Donna Barnett expounds on business issues

Chamber of Commerce luncheon highlights timely topics

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett addressed a crowd of South Cariboo Chamber of Commerce members at a recent business luncheon at Horton Ventures in 100 Mile House.

Eighteen people attended to hear her speak on the transition from Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) back to Provincial Sales Tax (PST), and about resource industries.

Barnett noted many in the room knew as much or more about the tax impacts than she did, so she briefly summarized that topic and then opened the floor to questions.

“As you all know, on April 1, 2013, we went back to the ‘wonderful’ PST from the HST, which I know impacted 99 per cent of the businesses in this province, and that made your life more stressful.

“It was a terrible way the (HST) was implemented, but it was a good tax, and I will continue to defend it.”

Many businesses used the HST Input Tax Credits to reduce the price of their commodities, she said, adding it was just one of the positive aspects now lost under the PST system.

“It cost businesses a lot of money to go back to [PST].”

Barnett added she is “amazed” many current businesses have still not registered for the PST.

In fielding questions, she noted it has had “no impact” on the film industry in British Columbia, in the sense that she understands no film business has left the province since reinstating PST.

“But, the government subsidized the film industry last year to the tune of $330 million.”

Very few questions were put forward on the transition, so Barnett pointed those looking for more information to the website at www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=D9A34ECE8F384848ADEF899426F4F6CF.

Resource industry growth

The upcoming rebuild of West Fraser’s 100 Mile Lumber mill next year, and the recent takeover of Ainsworth Lumber Co.’s local oriented strand board operations by Louisiana Pacific, are both “great news,” she said.

While there isn’t much fibre available on the land base, what does exist must be “better utilized” by existing forestry and lumber companies.

“If we can build on West Fraser, if we can build on Ainsworth, then we will have a good, stable community.”

Barnett noted there will be more and more workers retiring across all current local industries, opening up employment and trades opportunities for younger people.

The local MLA also talked about the proposed New Prosperity Gold-Copper Project and the benefits that could result for employment and communities.

“So, keep those ‘cards and letters’ going. If we don’t start saying ‘yes’ to some of these projects – there are budget constraints as it is – it’s only going to get worse.”

In addition to hundreds of well-paying direct jobs, she said the potential mine project will bring more infrastructure to the region.

“Power lines will have to go in, there’s no power there. There is talk of power lines going a certain way, and there are people opposed to it; well, maybe it won’t go that way.

“But, it is bringing in the infrastructure; there are many places that don’t have BC Hydro out there.

“If you have a big customer like Prosperity, you bet they are going to be having discussions about that. But, you can’t have the infrastructure without the customer paying the bill at the end of the day.”

Barnett said resource investors around the globe are watching Taseko’s Mines Ltd.’s project approval process before deciding where their dollars will go.

“Too many” resource decisions are being made on emotions, she explained, rather than technical and scientific data.

“You’ve got to say ‘yes’ strongly; you can’t say ‘yes, if, if, if’. That’s not the answer government’s looking for; the answer is yes or no.”