EDITORIAL: Scrap the MSP today

Tuesday's budget an excellent time for provincial government to eliminate this regressive tax not used in any other province

The B.C. Liberals love to tout their government’s financial record.

They talk about balanced budgets, which is a ruse when capital spending is actually counted. They embrace and brag about their credit rating.

Premier Christy Clark talks about how this kind of responsibility and prosperity means the government can spend more on health care and education. Make no mistake, when the premier says something, it becomes part of the package of talking points for all MLAs, and that will only ramp up as we get closer to the May 9 provincial election.

One would think, with all this good-finances happiness, that B.C. would not be the last province in the country to charge Medical Services Premiums. It’s a regressive, punitive tax, the kind the B.C. Liberals say they rail against.

The B.C. Liberals fight against red tape, and have done so successfully on many fronts. They like to paint themselves in an opposite light as their chief opposition, the NDP. You see, the Liberals say, the NDP is a tax and spend party. We, say the Liberals, believe people know better than government how to spend money. The economy is healthier when money is circulating in communities, being spent in local, job-creating businesses, rather than being grabbed by and distributed by big government, the story goes.

Well, we agree with that sentiment. That’s one of the reasons why scrapping the MSP is the right thing to do and should be part of the platform for all parties this spring.

If B.C. is doing so well financially, if we are leading the country in so many money-related categories, why do we still have this punitive tax? Frankly, it makes the B.C. Liberals’ claims of financial health less believable.

One of the most sane reasons to oppose any new taxes or fees is the inability to eliminate it when things are going well. Taxes are like drugs or junk food for governments. Imposing a tax and collecting the money is much easier than eliminating a tax. What’s worse, is government’s tendency to increase a tax. MSP premiums for some have increased 40 per cent in the last five years, that same five years the B.C. Liberals say they have increased the province’s properity and the love from rating agencies like Moody’s has flowed to the West Coast.

Oh, and more than a million people, representing more than $450 million, are past due on MSP payments. Meanwhile, a couple with two children making more than $51,000 will pay $156/month in MSP premiums this year. That is not a small expense for a family. Think what better things could be done, for the family and the community at large, if that $1,900/year wasn’t being grabbed by Victoria.

Organizations like the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation have been calling for B.C. to scrap this tax for years. There’s no better time than an election campaign to make this a reality. And spare us any weaning-off, gradual-reduction program. The government must go cold turkey on this one.

Until the MSP is scrapped, we will find it increasingly difficult to believe any stories of prosperity and financial stability from the B.C. Liberals.

— Editorial by John Harding

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