The following, by ICBA President Chris Gardner, first appeared on The Orca on October 15, 2020.
Like many British Columbians, I watched Tuesday night’s leadership debate very closely. During the 90 minutes, I was disappointed by how little attention was given to revitalizing and rebuilding the BC economy and the role that investment in infrastructure can play in kick-starting our recovery and improving our quality of life.
BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson made a strong case for his plan to eliminate the Provincial Sales Tax for a year, and then keep it at 3% until the economy recovers. The BC Liberals also included in their plan a commitment to remove the 2% income tax on small businesses.
During the debate, Wilkinson compared our economic state to “a war-time economy,” an apt metaphor in the wake of the most far-reaching health and economic crisis in a hundred years. The PST cut would help every British Columbian by saving them hundreds of dollars. It would also help every BC business, local government and non-profit organization by reducing their costs and making investments and expansion plans more attractive.
The NDP has singled out construction for particularly unfair treatment with policies that freeze-out open shop contractors, who employ 85 per cent of construction workers, from major government projects.
Before the debate, the BC Liberals sent out an email quoting government documents showing that the new Cowichan hospital, if constructed under a building trades-only procurement framework, would cost taxpayers $160 million (23%) more than if the hospital was built under a fair and open bidding process.
$160 million goes a long way to building important infrastructure in across BC – a new Taylor Bridge in the north, and new transit, schools and recreational facilities in so many growing communities looking to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Openness, transparency and a fair shot at government-funded projects for open shop contractors should not be too much to ask of any government, especially in the wake of a global pandemic. Hard to imagine that politicians can remain preoccupied with picking winners and losers, rewarding friends and insiders, and wasting tax dollars at a time of such great crisis.
Finally, one of the most important questions that has yet to be answered to anyone’s satisfaction by John Horgan is simply: “A provincial election now? Why?” In the middle of a global pandemic when people are worried about their jobs and their families and with so much uncertainty about what lies ahead, we find government being put on hold for an election that frankly nobody thought necessary.