Premier Christy Clark speaks in Burnaby to mark Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 22 2017. Credit: Kat Slepian/Black Press

Christy Clark defends Liberals’ budget

Welfare rates, MSP cuts and $10-a-day childcare were on the table

Premier Christy Clark is defending the province’s ability to eliminate MSP altogether in the coming years.

“We are taking step one by cutting it by 50 per cent, step two will be elimination and we will eliminate MSP as the economy grows,” said Clark when talking budget in Burnaby Tuesday. “I think the MSP is outdated, it’s unprogressive, it’s unfair and no one else in the country does it.”

The 50 per cent reduction in MSP rates will take effect Jan. 1, 2018 for families with a net income of up to $120,000. That is expected to save families up to $900 per year and individuals up to $450 per year.

The threshold for paying MSP premiums at all would rise by $2,000, exempting individuals making up to $26,000 a year and families earning up to $35,000.

While there was speculation that the province would lower PST by one per cent instead of cutting MSP, Clark was adamant that cutting medical premiums would provide better savings for middle-class British Columbians.

“It’s a much much bigger benefit and it’s much more concentrated in the middle class, ” said Clark. “A PST class benefits everybody but [benefits] the wealthiest the most because the wealthiest spend more money on purchased goods.”

The premier said the province couldn’t afford the extra $1.4 billion it would cost to cut medical premiums entirely and nor, as the NDP have lobbied for, can it afford $10-a-day childcare. Party leader John Horgan has brought forward Quebec’s $10-a-day system as an example.

“This is a $2.4 billion a day proposal. There is a reason why taxes are over $8,000 more in Quebec than they are in British Columbia,” said Clark.

Clark stood by her government’s decision to raise disability rates rather than addressing B.C.’s low welfare rates. At $610 a month, the province has the lowest welfare rates in the country.

“When it comes to social assistance, we are trying to help people move from welfare to work. Welfare is intended to be a temporary program,” said Clark, citing programs like the Single Parent Employment Initiative in helping get people into education programs and work training. She wouldn’t speculate on when the province would consider raising welfare rates.

There were no surprises from Clark on province’s stance on prescription opioids.

“We are taking advice from experts in the field on this,” she said. “In the event that the experts recommend [prescription opioids] that it’s certainly something we would consider.”

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