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Skeena NDP MLA skeptical of government gas tax plan

ROBIN AUSTIN wants to wait for the fine print but he's skeptical of the provincial government's plans to bring in billions of dollars in taxes from liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants.

A basic explanation of the province's tax plan was released in its Feb. 18 budget but will be spelled out in more detail through legislation which will be introduced this fall.

It calls for a 1.5 per cent tax of net income once gas starts flowing, a figure that will rise to seven per cent once companies have deducted all eligible capital expenses.

It's that last part that has Austin, the New Democratic Party MLA for Skeena, especially worried.

“As we know from what's happened in Australia, these plants keep on getting more expensive. And the more expensive they become, the longer they will take to write off and the more delay there will be in any tax [revenue],” he said.

Large corporations also have the ways and means to move money around, making it difficult to determine exact income levels, Austin added.

“Large corporations have one responsibility and that is to their shareholders and there's internal competition for investment dollars,” he said in noting that corporations will leave one project and take up another if it means increased profits.

It's also apparent the provincial government won't be meeting its own targets of when it expects to start collecting an LNG tax, he said.

Earlier predictions by the Liberal government of at least one LNG plant being in operation and paying taxes by 2017 are now in doubt with 2020 now being mentioned as a possible date of when LNG taxation might flow.

Austin also criticized the province's commitments to skills training in the new budget.

“There's all this talk about it, but they're actually cutting the post-secondary education budget,” he said.

And there's nothing specifically laid out for Northwest Community College, Austin added.

Austin did find something good in the budget – a move to buffer low income families from planned increases in Medical Services Plan costs.

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