1. What is your party’s position on the national park reserve proposal for the South Okanagan – Similkameen ?
Larson: Currently, Today’s BC Liberals are not considering a national park for the South Okanagan at this time. Our government recognizes the important conservation values in the South Okanagan area, including some of the most ecologically valuable grasslands in British Columbia. That’s why approximately 20 per cent of the South Okanagan is included in a variety of provincial conservation designations, such as provincial parks, ecological reserves and protected areas. At this time clear and decisive support for a national park reserve just isn’t there in this case.
2. Small communities like Keremeos have a difficult time attracting and maintaining small business and government agencies.
What would your government do to help improve commerce in small, isolated communities?
Today’s BC Liberals believe in growing the economy through low taxes and cutting red tape. Some of the steps that Today’s BC Liberals will take include:
• Freeze personal income tax rates and the carbon tax for five years.
• Reduce Corporate Income Tax rates to 10 per cent by 2018.
• Give small business owners a 40 per cent tax cut by lowering the small business tax rate from 2.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent no later than the 2017/18 fiscal year with at least a 0.5 per cent reduction in 2015/16.
• Launch the Premier’s Small Businesses of the Year awards, with winners selected by small businesses around the province in concert with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and other business associations.
• Streamline RFP processes for government procurement to ensure small businesses can compete for government contracts on a more level playing field.
• Limit RFP paperwork for government to a maximum of two pages for contracts under $250,000 so that small businesses can apply and compete.
• Create a new Premier’s Women’s Economic Advisory Council to provide face-to-face feedback on how government policy changes can help further women’s business opportunities in the province.
3. What are your party’s commitments to the agriculture industry? What programs would you make available to farmers?
In our platform, Strong Economy, Secure Tomorrow, Today’s BC Liberals commit to taking significant steps to aid the agriculture sector. We will reintroduce Balanced Budget 2013, which increases the Ministry of Agriculture’s funding by nearly 20 per cent, the largest raise of any ministry in government. Budget 2013 also provides an additional $4 million over the next three years to support the Agricultural Land Commission in Agricultural Land Reserve oversight. We have worked hard to preserve the ALR in B.C., adding more than 51,000 hectares of land since 2001.
With the re-introduction of Balanced Budget 2013, it will provide $20 million in carbon tax relief for greenhouse and flower growers and ongoing $4 million in carbon tax relief for farmers who purchase coloured fuel for use in their farming equipment. These are just a few of the measures Today’s BC Liberals will take to ensure a strong and vibrant agriculture industry exists here in British Columbia.
4. How will your party encourage the purchase of B.C. agricultural products?
Today’s BC Liberals will add a further $2 million to the Buy Local campaign, building on the original $2 million commitment in August 2012. This will encourage consumers to think about where their food comes from and promotes 50 and 100 – mile diets. We are also going to introduce a new meat inspection system effective January 1, 2014 and we will work with the B.C. Association of Cattle Feeders to develop and promote their “Certified B.C. Beef” brand. It is our goal to work with the organic farming industry to develop a B.C. Organic brand and promote the provincial organic food sector.
5. What is your party’s position on the carbon tax?
Today’s BC Liberals introduced the carbon tax in 2008, this legislation made us the first jurisdiction to implement a tax on revenue neutral carbon tax in North America. We believe that the Carbon Tax encourages conservation and GHG reduction by taxing greenhouse gas emissions while returning revenues to British Columbians through tax cuts.
This puts B.C. at the forefront of combating climate change and securing the environment for the future of our children and families.
Our platform, Strong Economy Secure Tomorrow, states clearly that we will freeze the carbon tax for five years at its current rate to allow other jurisdictions to catch up to our leadership position.
6. What is your position on Fortis’ two tiered billing system, i.e. the “conservation rate”?
Fortis BC’s conservation rate is similar to what BC Hydro has in place. There is a growing demand on electricity in our province as economic development and population growth rise. That is why utilities seek to incent conservation through tiered rates. FortisBC is a private company and is not operated by the provincial government. Its rates are set by the BC Utilities Commission, an independent agency that regulates British Columbia’s natural gas and electricity utilities. The BCUC ensures that revenue from FortisBC’s electricity sales cover the cost of supplying electricity to its customers. This is the same approach that the BCUC uses when setting BC Hydro’s rates. The cost of electricity supplied to homes by FortisBC tends to be higher than BC Hydro’s largely because it has a more dispersed customer base and homes in its service area have higher than average consumption use. FortisBC’s rates are lower than the majority of jurisdictions in North America.
7. How should the province fund its heritage sites?
Preserving heritage sites in BC is important to help improve understanding of our communities, and is also important in attracting tourism revenue. For example, B.C.’s historic buildings, structures and cultural landscapes attract over 200,000 visitors per year. The $5 million Heritage Legacy Fund, established in 2003, helps to support the conservation of historic buildings and other structures.
Today’s BC Liberals recently provided $500,000 to Heritage BC in order to help local governments and heritage organizations improve heritage buildings and historic sites in local communities. In addition, we released our Heritage Strategy for British Columbia: Our Heritage, Historic Places, which will help to guide preservation for the long term.