Finance Minister Carole James has faced questions for weeks about the effect of a new property tax on vacation homes. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. keeping purse strings tight as municipalities seek relief

Finance Minister Carole James lowers expectations for UBCM

Don’t expect any relief from a steep increase in medical premium costs coming in 2019, B.C. Finance Minister Carole James has warned municipal leaders.

James is also lowering expectations for local government’s share of legalized marijuana revenues, another top issue for mayors and councillors as they gather in Whistler this week for the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

The top resolution up for debate Wednesday is for the province to compensate local governments facing as much as double their medical premium costs. A new employer health tax on payrolls kicks in and they continue to pay employees’ Medical Services Plan at half the rate for the year, a double taxation that is also faced by large businesses who pay employees’ MSP premiums.

RELATED: Payroll, speculation tax top municipal agenda for B.C.

“Yes, they have a challenge in 2019,” James said. “But we believe the benefit to individuals, including the individuals who work in those businesses, of eliminating medical service premiums in this province, far outweighs the challenges of the one year they will face.”

After announcing the “employer health tax” would be assessed on all payrolls of $500,000 or more, James retreated on the tax in July. School districts, health authorities and universities will still pay the tax, but their budgets will be increased to get over the year of double taxation.

With municipal politicians going into an election for another four-year term in October, many are forced to increase property tax to cover the new payroll tax.

Another resolution given high priority by the UBCM executive is a share of provincial revenues from legalized marijuana sales that begin Oct. 17. Their proposal is for local governments to get a 40 per cent share to start, moving to 50 per cent after two years.

RELATED: B.C. towns to premier: show us the marijuana money

“Right now, we are forecasting very little revenue when it comes to cannabis, particularly in the first year,” James said. “There are a lot of up-front costs around the infrastructure that’s going to be needed, to be able to manage the licensing and the structures in our communities.

“We’re continuing to have discussions with municipalities about what they see as their role and the provincial government’s role is.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

White Rock breaks temperature record

B.C. city was the hottest in all of Canada

South Surrey church members ‘praying for accused mother… for the whole process’

Lisa Batstone’s second-degree murder trial continues this week in B.C. Supreme Court

City will ask Fraser Health to remove pay parking at SMH, Surrey councillor says

Surrey’s new council has already made parking free on neighbouring city streets

Health and Technology District breaks ground on new building

City Centre 3 is the third of eight planned buildings: Lark Group

Spawning salmon returning to North Delta’s Cougar Creek

It’s early in the season, but the streamkeepers are hopeful it could be a good year for returns

Winter weather hits parts of Canada

As some parts of the country brace for cold, parts of B.C. remain warmer than 10 C

5 B.C. cities break temperature records

Parts of B.C. remain warm, at 10 C, while others feeling chilly

B.C. teacher’s Amazing Race takes students on Canada-wide adventure

Agassiz high school students say they had the experience of a life time

Don’t sign USMCA until LGBTQ language excised, U.S. lawmakers urge Trump

The trade agreement, forged after 13 months of tense negotiations between Canada and the U.S. is scheduled for Nov. 30

US official: US intel says prince ordered Khashoggi killing

Vice-President Mike Pence told reporters that ‘the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity.’

Giants serve up major defeat to Pats at Langley Events Centre

On the ice, Vancouver G-Men wrap up home stand with a 10-4 win over Regina Friday night.

Canada’s health system commendable overall but barriers to care remain: UN

The United Nations says Canada’s health care system is “commendable” overall but vulnerable groups still face barriers to quality care.

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

Most Read