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Promises abound as would-be premiers stump for support

NDP leadership hopeful Adrian Dix and Liberal George Abbott. - File
NDP leadership hopeful Adrian Dix and Liberal George Abbott.
— image credit: File

NDP leadership hopeful Adrian Dix vowed Wednesday to crank corporate tax rates back up, reversing a series of business-friendly cuts made by the BC Liberals, if he becomes premier.

He said he'd roll back the latest three cuts under the Liberals, funneling $268 million a year from corporations to other priorities, including transit, climate action and child protection.

Dix said the most recent cut on Jan. 1 came at the same time MSP premiums and residential care rates for seniors rose, calling it the latest in an ongoing shift of B.C.'s tax burden onto middle income families and small businesses.

He said higher corporate tax levels would not be too onerous for big business and small business would be unaffected.

"We're talking about returning corporate tax not to 2001 levels, but to 2008 levels, which is consistent with other provinces in the country," Dix said. "This is not a high tax regime."

In the Liberal leadership race, George Abbott pledged to create a new B.C. Primary Caregiver Tax Credit to help families care for elderly parents and other loved ones.

It would provide a primary caregiver $1,000 per year per dependent for up to three dependents, mirroring a similar credit now offered in Manitoba.

 “Many families take on the responsibility of the day-to-day care for a parent, relative or close friend in place of government, home-based support," Abbott said, adding the credit would acknowledge that contribution.

The credit would work in addition to existing federal tax credits for in-home elderly dependents.

Abbott also promised a faster review of the new residential care rates phased in over the past year that have brought steep increases for all but the poorest seniors.

He cited concerns about the adequacy of the $275 minimum allowance left each month for seniors' other expenses, how hardship exemptions are decided and special situations such as when one member of a couple goes into care and the other does not.

He pledged the review starting in January 2012, after one full year of the new rates, rather than the Liberal government's plan for a review after three full years.

Abbott called the rebalancing of care rates "necessary" but said it must be done fairly, consistently and "compassionately."

NDP contender Mike Farnworth unveiled a poverty reduction strategy that included raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour and indexing it to inflation.

He also vowed to jack the fines for animal cruelty, boost funding for investigations and seek stiffer penalties under the Criminal Code in light of animal abuse cases like the slaughter of sled dogs in Whistler.

NDP candidate and marijuana advocate Dana Larsen promised free SkyTrain service if he wins the race.

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