||Volume 15, Number 1, Sept./Oct. 2002 |
Campbell government misled
B.C. residents about tax cuts
Documents obtained through freedom of information (FOI), show the Campbell government knew within days of the election that its proposed tax cuts would sink provincial finances and force cuts to health, education, and other public programs. But despite the reports, the premier continued to publicly claim the cuts would pay for themselves.
Throughout the 2001 provincial election, the B.C. Liberals stated their proposed tax reductions would be self-financing and not result in drastic cuts to public-sector programs.
However, the 18 pages of briefing notes and other documents obtained through freedom of information, by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), show the Ministry of Finance was conducting studies within days of the election that examined both the impact of the tax cuts and of slashing public services to pay for those cuts.
A briefing note from the Ministry of Finance and Corporate Relations dated May 31, 2001, predicted only 24% of the revenues lost through the tax cuts could be recovered from increased economic activity.
Another document, dated June 5, 2001, showed the cost of the provincial tax cuts would rise to $2.87 billion by 2006.
Despite the finance ministry’s findings, which were included in briefing books to the government, Premier Campbell continued to tell B.C. residents the tax cuts were self-financing.
In announcing the tax plan on June 6, 2001, the premier said, "Without exception, audited financial statements show these tax cuts have produced significantly higher tax revenues over time, as the economy grows."
Even as late as August 4, 2001—three months after the election—the premier told the Prince George Citizen, "I have yet to see a jurisdiction where those tax cuts didn’t generate more revenues to the government’s coffers."
In November 2001, residents got a glimpse of the Campbell Liberals’ duplicity, when the government went public with its plan to cut public services.
Although CUPE was denied access to government reports produced after June 2001, the union says the FOI information it obtained points to a trail of government deceit.
"Clearly, the documents show that the Campbell Liberals had a plan—almost from the outset—to target health, education, and other public-sector programs to pay for the tax cuts," says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill.
"It was a plan to mislead seniors worried the tax cuts would reduce access to health care. It was a plan to deceive parents concerned that tax cuts would increase school class sizes. And it was a plan to betray the trust of millions of B.C. residents who voted for open and honest government," O’Neill says.
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