NDP leader John Horgan speaks to supporters in Vancouver this week

UPDATED: NDP vows big spending, balanced budget

John Horgan plans to raise carbon tax sooner, use revenue from Christy Clark's 'LNG fantasy fund' to eliminate bridge tolls

NDP leader John Horgan proposes to increase spending by $717 million in the current year, start a four-year removal of Medical Services Plan premiums, freeze BC Hydro rates, roll back ICBC rate increases, eliminate bridge tolls and still balance the budget this year.

Horgan released the NDP’s election platform Thursday. It promises to pay for the new spending by raising large corporate income tax by one per cent, imposing an “empty housing speculation tax” and reinstating a two-per cent income tax increase on high-income earners removed by the BC Liberal government in 2015. Horgan would also reduce small business income tax by one half of one per cent.

The platform says the subsidized child care plan would be brought in over the next 10 years. Starting this year, the NDP would also increase all income assistance rates by $100 a month, and increase the earnings exemption by $200 a month.

The NDP would begin increasing carbon tax on fuels starting in 2019, two years before Premier Christy Clark has said she would resume increases to keep pace with the federal government mandate for nation-wide carbon pricing. The NDP’s first increase would raise $140 million in 2019-20, which Horgan’s plan counts as revenue rather than offsetting against income taxes as the BC Liberals have pledged to do.

Eliminating tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges in the Lower Mainland would be financed by draining what Horgan calls the BC Liberals’ “LNG fantasy fund,” established in last year’s budget. Horgan promises to work with mayors on a new revenue solution for Metro Vancouver during the three years that the $500 million LNG fund is used to replace toll revenues.

“There’s no tolls in Kelowna, there’s no tolls on the Sea to Sky Highway, why should there be tolls on people who live south of the Fraser?” Horgan said.  “We’re going to refinance the Port Mann Bridge when we get inside and see how bad it is.”

Further savings would be achieved by “cleaning up BC Liberal waste and growing the economy,” the NDP fiscal plan states.

BC Liberal Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the NDP plan would cause a return to operating deficits or force an additional income tax increase to balance the books, and likely lead to a credit rating downgrade for B.C. He estimated that just the previously announced NDP promises would total more than $2.5 billion annually, and the whole package would ultimately cost $4 billion more a year.

That includes $216 million a year to provide a $400 tax credit for renters, announced by Horgan earlier this week, and a $1.5 billion annual price tag for the NDP daycare program when it is fully in place, de Jong said.