Provincial candidates talk economic growth

With the economy on everyone's mind, The Progress asked candidates how they would stimulate economic growth in Chilliwack.

In light of the province’s significant deficit, the economy is a major topic this election season. The Progress asked each candidate running in Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Hope about their plans for stimulating economic growth in Chilliwack.

Here’s a summary of their replies; scroll down for the full text of responses.

Liberal candidates Laurie Throness and John Martin said that B.C.’s future lies in exporting liquified natural gas to Asia. This clean resource, said Martin, has the potential to generate $1 trillion over the next thirty years, and 100,000 jobs. Natural gas already sustains several hundred well-paying jobs in Chilliwack, and by developing the export industry, there are “literally thousands more on the horizon,” said Martin. Throness added that as MLA, he would also promote agriculture, and advocate for “clean, light industry.”

For the NDP, the major driver for economic growth in the region is skills training. Since September 2011, the province lost 34,000 private sector jobs, according to Chilliwack-Hope candidate Gwen O’Mahony. Within seven years, nearly 80 per cent of jobs will require a post-secondary education. The NDP promises to introduce needs-based grants, and expand the B.C. Training Tax Credit program for small- and medium-sized businesses that hire co-op students. Other plans include a buy-local policy for government procurement, and increasing tax credits for the film industry.

For Patti MacAhonic, NDP Candidate for Chilliwack, skills training is important, as is continued support of the resource sector, including forestry, agriculture, LNG, and mining. Increasing Chilliwack’s capacity to undertake value-added processing, and enhancing aboriginal participation in the economy, will also spurn economic growth. Finally, Chilliwack has a competitive advantage in agriculture by having an already-robust industry, easy access to the highway, and an appropriate climate. MacAhonic said that developing local agriculture is a key market.

Conservative candidate for Chilliwack-Hope, Michael Henshall, also sees agricultural development as key for Chilliwack. He said that the Conservatives would provide a tax credit for purchasing locally grown, raised, caught and processed agri-food products at retailers, restaurants and farmers markets throughout B.C. This would also stem the outflow of Canadian dollars across the border, he said. The B.C. Conservatives would also eliminate the “punitive” carbon tax that reduces the competitiveness of local products.

“We are the only jurisdiction in North America with the tax and it goes into general revenue,” said  Henshall. Tourism on lakes and rivers, as well as hunting, biking, and hiking, has much potential, and needs to be developed. Finally, for the Conservatives, low business taxes will encourage economic growth.

Chad Eros, Conservative candidate for Chilliwack, has built his campaign on advocating for greatly reducing consumption taxes. This includes eliminating the carbon tax, the PST on used goods, bridge tolls, AirCare, and the property transfer tax. Eros would also like to see the Medical Services Plan program disappear. ICBC should be privatized.

“Getting rid of some of these tax regimes would actually save the government money because these tax departments with all their costs and bureaucracies would cease to exist,” said Eros.

Green Party candidate for Chilliwack, Kim Reimer, sees growth in the promotion of a green economy. With strong government incentives, “Chilliwack can become a hub of renewable energy and other green economy job creation,” she said. The renewable energy, energy efficiency, and smart energy technologies sector is the fastest growing energy sector, accounting for the majority of new energy projects by 2030, according to Reimer. A dollar invested here creates more jobs than it does in the fossil fuel industry, and profits are more evenly distributed. For the Green Party, environmental protection is intertwined with economic growth.

“Better air and water encourage ecotourism, and boost quality of life thereby attracting a larger workforce,” said Reimer.

The candidates’ full replies are online. Responses were not received from Michael Halliday, B.C. Excalibur Party candidate for Chilliwack, and Ryan McKinnon, independent candidate for Chilliwack-Hope.

JOHN MARTIN, Liberal candidate for Chilliwack:

Today’s BC Liberals are committed to a Strong Economy and Secure Tomorrow.  Economic growth in Chilliwack and elsewhere will be stimulated through balanced budgets and the BC Jobs Plan.  We want to grow the economy (rather than grow the size of government) and pay off the provincial debt.  A key part of this plan is to take advantage of our once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop a new industry by exporting Liquified Natural Gas to Asian markets.  Over the next thirty years, this clean resource has the potential to generate $1 trillion in economic activity, $100 billion for the BC Prosperity fund, and 100,000 high paying jobs.  There are already several hundred high-skilled, well-paying jobs in Chilliwack (i.e. Britco, Tycrop, IMW) connected to the natural gas industry and literally thousands more on the horizon.  Chilliwack is well placed to take advantage of the economic opportunities in front of us.  If it isn’t okay for parents to leave their children with debt, then it isn’t okay for government to leave future generations saddled with debt either.  That’s why Today’s BC Liberals are the right choice for British Columbia.

LAURIE THRONESS Liberal candidate for Chilliwack-Hope:

In order to stimulate economic growth in Chilliwack-Hope, I will:

– be an advocate for clean, light industry

– defend and promote agriculture

– be part of a free enterprise coalition that grows business, keeps taxes low, balances budgets and seizes economic opportunities such as that afforded by Liquified Natural Gas.  Natural gas already sustains at least 1,000 well-paying jobs in the area and could grow much more under a BC Liberal government.

PATTI MACAHONIC, NDP Candidate for Chilliwack:

The NDP is committed to supporting emerging opportunities that will help bring about sustainable economic development and financial stability for the coming years. Change for the better for our community means supporting our resource sector, which includes investing in our forests and land base, working with agriculture producers to market locally grown food in BC and encourage sustainable LNG, oil and gas and mining. We are also committed to building government to government relations with First Nations and support economic development through revenue sharing.

My lengthy experience helping grow local businesses range from finance, manufacturing, corporations, tourism, retail, agriculture, and others will be a definite asset to Chilliwack if I am elected as MLA. I would enthusiastically work with the City of Chilliwack, Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation, Community Economic Development, the Downtown Business Association, Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Chilliwack and others working collaboratively to further build and stimulate sustainable economic growth in our community.

Examples of the work I have done to support business in our community includes the mobile business licensing policy implementation which involved the Fraser Valley municipalities working together to reduce red tape and increase revenue for mobile business. On behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, I was also successful in bringing forward an important piece of policy to the BC Chamber for adoption at the BC Chamber regarding derelict and abandoned buildings, giving municipalities more measures and tools to use in dealing with these issues.

There are four key priorities for achieving sustainable economic growth: education, social stability and incentives for taking risks and economic integration, the NDP addresses all of these with full costing in our platform, available at: www.bcndp.ca.

A critical aspect to building a strong economic foundation is to support growing businesses and invest in people by increasing access to demand-driven skills training. Supporting learning initiatives which lead to business growth, market expansion and increased productivity and encouraging regional approaches to economic development through partnerships with communities and non-profit organizations, will make Chilliwack a great place to invest in. Working to identify and capitalize on new sources of economic growth and employment, increasing the capacity of Chilliwack to undertake value-added processing and encouraging new opportunities for skilled employment, enhancing Aboriginal participation in the economy will see Chilliwack create an economy that all can participate in.

The value of Agriculture in the Fraser Valley

I fully understand the importance of agriculture and the tremendous opportunities we have here, in the bread basket of our province.

Agriculture is a key market to leverage with a critically important competitive advantage. I am very pleased with our commitment to Agriculture with our Eat BC, Feed BC and Grow BC programs and confident that the implementation will stimulate sustainable economic growth for our area. We have strong reasons to support Agriculture in the Fraser Valley market such as:

Raw materials:  We have the blueberries, corn, dairy and numerous other products all grown locally.

Demand for products: The Fraser Valley is in close proximity to Metro Vancouver with a combined population of well over two million people, people that live within a couple of hour’s drive of Chilliwack. Talk about being in the strategic location!

Distribution: Highway #1 is a direct route from the port of Vancouver to the Fraser Valley. There is quick access to US borders throughout the Fraser Valley.

Environmental advantage: Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley have abundant fresh water supplies and fertile land.

Canada is the fourth largest agri-food exporter in the world and exports more than US$20.3 billion worth of food products every year to more than 175 countries We have five key advantages over our competitors in agriculture:

SAFE, HIGH QUALITY FOOD

We have access to an abundant supply of high-quality, competitively priced ingredients, fresh water and land – an internationally recognized food inspection system  with a commitment to employ food safety systems and standards.

WE ARE THE GATEWAY TO THE NORTH AMERICAN MARKET

Under (NAFTA), Canadian agriculture and agri-food companies enjoy duty free and open access to a North American market. This equates to a consumer base of nearly 400 million people with a combined GDP of more than US$11.4 trillion.

WE HAVE LOW BUSINESS COSTS

A KPMG 2010 business cost study clearly demonstrates that Canada’s business costs are the lowest among the G-7 with a 5% advantage over the United States.

WE HAVE LEADING EDGE SCIENCE & INNOVATION

The same KPMG study reports that Canada is a leader in terms of research and development with a 12.9% cost advantage over the U.S. Canada offers an extremely supportive tax environment for R&D which is the most generous in the industrialized world.

WE HAVE ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE PRODUCTION

As environmental stewards, Fraser Valley farmers are moving proactively to integrate environmental considerations into their day-to-day planning and operations.

GWEN O’MAHONY, NDP candidate for Chilliwack-Hope:

Since September 2011 BC lost 34, 000 private sector jobs.  Stimulating economic growth both provincially and locally requires a multi-faceted approach.  By 2020 77.3% of new jobs will require post-secondary education.  In 2012 businesses listed finding skilled employees as their number one impediment to success.  Investing in skills training is an essential part of creating a healthy local economy.  This includes establishing needs based grants and expanding the BC Training Tax Credit Program for small and medium-sized businesses that hire co-op students and a wage subsidy program for non-profit enterprises who hire co-op students.   We can maximize local benefits from government investments by establishing a “Local Business First” government procurement policy, starting with BC hospitals buying locally grown food. And finally, we can support tourism and the creative economy by supporting Destination BC as BC’s industry led, formula-funded tourism marketer and increase BC’s domestic and foreign production tax credit program that will help create jobs in the film, TV and digital media industry.  Skills training, Agriculture, Tourism and the Film industry are specific examples where targeted tax credits or Buy BC policies would have a direct impact on Chilliwack’s economic development.

CHAD EROS, Conservative candidate for Chilliwack:

I have 9 children and a wife to provide for and I do it as an entrepreneur. I use my education as a Certified Management Accountant to run a business consulting and organizational strategy practice. I can tell you from hands on experience that it IS tough out there and BC is indeed in trouble. In addition to helping small businesses deal with the tough times, I have heard it from hundreds of people on the street, in malls, and at doorsteps and in my campaign office as I campaign against the two parties, the BC Liberals and NDP. These two party’s heads are so far under the sand only their ruby slippers are visible. Why are their heads in the sand? They are running a platform to raise taxes in tough times! Who does that?! As well, they seem oblivious to the fact that Alberta and Saskatchewan have absolutely none of the taxes that we have. What are the BC Liberals and NDP doing and proposing to remedy this? Nothing!

I can’t put it any better than the research firm, the Fraser Institute author Charles Lamman who said in his article “Pick Your Poison on Taxes in BC’s Election” (April 24, 2013 available at http://www.fraserinstitute.org/research-news/news/display.aspx?id=19587) where he writes, “No matter how you slice it, both plans will hurt BC’s economic prospects… While all taxes impose costs, the types of increases being proposed are among the most costly. Economic research consistently finds that personal and corporate taxes impose higher costs in terms of reduced economic growth because they have a greater adverse effect on people’s decisions to work, save, invest, and be entrepreneurial.”

Some might say, “but I thought the BC Liberals said we have the lowest income tax rates?” That is no longer true. And even if it was true, it’s not the income taxes that are killing us, its all the consumption taxes, or “upfront” taxes that make living in BC unaffordable. When a family chooses between BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan, here is a list of taxes SK and AB don’t have:

Carbon tax – increases the cost of heating your home (what burns cleaner than natural gas? Nothing. How are we supposed to heat our homes? Burn coal?). Makes everything cost more including food.

PST on used goods… 12% on used vehicles now!

MSP – I didn’t even know what my first MSP bill was when I moved here. It keeps climbing and people with handicapped and special needs children have told me there are less and less services available to them.

Tolls on bridges – Tolls to pay for new bridges on top of all the gas taxes that are supposed to pay for roads. What’s up with that?

ICBC – Yes, this is a way to tax BC residents. ICBC was so profitable the government to $500,000,000 out of it last year and put it into general revenue. Unreal!

Air care – Another tax grab. Are there any vehicles manufactured after 2000 that don’t pass air care?

Property transfer tax – The absolute best economy killer of all has to be this tax. Have dreams of owning your own home or buying a premises for your business? In BC you have two huge down payments are required. 5% minimum for the bank (which is at least equity into your home), and the thousands of dollars that the government takes from the transaction.

These consumption taxes are squeezing BC families and families are either leaving BC or not choosing BC. Since the late 90’s there are 74,000 less children registered in BC schools. Net migration into BC is negative. Thousands of BC trades people are moving to AB and SK everyday. This is definitive proof that workers and their families are being priced out of BC. We need to be more competitive with Alberta and Saskatchewan. Without a working class, health care, education and social service funding is impossible.

Carbon tax- get rid of it. It makes it everything less affordable for families and seniors

PST on used goods – Scrap all PST on used goods. If people can’t afford new goods, they shouldn’t be squeezed for taxes. This doesn’t make any sense.

MSP – get rid of the whole MSP program. It costs millions to send out the bills and monitor to collect payments. It’s terribly inefficient and people are notoriously behind in paying it.

Tolls on bridges – get rid of them. What are we doing with all the gas taxes?

Air Care – Get rid of it.

ICBC – If ICBC doesn’t exist to provide us with inexpensive insurance, privatize it and let in competition. Or ICBC could make driver’s licenses renewable every year instead of every 5 years. Bad drivers would pay higher driver’s license fees, or insurance on their drivers license rather than on vehicles. This would make owning a fleet not such an impossible thing to do since vehicles wouldn’t have driving records any more… people would! This makes sense and is done in other provinces already.

Property transfer tax – Scrap the whole program for Canadian citizens. This is my pick as the worst tax BC has and I won’t rest until it is gone for good. Scrapping this tax would accelerate the economy by years because of the time it takes to save up for the gigantic price tag the PTT brings. Retail, forestry, trades, and many other sectors would bounce back along with a healthy new home market.

Other tax schemes BC Liberals have drummed up that don’t kill the economy but insult tax payers:

Traffic violations – You now get a ticket, then a surcharge at the end of the year depending on the points you accumulated. One ticket per violation please!

Getting rid of some of these tax regimes would actually SAVE the government money because these tax departments with all their costs and bureaucracies would cease to exist! That means there are tens of millions, maybe even hundreds of millions of dollars in savings to be had by axing some of these non-competitive taxes. These savings can actually be calculated. What can’t be calculated is the tax revenues from a boosted economy and that poses a problem for BC politicians and policy makers.  It’s too bad politicians are afraid to propose tax cuts because they don’t want to be wrong about how much tax cuts will stimulate the economy. They feel safer using the past to predict the future. They do simple math like a 10% tax on $100 income = $10 of tax. But in reality it = $8. Why? Because the province next door has a 5% tax which made businesses leave for the lower taxes causing the taxable income to change from $100 to $80. And that is how deficits are born! Why have balanced budget legislation when their budgets are amateur and don’t acknowledge even the basics of economics. BC politicians are addicted to using the past to predict the future and it is killing the provinces economy!

Other waste that BC Liberals have contributed to is the infamous BC health care bureaucracy. It has been noted that BC has eleven times more bureaucrats per capita in its health care system than Germany. Eleven times! After having my brochures delivered to 15,000 households in Chilliwack, I had a fellow with progressive MS, and now in a wheelchair, volunteer to help me with my campaign because he thought I was right on the money. He told me horror stories of his experience in BC’s health care system. He affirmed that the entire system has become one big inefficient bureaucratically bloated government machine. Doctors, nurses and other front line workers agree.

The BC Liberals LNG fantasy is not even close to being implementable from what the experts say. They first have to build an $8 billion tax payer funded power plant which they propose to have at Site C on the Peace River. The Site C dam on the Peace river is a project that BC and Alberta Indigenous peoples have vowed to block as well along with other Alberta communities. Then the BC Government would have to pump billions of dollars more into tax payer funded LNG infrastructure. More tax hikes! Seriously? And if tax hikes would not pay for the infrastructure, what would? More debt! This is kind of counter to the BC Liberals “reduce the debt” campaign slogan. If the Liberals actually attempted their LNG election promise, the implementation would dwarf the Fast Ferries fiasco like the Sun dwarfs the Earth. And the experts on the LNG market have already said the BC Liberals LNG proposal doesn’t makes sense. As well, why isn’t the free market all over the LNG opportunity and creating the required infrastructure themselves if it’s such a great idea? Furthermore, grand scale tax payer funded economic stimulous plans are the flagship action of a socialist left wing party while the BC Liberals keep touting that they are a free market party. Am I missing something?

The NDP have proposed basically no ideas for stimulating the economy. Nothing to criticize there.

If there was a practical and local make work project that I could get behind it would be a light rail system for the valley going into Vancouver or connecting to other lines like the West Coast Express or the Sky train in Surrey. This would contribute to taking cars off the road, reduce green house gas emissions, and solve the transportation problem that Chilliwack has with cars being the only way out of Chilliwack and Hope going east. The province already owns track real estate from an old line that ran from Chilliwack to Vancouver. I would support it being a debt free project funded by the Canada’s central bank, The Bank of Canada owned by the tax payers… interest rate… ZERO. The possibility is there.

It’s time for people who know how things work to get elected. The best thing any government can do for an economy is stop messing things up and get out of the way of the free market and free thinking individuals.  I have listened to Chilliwack before and after the campaign and I stand with them.  We are taxed too much, our government is bloated and inefficient and health care needs an overhaul. This government has their hands in too many pies. We have too many taxes AND the wrong kinds of taxes. We need a government that is for small bureaucracy, less taxes and smarter spending. BC is ready for a minority government. the BC Conservatives will cause a minority government, be BC’s watch dog, and in the next election after we do a good job, we will be BC’s trusted party. On May 14th be a part of the BC revolution to bring down the two party system and introduce the threat of a minority government. It will make our democracy better and your vote matter!  I am confident Chilliwack will elect me and be a part of causing a minority government. I have heard their voice and have and will continue to act on their behalf. I believe in Chilliwack.

MICHAEL HENSHALL, Conservative candidate for Chilliwack-Hope:

One thing that myself and the BC Conservatives would do to stimulate economic growth in Chilliwack and BC is to support, growers, fishers and processors with a branded communications program called “My British Columbia” to sustainably build capacity within BC’s agricultural industry. A BC Conservative government would also provide families and businesses with an annual tax credit of up to $500 to encourage increased purchases of qualifying locally grown, raised, caught and processed agri-food products at retailers, restaurants and farmers markets throughout British Columbia.

My British Columbia would provide shoppers and diners with a tangible incentive to choose locally grown, raised, caught, and processed agri-food products more often. The program would also provide businesses within the agri-food sector with access to branded communications tools to aid in the accurate identification and promotion of BC agri-food products at home and outside the province nationally and globally.

We lost close to 4 billion dollars to cross border shopping last year. These lost dollars do not help our local businesses and there is no tax revenue coming back to areas such as our HealthCare, Education, and Justice systems. This initiative is crucial to reversing this trend.

We have also fully costed the elimination of the ‘Carbon Tax’ over 4 years. This is a punitive tax that makes our products less competitive with other jurisdictions. We are the only jurisdiction in North America with the tax and it goes into general revenue. This tax punishes people for driving, heating their home and makes their groceries more expensive. This tax pushes BCers with the option to buy things such as gasoline to areas that do not have the tax (Alberta and the USA). This tax also penalizes people in rural areas or in colder parts of the province. We want to keep dollars in the local economy and this is one way to do it.

We have a large tourism base and much potential with our lakes and rivers (fishing and water sports), hunting, biking, hiking, parks, camping, skiing, other winter sports, and local entertainment facilities. These need to be protected and developed. The BC Conservatives and myself, more than any other provincial party are committed to preserving our Beautiful BC while making it possible for individuals to prosper by keeping taxes low so their tourism businesses can flourish.

The BC Conservatives are committed to keeping commercial taxes low to be competitive with other jurisdictions. We are open for business.

If we keep taxing and spending as a province we will only continue to drive our young workforce to more conservative, lower taxed, more business friendly provinces. Since we have seen thousands leaving our province in the past few years we believe this trend needs to be reversed immediately.We are committed to see it come to pass.

KIM REIMER, Green Party candidate for Chilliwack:

I understand that all of the key issues in Chilliwack are inter-related, and together support economic growth and job creation. Better air and water encourage ecotourism, and boost quality of life thereby attracting a larger workforce. Better transportation encourages starting and growing businesses. Better health and education services attracts and supports a larger and stronger workforce. My goal is development of policies that reinforce each of these sectors – such as expanded home and community care to make healthcare both less costly and more effective, and vastly improved mass transit. And with the introduction of strong government policy and incentives, Chilliwack can become a hub of renewable energy and other green economy job creation.

Responsible stewardship of our land, air and water resources, and economic prosperity are not mutually exclusive. The Renewable Energy boom is driven not only by a low carbon footprint, but also by its strong net economic profile. The renewable energy, energy efficiency, and smart energy technologies sector – tracked only since 2004 – has already seen investment top $1 trillion and is the fastest growing energy sector. By 2030 the vast majority of new energy projects will come from the renewable sector, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And for good reason: 8-15 jobs are created per $1 million in investment (compared to 1 job per $1 million in fossil fuels), and profits and spin-off benefits are more widely distributed. Stimulating green energy creates jobs and encourages investment.

We already have examples in the Lower Mainland such has Endurance Wind Power in Surrey where a local company with cutting edge technology is succeeding in manufacturing RGE equipment. A significant part of their sales is in the UK where strong government policy including a feed-in-tariff (FiT) makes RGE very attractive. Meanwhile a comparable FiT for B.C. Hydro remains in discussion mode only. That’s something I will work to move ahead.

What is needed is better transportation, protection of water and air, improved health and education – and a shift in perception about the partnership between environment and economy. One that is already occurring globally and is now needed in Chilliwack.

akonevski@theprogress.com
twitter.com/alinakonevski

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