ICBA OP/ED – Special Interests Driving the NDP Agenda
By Chris Gardner, President, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association
This op-ed first ran in The Vancouver Sun on October 7, 2019.
Taxpayers, small businesses and those looking to put their investment dollars to work in British Columbia cannot be blamed for wondering how much more the playing field can be tilted against them by the NDP Government.
The signs of an economic winter are everywhere: slumping retail sales, tanking real estate sales, job losses, the forestry fallout, and exports down. No wonder the Business Council recently cut back its growth forecast for B.C. for the next three years.
Ask most small business owners, and they will tell you they’re worried about the future. In Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses surveys, the optimism of B.C. business owners is now the lowest in the country (and still falling). An ICBA survey showed 51% of construction contractors felt John Horgan’s government was on the wrong track in dealing with business; only 8% said they were satisfied with how the NDP is treating them.
Fairness, balance and even-handedness in Victoria is deliberately being replaced by a policy agenda defined by special interests. In just two years, Horgan has doubled the amount taken in taxes from businesses. And, when you add the additional taxes paid by individuals, the NDP have raised taxes by nearly $6 billion. It’s a breathtaking number.
Last month, 46 business associations, representing every part of the provincial economy, pulled out of the NDP’s review of WorkSafeBC, citing a “clear apprehension of bias” on the part of the reviewer appointed by Victoria. What was promised as an open and transparent process was anything but – it has been tilted firmly in favour of the NDP’s long-time supporters at the B.C. Federation of Labour.
One wonders if the NDP’s sinking fiscal fortunes is a reason why: WorkSafe gets all of its revenue from employers and is sitting on reserves of more than $2 billion. Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and PEI have all refunded employers when surpluses hit record levels. However, employers in B.C. are not expecting to get any of their money back any time soon.
Horgan’s approach to governing for special interests has also manifested itself in his building trades union-only monopoly on the Pattullo Bridge, the Broadway Skytrain expansion, and Highway 1 construction projects. Horgan has frozen out 85 per cent of the men and women in construction in B.C. to give an expensive, sweetheart deal to his building trade union donors and supporters.
The message from the NDP Government is clear: fair and open bidding doesn’t matter in B.C. You have to play ball and support the NDP’s favoured unions to get taxpayer-funded work.
It’s offensive and unfair that thousands of B.C. owned and operated construction companies are being passed over by their government for work on projects all B.C. taxpayers are funding.
Another insult to everyday British Columbians is watching the NDP’s train-wreck on ride-sharing. The NDP spent the last two years doing everything they could to slow the emergence of ride-sharing in the province. What we are about to see here will satisfy no one – not the taxi industry, not Uber and Lyft, and certainly not the travelling public. The end result will be a far cry from the ride-sharing models that have revolutionized choice in transportation in cities around the globe.
When it becomes more expensive to employ people, the price of goods and services go up. When taxes on your local small business increase, so do the prices you pay. When provincial construction projects become more expensive, the government passes that bill on to taxpayers. When a government puts special interests first, it makes life less affordable – a frightening thought in a place already as wildly expensive as B.C.
When you look at the scorecard, taxpayers, workers and small businesses looking for a fair shake from their government are not doing well. Higher taxes and regulations that do not make sense are turning away investment, jobs and opportunity.
It is easy to see why more people come to the conclusion that the system all-too-often seems rigged and that their own government is working against them.