Donna Barnett: People confused by MSP double-dipping

It’s only the first few weeks of January and I am already receiving calls from upset people who are deeply confused about the government’s new Employer Health Tax (EHT).

People are rightly puzzled because the EHT became effective on Jan. 1, yet they still continue to receive a bill for MSP premiums in the mail.

The source of confusion falls right on the doorstep of Finance Minister Carole James.

In her first provincial budget last February, James announced the government intended to ‘double-dip’ by charging the new EHT on top of regular MSP premiums throughout 2019.

Individuals will, therefore, continue to pay MSP premiums this year, including many businesses who already pay MSP on behalf of their employees.

It’s no wonder why people are confused, if not downright angry.

One of the first things James did, when the new government was sworn-in, was reach out to former NDP finance minister and Prince George North MLA, Paul Ramsey for advice on how to come up with alternatives to MSP.

Ramsey’s own panel of experts issued an interim report that specifically warned the government not to double-dip with any replacement tax until the MSP premiums had been completely phased out.

Yet before Ramsey could issue his final report, James bolted through the gates and announced the EHT would become effective on Jan. 1, but continue to charge MSP premiums in 2019.

The business community felt blindsided by the EHT because the NDP made no mention of this during the election campaign.

Now many are beginning to question the need to double-dip considering the government is forecasting a surplus of at least $1.35 billion in next month’s provincial budget.

This has business owners fuming because they are being forced to cover the new EHT and MSP at the same time.

But don’t expect any relief on Feb. 19 when James brings down the 2019 provincial budget.

Expect big spending and possibly more taxes as a very shaky minority government in Victoria could find itself fighting an election sooner than later.

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