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B.C. Liberal members push back on carbon tax

Delegates to the B.C. Liberal Party convention voted strongly Friday to investigate a “rural living tax credit” that would offset the cost of the province’s carbon tax for people who face longer travel distances and colder winters.

B.C. Liberal members discussed the rural and northern impact of the tax with a cabinet panel consisting of Tourism Minister Bill Bennett, Finance Minister Colin Hansen, Labour Minister Iain Black, Economic Development Minister Ida Chong, Small Business Minister Kevin Krueger and Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon.

“You have to answer this question before the government’s climate change program proceeds any further,” one delegate told the panel.

“We can certainly take a look at it,” Hansen told party members gathered at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

Resolutions for the convention did not include a direct reference to the carbon tax, which is scheduled to increase along with offsetting income tax cuts next July. Asked during a break if party members support the tax, Premier Gordon Campbell said they do.

“I think that people all understand that we have to act on climate change,” Campbell said. “No one would come here and say that it hasn’t been an issue over the last number of months, it has been. They also support the 44 per cent reduction in small business income tax. They also support the personal income tax reductions.”

Krueger reminded delegates that people outside Metro Vancouver pay six cents less in provincial fuel tax. The higher rates support transit services in B.C.’s major urban centre.

The carbon tax on gasoline and other fossil fuels has been hailed by environmentalists and economists, but it has also translated into an apparent surge of support for the NDP opposition after a summer-long “axe the gas tax” protest campaign.

Carbon tax revenues must be returned by law through personal and business income tax cuts. When the program began in July, it started with $100 “climate action dividend” cheques sent to all residents, and quarterly tax credit payments are also being mailed out to lower-income people.

While the carbon tax is revenue neutral to the B.C. government, rural and northern communities have argued it falls disproportionately on them. That sentiment was reflected by B.C. Liberal delegates, many of whom counted themselves as rural residents.

Campbell has ruled out regional exemptions to the fuel tax. But with polls showing support for his party slipping this year, Campbell recently announced rebates for local governments to cover their increased fuel and heating costs.

By Tom Fletcher

Sourced From BC Local News

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