffic jams down to the Oak Street Bridge.

Number three. Every mayor in the region said, “Let’s not do this,” except Delta. “Let’s not do this, because we have a transportation plan. This isn’t part of it.”

And the members’ opposite’s response, or at least one of their responses, was to take out some billboards, some billboards in and out of the Massey Tunnel, thinking that, somehow, the picture of my face and the Premier’s face saying…. It’s scary. I admit it’s scary. There are some good smiles there. Have you seen it? It’s pretty impressive.

And they say, “Thanks.” The members opposite have no idea how many people have written, phoned, emailed, Facebook, Twitter, that have thanked us for doing this.

I put out a Facebook post, just quickly, and I would I would look. It’s interesting. I’m glad that I got a reaction now, I’ve got a reaction now. I’m so excited.

In fact, most of them live south of the Fraser if you read the Facebook comments, because they want a twinning of the tunnel, because they’re fiscally responsible.

Interjections.

Deputy Speaker: Members.

A. Weaver: The councillor Harold Steves from Richmond pointed out, through a series of social media posts yesterday, about the plan that was already approved, that was moving forward to twin the tunnel, that the B.C. Liberals nixed, which was supported by the Richmond council, which was supported by the people there because it was cost-effective.

Again, the gall of members opposite to suggest that somehow it’s fiscally irresponsible to be fiscally responsible is unbelievable. It’s unbelievable.

Coming back to the budget measures act. I wish I could look at electronic devices, because then I’d have my Facebook post here, and I could tell you that there are more than 20,000 impressions on the post that I made in 24 hours. There were more than 500 likes. There’s no boosting of posts. It was just all organic. There were more than 100 comments. It was shared I forget how many times. The overwhelming response was, “Thank you,” just like the sign said.

It’s pretty clear that since things have changed, there’s been some suffering in the communications department for the members opposite, because this has got to be one of the most hilarious failed smear campaigns I’ve ever seen. I thank the member from Delta South, I believe it was. I thank him sincerely for, I understand, his role in putting up the billboards, because it has given us enormous support from across Metro Vancouver and, in particular, those people who live in and around Richmond and Delta. Thank you, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart.

Moving forward, there are a couple of other important measures here. You know, it’s hard to actually see…. I’m very grateful to the minister and to the civil service who provided briefing opportunity on this. That’s section 15, on the homeowner grant changes, and coupled to changes later, as well, in terms of the assessment authority ability to allow some exchange of information between these organizations — the province, essentially, and Ottawa, CRA, Canada Revenue Agency — for the purpose of being able to track capital gains.

This is important, because this information was not shared. It was information requested by CRA in order to be able to track to see whether people were paying — based on the assessments, based on the homeowner grants, claiming that as your principal residence — the capital gains when they’re supposed to pay the capital gains under present federal law.

For example, if you claim the homeowner grant under the homeowner grant, and then you sell the property and claim it was suddenly an investment property and you try to write some of that capital gains off in one way or another, or if you didn’t claim the homeowner grant and you claimed that this was your primary residence, and you sell that residence, and you don’t pay any capital gains, now the CRA can get you, because now they have access to that information.

That’s important for putting a clamp on speculation. It’s the same with the assessment authority. These are really good pieces of legislation that are being added in my view.

The small increase in tax for the wealthy and the slight increase in corporate income tax to 12 percent from 11 percent, obviously, are supported by the B.C. Greens. We campaigned on precisely these things.

What it translates to is to asking those who can afford it to pay a little bit more. I’ve talked to thousands of British Columbians over the campaign, over the years, and let me tell you, this neoliberal idea that somehow “if tax, then bad,” is not supported by the vast majority of British Columbians. What they don’t like is a waste of taxpayers’ money. They don’t mind paying taxes, provided taxes are used efficiently, appropriately and for helping the better good. Not for helping your donors but for helping everyone.

People realize that we need to have people go to schools. People realize that without education, what sort of society are we? People realize that taxes going to hospitals are important. They believe in transportation. They don’t think that we should be using public money to subsidize corporate donors, though. That is why I am so very thrilled with the budget, as illustrated in some of these measures. It actually focuses on people in terms of helping them get the help they need at the stage they need.

The one thing that I caution on, but we do support, of course…. Caution not because it’s not that good policy. Caution because of what’s happening as we increase corporate and reduce small business tax. We are beginning to create a disincentive for growth. Why I say that is that we now have a step function tax change when you go from small business to corporate. I believe it’s $500,000 net earnings — correct me if I’m wrong, someone — and that jump now, from 2 percent to 12 percent, is a 10 percent increase in tax.

We have to be careful, because that says to corporations that are earning just under the threshold that you don’t necessarily want to get above the threshold — you don’t want to earn more — because then you’re going to be taxed more. So this is a caution that I think we need to start exploring. We need to start exploring about making, perhaps, a more graduated change so that we don’t disincentivize small businesses becoming bigger businesses, at the same time recognizing that something like 98 percent of businesses in British Columbia are small businesses and they need a break, as they are the engine of our economy.

Coming to some of these bizarre boutique tax credits: the child fitness tax credit, the B.C. back-to-school tax credit. Now the B.C. Liberals laud the praise of these tax credits. Let me tell what you they actually are. The back-to-school B.C. tax credit, if you claim it, is $12.65 a year per child — $12.65. You’re going back to school on $12.65. You know, with the cuts to education, you might have to take the bus, and this $12.65 might get you three round trips on the bus. That’s a great tax credit. How much was it to administer a tax credit of $12.65? I bet if you look at the numbers, it’s probably costing more to administer than you’re bringing in.

What about the B.C. children’s fitness equipment tax credit? Guess how much that was. I’ll see if anyone can guess how much a year you’d get on the B.C. children’s fitness tax credit. It’s $12.65. The member for Vancouver–West End has got incredible insight. It’s $12.65. If you buy a hockey stick, you get $12.65 back.

Now, first off, most people don’t even know that you can do this, unless you have an accountant. But the government has to actually budget as if every child is claiming it, so what we create is bizarre systems where the government’s budget is basically budgeting in a known surplus. They know that a large number of people aren’t going to collect it, but they have to have it in the budget, and you have to administer…. It’s just silly. It’s just silly, and this money could be better used elsewhere. So, obviously, I support those.

Also with the B.C. children’s fitness credit and B.C. children’s arts credit. Now, I know that those were much more than the $12.65 tax credit. They were $25.30 a year more. Those are being eliminated because they’re being eliminated federally. Again this legislation is consistent with federal legislation.

What’s interesting about the Budget Measures Implementation Act is the means and ways this is being done. They actually have it entered into legislation, so the legislation before us brings these credits into place and then removes them, because they’ve already been claimed in last year’s tax submissions.

I see that we’re winding down in time here, but please let me say that I’m absolutely thrilled with this budget. I think British Columbians are thrilled. I’ve seen it in emails. I’ve seen it on social media. I’ve seen it in phone calls. Everywhere I go across British Columbia, people come up and say thank you: “Thank you for putting us first. Thank you for working with the government to ensure that these people opposite are put in a time-out.”

They have forgotten what it means to be a hard-working person in British Columbia. They’ve forgotten what it means to try to make ends meet. They’ve lost touch with the people. They lost vision. They lost ideas. They didn’t know their direction, and here they stand in opposition, trying to suggest that somehow they were good stewards of the economy.

I think there needs to be some hard soul-searching over there. I look forward to when their true colours emerge, when we see the new leader, Ms. Watts, emerge as the new leader of the B.C. conservative party opposite. Honestly, there’s nothing liberal about the B.C. Liberals.


Video of Speech


One Comment

  1. Gord O'kell-Reply
    October 6, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Andrew Weaver one of the best ,accurate , honest speechs i could of imagined congratulations sir .

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