MLAs gather in the B.C. legislature for vote on the NDP government’s first budget, March 1, 2018. (Hansard TV)

Medical tax battle carries on as NDP budget passes key vote

B.C. Liberal leader says ‘blunder’ costing non-profits, colleges

The B.C. NDP minority government survived its first key vote Thursday, with the opposition pushing for changes to the new payroll tax coming in next year to replace Medical Services Plan premiums.

Opposition MLAs brought up hardship cases from farms to universities this week, leading to a vote on the NDP budget that would have forced an election if not for the B.C. Green Party supporting the NDP.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson acknowledged after the vote that it’s likely the minority government is in for the long run, even with Kelowna West MLA Ben Stewart back to make the B.C. Liberals the largest party in the legislature. Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson was the only absent member, at home recovering from heart surgery.

“The legislature reflects the will of the voters, and right now it’s 42 seats for the Liberals, 41 for the NDP and three for the Greens,” Wilkinson said. “The Greens have a deal with the NDP to vote with them, and they’ve voted with the NDP 100 per cent of the time, so for the time being it looks like we have a minority government that’s going to be surviving for some time.”

RELATED: Payroll tax replaces medical premiums

Finance Minister Carole James and Education Minister Rob Fleming were on the defensive all week about the “employers health tax” that is to take effect next year for organizations with a payroll of $500,000 or more. James refused to say if there would be any relief for non-profits, school districts and other institutions who expect to pay both the payroll tax and their employees’ Medical Services Plan premiums for the year 2019, before MSP is phased out.

Wilkinson said MLAs from around the province are being approached by non-profits and businesses who are looking at either raising prices or cutting staff.

“They’re putting a $7 million bill on one of our universities for their health tax, and they’re not making up for that with any other source of funding,” he said. “You can kind of smell it in the air that they’ve realized they made a blunder on this employers health tax.”

Langley East MLA Rich Coleman told the legislature a greenhouse farm in his constituency has 250 employees, mostly seasonal workers, and is facing an additional $100,000 cost from the payroll tax.

Just Posted

Canadian Coast Guard breaks ground on permanent search and rescue station in Victoria

Victoria-based SAR will do all rescues in local harbour and parts of the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Police actions under investigation following Langford arrest

IIO investigates officer-related incidents that result in serious harm

Victoria woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

Victoria council looks to self-impose carbon tax on staff airfare

A new carbon pricing fee would put additional funds into the city’s Climate Action Reserve

Gas stations could push to 167.9 cents a litre this week

Analyst says high prices are due to supply and demand

WATCH: Cougar saunters through Metchosin yard

Spring cougar sighting caught on camera

Wanted by Crime Stoppers

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you think the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris should be rebuilt?

Images of one of the word’s most iconic landmarks were seared into… Continue reading

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Island Cup set for East Sooke on May 3-5

Off-road racing event expected to attract over 50 racers

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Most Read