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B.C. told higher taxes would clear deficit and pay for more public services

VANCOUVER – A left-leaning think tank says if the B.C. government raised taxes to the levels collected in 2000, it would wipe out the deficit and have lots of money left over for public services.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says a boast by the Liberal government that B.C. has the lowest taxes in Canada is actually starving key services of cash.

The centre says despite the lower taxes, B.C.’s economic performance, job creation and business investment levels are all around the middle of the pack compared to other provinces, while the tax burden has shifted from corporations to families, and from upper-income families to middle- and modest-income ones.

The centre says if B.C. collected the same amount of taxes as the average for other Canadian provinces it would have an extra $2.4 billion, and if it collected what it did in 2000, it would have $3.5 billion more.

It says the extra money would not only pay off the province’s current deficit — estimated at $1.47 billion — it would also provide money for existing and new public services.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong — who will release the provincial budget in a few weeks — said last year that the government is cutting spending and travel expenses and implementing a hiring freeze to mitigate a drop in revenues.