Did the NDP suddenly come to power when we weren't looking? Of course not but for some, it might have felt that way when the B.C. Liberals' budget came down Tuesday.
Just look at those tax hikes on corporations and anyone making more than $150,000. A tax-the-wealthy strategy is more along the lines of something we might expect from the Opposition, not from a party that professes to back free enterprise.
A third tax hike - an increase in the Medical Services Premium - will also hurt the Liberals' friends in the business community since they often pay it has a benefit for their employees.
Already, we have a dire prediction from Jock Finlayson, vice-president of the Business Council of B.C., pointing out that tax increases come at a time when the province is returning to the provincial sales tax and continuing with its carbon tax. The high Canadian dollar isn't helping either.
"We are quite concerned about the challenges we are facing in B.C. with respect to our competitiveness and, unfortunately, this budget really doesn't say much about that."
The few goodies in the budget came under the heading of "families first." The flagship promise is $1,200 in Registered Education Savings Program accounts for children when they turn six.
It sounds good until you look at the sky-high cost of tuition, and the fact that the budget will also cut post-secondary funding. Then, the pledge seems more an attempt to do something to burnish a family-friendly image at a time when big spending is out of the question.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said the tax hikes will actually harm families.
"These taxes hurt families by making it more expensive to live here and for businesses to set up shop and employ people," said Jordan Bateman, the B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Perhaps the Liberals are hoping that the big takeaway from this budget will be recognition from the people of B.C. that the party is capable of balancing a budget and is not afraid to confront the business community in the process.
But you have to wonder, what was the real point of this? Was it prudent fiscal management? Perhaps, the Liberals presented a balanced budget. Or is it just a public-relations exercise designed to eke out another election victory?
B.C.'s voters will decide May 14.
© Kamloops Daily News