The leader of the British Columbia Conservatives says his party is the only one in the province committed to controlling government spending and lowering taxes.
Speaking to about 60 people at the Chemainus Theatre Tuesday night, John Cummins reacted to last week’s provincial budget and shared his views on other issues such as the negotiations between the provincial government and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and BC Hydro smart metres.
During his town hall meeting, Cummins also told the crowd he feels the Conservatives are poised to surpass the Liberals in the polls and can win the next provincial election.
Cummins says he was in Chemainus to help grown the constituency associations on the Island and spread the message that the BC Conservatives are alive and growing.
“Sort of like the little engine that could, we started from really nothing a year ago, and we’re now at 22 per cent of the polls,” he said. “The message is we can win the next provincial election. I think British Columbians are looking for change, and they’re tired of what they see in Victoria, and I think that’s why a lot of folks showed up here.”
In the last poll that came out Monday, the Conservatives stood at 22 per cent of decided voters, while the Liberals were at 24 per cent, and the NDP was at 42 per cent, noted Reed Elley, president of the provincial BC Conservative Party.
“As I travel around this province, I know that what you’re reading in the polls is what people are thinking because that’s exactly the kind of message that I get,” said Cummins.
Cummins was critical of the provincial budget that was presented a week earlier.
“(The Liberals) were hoping that somehow or another, this budget was going to convince Conservatives that they should look at these Liberals as real small-c conservatives able to represent them and their issues in the legislature … they hoped to present a budget that would be appealing to us who are fiscal conservatives – well, it was anything but,” he said. “The polling tells us that only 29 per cent of the people believe this budget was in their best interest, that it was a conservative budget. And why is that? Well, with a small-c conservative budget, you’re not going to see tax increases in these tough times, but that’s exactly what this budget does.”
The 2012 budget cancels tax cuts that had been planned for small businesses, noted Cummins.
“This is a huge disincentive to business to grow in British Columbia and to create jobs,” he said. “One of the reasons we as a country have done well during this recent economic downturn is because our businesses taxes were low, businesses continued to invest in Canada because the corporate taxes were low, and in these tough economic times, to raise them is foolishness, and yet that’s what this Liberal government wants to do.”
Cummins says the Conservatives would do things differently by governing and managing this province based on two essential components – tax relief and spending restraint.
“Under tax relief, we already announced right at the get-go that we would eliminate the carbon tax,” he said. “We’re also committed to getting spending under control. You cannot keep accumulating debt the way we have been in this province and get away with it.”
To get spending under control, Cummins says a Conservative government would ask three questions before spending the province’s money – ‘does this program help economic growth’, ‘does this program help people who, through no fault of their own, can’t help themselves,’ and ‘does this program make B.C. a safer place to live, work and raise a family’.
“We have to address those things that really matter to people, we have to carefully manage spending in this province, we have to get the taxes under control,” said Cummins. “We cannot continue to go back to the days of increases taxes for businesses and personal taxes; we’re paying far too much in taxes now. It’s not helpful.”
When asked how he would handle the negotiations with the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) differently, Cummins said both sides should bear responsibility.
“This should have been dealt with early last fall,” he said. “It should not have dragged on as long as it has, and I think part of that problem has to be placed squarely at the foot of the government. I think respect both ways is necessary – I think the government has to respect the teachers in a way that they haven’t, but I think the leadership of the teachers’ association could have done the job a lot better as well.”