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Opinion  

Budget goodies have to wait

When is a tax cut not a tax cut? When it's the "scheduled end" of a tax increase.

The provincial government hiked income taxes on B.C.'s highest wage earners two years ago in a temporary measure to help balance the budget during what it called exceptional economic times.

Well, those two years are up, and on Tuesday Finance Minister Mike de Jong repealed the extra tax, which added about $3,000 to the tax bill of those making $300,000 a year. 

Predictably, the opposition NDP blasted the move as a favour to the wealthy business elite, a group most often associated with support for the governing BC Liberals.

Sure, it was an easy shot. But they've got a point.

Since when have temporary measures ever stayed temporary? Once implemented, a tax rarely goes away for long. Income tax was supposed to be a temporary measure to help pay for Canada's war effort when it was introduced in 1917. The First World War is long over, but guess what? We're still paying.

B.C. may be faring better than most of the world – and is looking likely to be the only province with a balanced budget this year – but we're not out of the woods yet. A little extra help from those who can most afford it most is not asking too much, when many of us are tightening our belts one more notch to pay for fee hikes on MSP premiums and other government services.

But the budget does contain some good news for less well off British Columbians.

The mean-spirited child support clawback for those on income or disability assistance will end. And there will be new tax benefits for parents and children for education and sports.

As well, funding will be increased by $564 million for education over three years, to pay for the settlement with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. And health care will see a $3 billion funding increase over three years.

De Jong forecasts a surplus for 2014-15 of $879 million, nearly double earlier predictions, and $284 million for 2015-2016, as well as "steady, moderate" growth of 2.3 per cent this year.

This wasn't a budget full of goodies. That will come in 2017, just before the next provincial election.

— News Director Jon Manchester

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