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

Washington State man facing murder charges in 1987 killing of Victoria couple

Two counts of aggravated first-degree murder filed against William Talbott II in Snohomish

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria expansion gets $6M boost from province

Project many years in the making, but planned for current Rockland site

Does a creature lurk beneath Cadboro Bay?

Researchers on hunt for Cadborosaurus, with sightings dating back centuries along the B.C. coast

Celebrating the 120th Philippine Independence day

Local Filipino communities host first public celebration in Victoria

Public invited to share views about local health care

Meeting takes place Saturday at Sooke Baptist Church at 1 p.m.

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

5 fun things to do this weekend in Greater Victoria

Car Free YYJ, family fishing, Sooke bluegrass, walk for cancer and a mascot’s birthday

WEB POLL: Would you be in favour of a ban on plastic straws?

Would you be in favour of a ban on plastic straws?… Continue reading

B.C. NHL prospect expected to make ‘full recovery’ after an incident in Calgary

Jordy Bellerive was injured in a reported house fire Saturday night

BC Lions defensive back Marcell Young levels streaker in home opener

Young hit the fan near one of the 45-yard lines

Police: Taxi driver who hit 8 Moscow pedestrians fell asleep

Two Mexican World Cup fans were among those hit

B.C. VIEWS: Orphans of our urban drug culture neglected again

Child advocate Bernard Richard leaves B.C. with harsh message

From marijuana beer to pot cookies, Canadian companies creating cannabis edibles

Manufacturers think that edibles will do well with users who don’t want to smoke or vape

Privacy lawyer warns against victim blaming in recent sextortion scams

Perpetrators get sexual photos of the victim and threaten to share them with friends and families

Most Read