Former Haisla Nation chief counsellor Ellis Ross, now Skeena MLA, served briefly as B.C.’s minister for natural gas development before the minority B.C. Liberal government was defeated last summer. Hansard TV photo

NDP budget offers no way to pay for new programs: Ellis Ross

MLA highly critical of government’s abandonment of major projects

Skeena Liberal MLA Ellis Ross has reversed his praise of the NDP’s Throne Speech and is now taking critical aim at the government following the release of their first budget in 16 years.

READ MORE: Liberals blast ‘tax and spend’ plan

In a media release last week Ross had complimented Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon’s speech outlining the party’s campaign promise to invest in new programs and services, saying, “British Columbia’s long-term prosperity depends on not only continued economic growth, but also ensuring that all British Columbians have the ability to look after their loved ones. With this Throne Speech, the government has outlined a commitment to continue supporting job creation while making investments that will help continue to strengthen our communities.”

After the budget’s Feb. 21 release however, Ellis was only critical of the NDP’s abandonment of major projects the province needs in order to pay for these “much needed” services and programs.

“I didn’t want to believe that the NDP really opposed the economy and were really in love with hiking taxes, but man, this budget shows it. You talk about opposing projects that could directly bring in revenues to pay for services, opposing projects that could bring in jobs, and then in the meantime your budget show’s $5.5 billion in tax hikes.”

The NDP have earmarked $5.2 billion in new social spending and is expected to roll out nearly $4.5 billion in tax increases over the next three years, in addition to a $5-per-tonne, per-year hike on the carbon tax.

Finance Minister Carole James said the taxes are necessary to fulfill key promises such as affordable housing and universal child care.

The budget touted a “made-in-BC” child care plan, with an investment of more than $1 billion to put the province on the path to universal childcare.

READ MORE: new spaces a step to universal child care

Over the next three years, the NDP will also add $378 million to build 14,000 homes for “the missing middle,” or the skilled workers that James said are choosing other places to work after seeing the cost of housing in B.C.

READ MORE: NDP pushes for purpose-built rentals in ‘historic’ $1.6-billion investment

But without major-project infrastructure to support jobs for those workers, Ross questioned the rationale.

“In this competitive day and age, when the United States buys our resources at discounts, but is cutting its red tape and cutting its taxes to attract industry, B.C. is going to do the opposite…so ultimately LNG, oil and fish farms are going to leave B.C. and end up in the United States.”

Ross expressed a high level of confidence in the environmental assessment process, and said those who offer blanket disapproval of major projects don’t have first-hand knowledge of how the process works.

“All they’re doing is making it more impossible to get a permit, more impossible to get an environmental certificate and more expensive for these companies to get a project built in B.C… it’s going to drive more industry to the United States.”

– with files from Katya Slepian and Tom Fletcher

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