BC Liberal leader

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks at the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday afternoon at the Coast Capri Hotel.

If he becomes the new premier of the province, B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson says he will eliminate the speculation tax targeting West Kelowna and Kelowna in the Okanagan.

“The Okanagan has been a land of opportunity as long as we’ve been alive, and we have to restore that sense of confidence in the future,” Wilkinson said in a speech at the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday afternoon at the Coast Capri Hotel. “We can do that, but it’s not happening with layer upon layer of NDP taxation.”

If the Liberals win the byelection in Nanaimo on Jan. 30, leaving them with 43 seats to the 43 held by the NDP and Greens, that could force an early general election and give the Liberals a chance to regain power.

Wilkinson’s assurance that a Liberal government would axe the speculation tax was met with applause from the audience at the chamber luncheon.

“That spirit of enterprise that built the Okanagan to be the fantastic place it is to work and live today . . . has to be rewarded,” said Wilkinson. “You don’t do that by putting speculation taxes on selective communities like West Kelowna, which made a valiant effort to get exempted from this speculation tax, and the NDP said to them ‘no, we have a better plan for the people of British Columbia, and you’re on the enemies list.’”

The speculation tax unfairly targets people who have a secondary home and plan to retire there, Wilkinson said.

“We have to be the kind of society that says if you have plans to retire in West Kelowna and you want to buy a project . . . and it’s going to be ready in two years, you are not a speculator,” he said. “You are someone with a reasonable plan for retirement. If you want to leave it unoccupied for part of the year . . . and then in 2022 you’ll move here, that’s a good thing.”

Wilkinson also spoke about the carbon tax, which the NDP plans to raise by $5 a tonne every year until 2021.

While the Liberals were in power, the carbon tax went up incrementally and was offset by decreasing the income tax, Wilkinson said.

“We had it at quite a manageable rate, and it was revenue neutral,” he said. “The NDP came into office and abandoned that. This is a tax grab now.”

When asked if he would decrease the carbon tax if elected, Wilkinson did not commit either way.

“We’ve got to see what’s left after the NDP have finished in office,” he said. “We’re going to have to take a very hard look at that and make sure there’s a fair deal for British Columbia.”

What the provincial government does with the carbon tax also depends on the federal government, Wilkinson said.

“They’re putting one in that B.C. is exempt from because we already have a carbon tax,” he said. “If the federal tax is going to be there anyway, we’d rather it stay in the pockets of British Columbians.”

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