Andrew Wilkinson
Credit: Courtesy of Andrew Wilkinson, MLA

The new BC Liberal leader shares his thoughts on pipelines and provincial taxes

1.   How would you rate the NDP government so far, and why?

They’re showing themselves to be erratic and not well prepared to govern. They just did a complete revision on their speculation tax because they figured out they hadn’t thought it through or put it together properly. Their child-care program is getting a huge amount of pushback from the operators because it’s not workable, and 1,700 rental units this year doesn’t come close to addressing housing affordability in a province where 60,000 people are moving every year.

So their results are not impressive, and their ways to get there include $3.5 billion in new taxes this year. In terms of delivering results for British Columbians, it’s a heavy price to pay for very poor results.

2.   Where do you stand on pipelines?

It’s very clear in the Canadian Constitution that interprovincial projects are subject to federal jurisdiction. The National Energy Board made a decision, and British Columbia set five conditions for accepting that decision, and the federal government rose to the occasion. And so the Trans Mountain pipeline project has been approved. It’s being fought on completely groundless bases by the mayor of Burnaby and by B.C.’s environment minister, and the groundlessness of their objections is confirmed by the response from Ottawa and from the Alberta government that this is totally unacceptable.

But our local mayors and our current provincial government insist on dragging it through the courts anyway. They will almost certainly lose, to the huge cost and embarrassment of British Columbians.

3.   In an uncertain world, how do you like B.C.’s economic prospects?

I’ve always been bullish on B.C., and that’s why I live here. But we’re concerned that the strong economic record of the BC Liberals is now at risk because the NDP are creating a real chill on investment. We’re hearing this all over the province, that lenders are starting to back off because they’re concerned about the NDP tax policies compromising the development industry to the point where they can no longer reliably function because purchasers are saying, “What’s going on? Are they going to start taking away part of my equity?”

And the extra taxes they’ve layered on, like property purchase taxes at the higher levels and this supposed school tax, actually drive up the cost of putting together a condominium project. And so rather than helping affordability, their taxes flow through to drive up the cost of housing.

4.  What more could the provincial government do to strengthen the economy and support business?

B.C. has to have a competitive tax regime. We know that because we’re an open trading economy. We’re totally dependent on trade with the United States and Asia, and so we’ve got to be able to compete. And if a company here, like the building supply company I visited in Chilliwack the other day, has a sales plant in Washington State and their manufacturing in the Fraser Valley, they’re looking around and saying, “Can we afford to do business in Canada anymore?” Because the costs are lower in the U.S., and there’s just been a dramatic drop in corporate income tax there, which means it’s very hard to compete. So we do not want to see British Columbia become a place where businesses are leaving because of NDP tax policy.

5.  As premier, what’s the first change you would make?

One of the first things that needs to be done is unravel this web of heavy taxation that the NDP have piled onto British Columbians with this budget.

■ LAST BOOK I READ
Cleverlands: The Secrets Behind the Success of the World’s Education Superpowers by Lucy Crehan   

■ FAVOURITE CONCERT
About 1999 there was a joint concert by Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, the only time I ever saw any of them. Lots of great hit songs–until Dylan took the stage and lost half the audience! 
 
■ GUILTY PLEASURE
Chocolate–daily, lots of it, from morning until bedtime