Thursday, October 18, 2018

Mike Smyth: Time for Liberals and Greens to team up against speculation tax

The Liberals and Greens both say they oppose the NDP's speculation tax. Time for them to prove it.


Andrew Weaver and Andrew Wilkinson appear to have just one main thing in common: their first names. Apart from that, these two bitter political rivals can’t seem to co-operate, even when they agree on something.
Weaver is leader of the B.C. Green party and holder of the balance of power in the minority legislature. Wilkinson is leader of the B.C. Liberal party, which holds the most seats in the legislature.
Unfortunately for Wilkinson, Weaver chose to team up with John Horgan’s NDP and prop up Horgan’s minority government in the House.
But now there’s a perfect opportunity for the two Andrews to put their bitterness aside and take on the NDP together. Wilkinson and Weaver both oppose the NDP’s real estate speculation tax, introduced this week by Finance Minister Carole James. The Greens and Liberals could easily kill the tax if they worked together. They have enough combined MLAs to out-vote the NDP and scrap the tax.
But it’s not going to happen. Petty politics will get in the way instead.
“We want to defeat this tax, but it all depends on whether Mr. Weaver has the guts to help us do it,” Wilkinson told me Wednesday. “Weaver likes to huff and puff about things. But then he always votes with the NDP.”
But Weaver said he doesn’t want to kill the speculation tax, he just wants to improve it.
“I believe our roles as legislators is to improve things,” Weaver said. “But that’s difficult to do when the rhetoric coming from Mr. Wilkinson is that he just wants to kill the tax, not make it better.”
Weaver has complained that the NDP government is ramming the tax through over the objections of municipalities. Could Weaver introduce an amendment in the legislature that would allow municipalities to opt out of the tax?
“We’re considering everything, but right now we are negotiating with the government to improve municipal input,” Weaver said. “We have a good working relationship with the NDP.”
That doesn’t impress Wilkinson.
“That’s classic Andrew Weaver,” Wilkinson said. “He talks tough, but then he always supports the government.”
But I wonder if Wilkinson would ever co-operate with Weaver, even if Weaver wanted to?
A Liberal-Green team-up against the NDP could send a message to voters that minority parliaments are good things because it forces political enemies to work together. That might convince some voters to support a proportional representation voting system in the looming referendum, since pro-rep typically produces more minority governments.
But the Liberals won’t do anything to help the pro-rep cause. And the Greens won’t do anything to hurt the NDP, other than Weaver’s huffing and puffing.
The result: British Columbians will get stuck with a tax the two opposition parties oppose and could easily defeat together. But won’t.




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