They say dead men tell no lies. That may never be truer than in the cutthroat blood-sport of B.C. politics.
Consider Martyn Brown, the former chief of staff for Gordon Campbell and chief architect of the B.C. Liberals' decade in power. He's no longer in politics and suddenly feels very free to tell the truth about the B.C. government.
In his e-book, Towards a New Government in British Columbia, Brown confirms what many taxpayers have been saying for a long time: government is taking more money out of our pockets than ever before. That, despite the fact the B.C. Liberals like to tout that British Columbians pay the lowest income taxes in Canada.
"Every government is using every means at its disposal to avoid visible tax hikes and to hide the ones they are imposing as far as possible. That does not mean that governments are not raising taxes," wrote Brown.
"Governments everywhere are raising fees, licenses, premiums, penalties, levies, utility rates, tolls and other hidden forms of taxes. They are charging new fees for services, they are extracting new and higher hidden taxes from Crown corporations. And they are deferring tax burdens to future generations through debt, deferral accounts and public-private partnerships."
You're preaching to the choir, Mr. Brown.
In the past three years, B.C. families have suffered from a 24 per cent jump in the Medical Services Premium health care tax, a so-called "user fee" which has no tangible link to your use of the health care system. Thanks to exploding home values, the property transfer tax sucks three times more out of B.C. pockets today than it did in 2001.
The ICBC monopoly took 11.2 per cent more in basic insurance costs this year, while its executive payroll bloated 70 per cent and added 272 new managers in four years. BC Hydro rates are going up 17 per cent over three years, although the B.C. government cut the original proposed increase in half. B.C. Ferries fares are now so high that ridership has plunged and losses mount.
Lower Mainland drivers pay almost 50 cents per litre in gas tax, yet are still on the hook for $3 tolls on the Golden Ears and Port Mann bridges. To heat your home with the natural gas Premier Christy Clark has now deemed "clean," you pay $1.49/GJ in carbon tax. The natural gas itself only costs $2.97/GJ.
No wonder so many B.C. taxpayers are struggling to make ends meet. That 2001 Gordon Campbell 25 per cent income tax cut feels like a long time ago, doesn't it?
"Governments are not being fully honest or transparent about the tax burdens they are imposing," added Brown. Some of this burden is the fault of Ottawa, TransLink, regional districts or your local city hall, but that's cold comfort: there's dozens of government agencies--and only one taxpayer.
Before taxpayers get too excited about this sudden burst of candor, we should bear in mind that Brown left government last year with a severance payout of $416,191--more than six times the income of the average British Columbian household.
That payout came after he was transferred by his old boss, Premier Gordon Campbell, to the supposedly "professional, non-partisan" public service, becoming deputy minister of tourism, trade and investment in 2010.
It would have been nice if Brown's concern for taxpayers had surfaced while he was still in the premier's office.
While it's too late for him, hopefully prospective MLAs and their political strategists, whether B.C. Liberal, NDP, Conservative, Green or Independent, will take a step back and put the needs of cash-strapped taxpayers first in their 2013 election platforms.
Heaven knows we need the help.
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