Premier John Horgan told the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday that while he sympathized with members’ concerns over a number of unpopular NDP policies, he’s not backing down.
The premier addressed the crowd with a review of his government’s successes so far.
“We’ve had our triple-A credit rating reaffirmed, we have sub-five per cent unemployment. GDP growth leads the country,” Horgan said.
It was no surprise the first question from this pro-business crowd is about the employer health tax. CEO Catherine Holt handles the questions to the premier, and to no surprise it starts with the Health Employers’ Tax. “Will you re-assess the impact of the EHT?”, asked CEO Catherine Holt.
Horgan defended the tax.
“This is what the rest of the country is doing, and it’s not an anomaly. This is catching up with the rest of the provinces,” Horgan said.
“And I think it’s good policy at the end of the day.”
The next question was from the development community on the speculation tax, again asked by Holt. “How do you think the proposed speculation tax will actually help housing affordability?”
But once again, Horgan said the government won’t back down on its policies.
“The speculation tax is focused on making sure that if you have a home, and you are not living in it, you’ll make it available for rental housing, which brings on more housing supply,” Horgan said.
Speaking and taking questions for 40 minutes in front of a tough crowd, Horgan received mixed reviews.
“I still don’t think we got the answers we wanted, or the businesses wanted,” Al Hasham who owns Maximum Express said.
“He covered a lot of areas. And even though I disagree with the employer health tax, at least he said his side, and he was firm in it,” Stephen Ward who is a business consultant said.
Sarah Roth, president, and CEO of the BC Cancer Foundation, said she felt the premier addressed a number of her concerns during his speech.
“I think that Premier Horgan is a great speaker, he’s very personable. And I really felt like he was connecting with the room,” Roth said.
Karen Cameron is with Cameron, Izard and Snell Accountants and said she didn’t think the crowd heard what they were hoping for.
“The answers didn’t answer the questions very specifically, on what the chamber would be looking for,” Cameron said.
“I think the business community is very apprehensive and super concerned about especially touching their major asset which is their home.”
Despite the lukewarm reception, Horgan promises to be back.
“Thanks very much, I’ll see you next year.”