Decisions that kill jobs, hurt local businesses

This editorial appeared in the February 8, 2017 edition of the Interior News. You can read or download the original here.

The recent campaign to remove the PST from industrial electricity bills is really a scathing condemnation of the BC Liberals energy decisions when it comes to jobs and affordability.

Electricity bills have skyrocketed under the Christy Clark government with a 28 per cent hike during her premiership with another 6.5 percent forecast for the next two years. With industry this has caused major headaches to the bottom line, killing jobs and reducing the ability to reinvestment in order to stay competitive.

Ever increasing rates under the BC Liberals means less cash to spend elsewhere. BC businesses lag behind the U.S., the OECD, and the rest of Canada when it comes to capital investment per worker. And so we see the campaign by industry, especially mining, to find some relief by eliminating the PST on electricity.

The government’s own Commission on Tax Competitiveness reported in November that B.C. is the only jurisdiction to put a sales tax on electricity. The Mining Association of BC and unions like the United Steelworkers point out that the B.C. mining sector is the only one in of any province or state in North America to pay a provincial sales tax on electricity to run a mine. With electricity being one of the higher operating costs, in B.C. it can add up to $2 million a year for a single mine. The astronomical rate increases means energy-intensive industries are focusing on the PST. And those rate increases are tied to BC Hydro’s huge debt racked up by the BC Liberals when they decided to take unprecedented yearly dividends from the Crown Corporation, even though the profit margin of the company was slim or non-existent.

The residential consumer is also getting killed by rate increases. Almost no one can deal with a more than 34 percent increase on something as basic as electricity in only six years. Wages don’t keep up so there is less in peoples’ pockets in Stikine to support local retail businesses, let alone put nutritious food on the table. It’s one reason we introduced the BC Hydro Affordability Act which died in the legislature because BC Liberal MLAs refused to support it. Decisions have consequences. In this case the Christy Clark government’s decisions on electricity result in rate increases that have killed jobs and hurt local businesses.

- Doug Donaldson is the MLA for Stikine and Opposition spokesperson for Mines.