Project Category: cat1

Ridesharing That Works

Ridesharing Policy

In Brief:

  • Repeal the Passenger Transportation Act; defund enforcement
  • Remove legal barriers to ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft
  • Foster quality-driven competition for ridesharing services, taxis, buses and other for-hire transportation modes

In summary:

The BC Libertarian Party would repeal the Passenger Transportation Act and dissolve the Passenger Transportation Board that fixes prices for the taxi industry, shuttle buses, limousines and for inter-city bus services.  This will eliminate the government setting of prices and tariffs for transport vehicles and the requirement for “Special Authorization” to be granted a license for operation. The Transportation Board’s requirements that prospective providers demonstrate first that there is a “public need” and that the application “promotes sound economic conditions in the industry” presumes far too much knowledge of the bureaucrats running the board, while it also offers protection for incumbent providers from competition.  This kind of interference in the market results in poor customer service and has resulted in many gaps in service coverage throughout the province. It is extremely unfair – to those for whom the existing arrangement does not work very well – to deny them the ability to seek out better alternatives.

“Ridesharing” – services like Uber, Lyft and others – drastically improve the transportation of people and goods wherever they are introduced. These modern transportation solutions are disrupting the ineffective and expensive legacy taxi and public transit industry, in the same way, Amazon, iTunes, Netflix and Airbnb overturned the models in their respective industries. Ridesharing is bringing mobility to those who could not previously afford it, improving transportation service-quality, reliability and trustworthiness, and allowing ordinary people to generate extra income out of their vehicle. It is not an appropriate function of the government to decide who can and who cannot rent their cars out to third parties for money.   

Travelling by any means carries different risks, costs and benefits, whether it be walking, riding a bicycle, driving, taking a bus, or taking an Uber, among many others. Each individual should be allowed to determine the relative reward and risk of any given means of transportation. Moreover, a system that is driven by individual choice, rather than central control, will be more efficient, accessible and productive, as the individual is in the best position to make these relevant choices. After all, it is their own body and money that they are putting at risk, and only each individual knows how important it is to get to a given destination at a given pace and price.

At length:

 

By repealing the Act, The Passenger Transportation Branch of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will be defunded, as no applications or registry would be required. This would also end the practice of charging licensing fees (up to $200 every 60 days per vehicle).  This will amount to a significant cost savings of those fees and also in the administration of the fees being paid, and documentation filed, thus removing one of the barriers to entry for smaller operators to compete with larger organizations, and lowering costs for consumers.

Studies have repeatedly shown that, particularly outside of the most densely populated metropolitan areas like New York City, independent operators of vehicles coordinated by aggregators like Uber or Lyft achieve higher rates of ridership per mile driven and per hour spent behind the wheel than do taxi drivers.  This increase in productivity allows for pricing advantages that are taking away market share from incumbent industries like taxis and couriers. The government shouldn’t hinder this process of creative destruction. History often reflects favourably on early adopters of productivity-enhancing technologies.

The widespread adoption of ridesharing could have many ancillary benefits for British Columbians.  The efficiency gains take unneeded vehicles off the road, marginally reducing congestion, inner city parking demand, and pollution.  It could be particularly useful for carpooling over ferries where high costs incentivize both parties to seek each other out. A reasonable expectation is that competition would improve the quality of the service, labour conditions, and cost to the consumer for both new ridesharing providers and traditional taxicabs.  Increasing the ubiquity of ride availability reduces consumers’ need to own their own vehicle, and parking and fuel consumption could be correspondingly reduced. The overall size of the ride-hailing industry would therefore grow, some of which could be serviced by the existing taxicab business that is better suited for certain specific routes (e.g. take an Uber to the concert, cab home afterward).  

Businesses have always relied on reputation to grow and succeed – and consumers have always relied on reputation to find and use trustworthy businesses. These modern ridesharing solutions leverage our hyperconnected society to provide intricate, instant, and personalized reputation feedback on each driver to all users before they make use of their services. In this way, these services are inherently safer, more reliable and the owners more accountable than traditional transport businesses, like taxis or public transit.  This form of organic, voluntary regulation is considerably safer, more informative, and holds the owners more accountable than an arbitrary set of regulations created by a central authority, which are liable to make people less safe by interfering with their individual choices.    

A free and open insurance industry, ridesharing services, drivers and passengers all have strong incentives to ensure safety and good reputation. They will not perfectly regulate away bad actors from participating in the system, but neither does the status quo.  Conceivably, insurers with a monetary reward for preventing liability claims would set safety standards (e.g. that they comply with the National Safety Code) and enforce them as well or better than the government can. Services like Uber and Lyft already require criminal record checks on their drivers and can conduct such checks more frequently than the government already does if that is what consumers want.  Without government setting minimum safety standards, restricting competition and therefore driving regulatory compliance to the lowest satisfactory standard, a free market would show competing providers boasting about their safety credentials in a manner that is transparent to users.

The BC taxi industry has threatened legal action against the provincial government if they introduce or allow ridesharing. We do not believe they have a case. The taxi industry can no more sue the government to protect its monopoly than taxi-users can sue the government for perpetuating an expensive and ineffective transportation monopoly.  The government has no duty to protect the taxi monopoly at the ongoing cost of their users. We would take a tough stand against monetary settlement for any failing taxi businesses. Our position is that, if challenged in BC, our interpretation that ‘government should not impede competitive markets’ would be upheld in Provincial Court.

 

Lowering Taxes for Every British Columbian

In Brief:

In summary:

The BC Libertarian Party has the most progressive tax policy ever offered to voters in British Columbia.  Our collection of policies target the taxes paid most often by average British Columbians. Governments of the past have talked big about reducing taxes on “the poor,” “the working class,” and “the middle class.”  New tax credits against their income taxes are unveiled all the time. But they pale in comparison to the multitude of hidden taxes paid on alcohol, fuel, car insurance, tobacco, and others that are only reflected in the higher cost of everything we buy such as carbon taxes, payroll taxes, corporate income taxes.  Those with lower incomes pay a higher proportion of their incomes toward these sorts of consumption taxes than do those with higher incomes. While a struggling young family often pays little or no income taxes, their share of overall taxes contributed to the government remains very high. Our goal is to reduce or eliminate this burden.  Our policies combine to reduce total taxes and fees paid by an average family of 4 by over $5000 annually.

Through a series of legislative actions the BC Libertarians will eliminate sin taxes entirely, abolish anti-competitive cartels and price-fixing monopolies, and liberate entire swathes of the economy to competitive forces.  We are specifically targeting institutions where reform will deliver immediate cost savings to British Columbians. Recipients of corporate welfare will see funding eliminated and instead benefit from an overall lower tax environment.  

The tax code is a convoluted mess of tax credits for individuals and businesses set against income taxes.  However, the credits are “targeted” toward groups of the population the government deems worthy of relief. If you don’t live your life the way government approves (go to school, have children, drive an electric vehicle) you receive no tax credits.  It is an exercise in social engineering. It is costly to administer, audit and comply with. The tax code could be made much simpler by eliminating all of these credits and instead increasing the base exemption on income by an equal total amount. Under our plan, no British Columbian will pay provincial personal income taxes on income earned under $31,200.  

Governments have become addicted to tax revenues to close funding gaps in essential services.  The politicization of ministry funding creates an institutionalized inertia inside the largest ministries. Successive governments have been held captive to the pressure of ever-increasing budgets.  Adoption of productivity-enhancing technologies are seen as a threat to entrenched interests. As a result, the best our governments have mustered is slowing the pace of budget increases. Stopping and reversing this momentum requires a completely different approach.  The BC Libertarians will reduce bloated healthcare administration costs without reducing delivery expenditures. We will tie funding to outcomes and reduce funding for programs that do not deliver acceptable returns compared with their cost. We project that our policies will combine to reduce government expenditures by 13%.

 

Summary of Annual tax savings for the taxpayer:

Average (Ind.) Average (family of 4)
Liquor Savings $660 $1320
ICBC Savings $500 $1000
Fuel Savings $313 $626
Income Tax Savings $283 $566
Employer Health/MSP Savings $414 $1656
Total $2170 $5168

(Numbers are approximate. For illustrative purposes only.)

At length:

Revenues

The average BC family (earning combined $114,800) pays $48,500 in taxes, approximately $19,000 of it to the BC government.  Many of those taxes are not on their income but on the goods that they buy or the businesses they frequent.

Liquor/Tobacco Taxes

The BC Libertarian Party will eliminate liquor and tobacco taxes. Sin taxes do not discourage addiction and dependency.  They don’t even discourage overall consumption. BC has taxed alcohol punitively for over a century yet drinking habits remain mostly unchanged.  The government is a poor authority on individual behaviour. As merely a group of individuals, government does not possess any special status to dictate moral or correct behaviour.  When granted such a status, it’s only logical that the power leads to abuse and a “do what we say and not what we do” mentality. Worse, by using their position of power to signal moral virtue, the government undermines the traditional moral authorities, namely the family and local community.

Tobacco taxes are increasingly creating incentives for black markets to operate in BC, opening the door to organized crime.  Police resources, already stretched thin, are insufficient to enforce the illegality of contraband and resale cigarettes. The solution to this problem is simple.  Eliminate provincial excise taxes on tobacco products and permit the importation of foreign made products to compete based on price. Federal and provincial governments cut excise taxes on tobacco in 1994 and they succeeded in eliminating much of the black market.  Bringing a large portion of the market back to the light of day helped to balance out the losses from excise tax reductions. Notably, this campaign did nothing to slow the already falling rates of smoking. The unequivocal science respecting health risks, combined with awareness campaigns and social ostracization continue to be the primary factors contributing to fewer people taking up smoking and more smokers quitting.

The BC Libertarian Party opposes any Cannabis taxes beyond PST, and will repeal any taxes implemented.  The primary reasoning for legalization is to eliminate the black market and the organized crime it funds.  The legal market needs to compete on price for what most regard as a fungible commodity. Taxes prevent this and will ensure the continuation of the black market.  This is poor policy and should be scrapped.

BC Libertarians believe that what you do with your body and your income is your business.  If there is moralizing to be done, it should be done by loved ones or community peers. For a vast majority of people who drink responsibly, smoke cigarettes or drive gas powered cars, the extra disposable income received from these tax eliminations can be used toward productive ends.  

There is no credible evidence that the removal of these sin taxes will cause a significant change in consumption habits. Accordingly, we do not believe healthcare costs will be impacted in any material way.  

Fuel and Carbon Taxes

The BC Libertarian Party would eliminate provincial fuel and carbon taxes, saving the average family over $1000 annually. Everybody pays more when transportation is taxed to the extent that it is today.  While it is costly to build and maintain transportation infrastructure, the majority of those costs are not funded by fuel taxes and carbon taxes. Most of the maintenance is paid for by municipalities while capital projects are funded independently.  Tax revenue received on fuel (and soon carbon) goes into general provincial government revenues.

Because these taxes are applied to every grocery item we buy as well as gasoline consumption, they are regressive, affecting those least able to pay more than the wealthy.  They also unfairly target those that must commute to work, adding insult to injury for those on the run from unaffordable urban housing and traffic congestion.

Fuel taxes and carbon taxes are a significant component in the cost of living.  The BC Libertarian Party can only affect the provincial portion of the taxes, however.  BC Libertarians would review regulations that stand in the way of new refining capacity in the highest demand areas, so transportation costs of gasoline can be reduced further.  

Employer Health Tax

The BC Libertarian Party will eliminate the Employer Health Tax. The BC NDP is replacing the MSP premiums paid by individuals with a tax on employers of up to 1.9% of total payroll.  This approach raises the barriers to job creation, discourages business expansion, encourages businesses investment in automation technology, and puts pressure on wage and benefit increases for employees.  Like with individuals and their tax brackets, business owners will attempt to avoid the triggering of higher health tax rates by reducing their overall business activity and hiring fewer workers. Employers only budget for labour cost increases that they can afford.  With an employer tax on payroll, they will instead postpone their plans for wage increases, or accelerate their plans for automation. Marginal workers are the ones most affected by this change in cost burden, making it a very regressive tax by excluding these most vulnerable workers from the workforce entirely.  

Like with minimum wage increases and other interventions, artificially increasing the cost of labour will have a negative effect on the most vulnerable, teenagers and students, and those with a disability that reduces their productive capacity.  Current trends have workers joining the workforce at later ages, reducing their lifetime earning potential, human capital acquisition and overall sense of contribution and worth. The government should not add fuel to the fires driving these trends.

Charitable Tax Refund

The BC Libertarian Party will introduce a $750 income tax refund dollar-for-dollar to taxpayers that have donated to a registered society in the previous year.   With such a tax refund there would be no reason every tax paying British Columbian would not donate the maximum amount to some charity that is worthy in their minds.  This will reinvigorate non-profits to once again be the cornerstones of our communities. To qualify, charitable organizations would need to maintain administrative costs below a maximum threshold appropriate for its category, as well as fulfill existing requirements for the maintenance of society status.  Political entities would be ineligible for these funds.

The purpose of the existing federal charitable tax credit is to encourage people to give directly to institutions like hospitals, homeless shelters and youth sports programs, among many others.  These organizations have long histories of being vastly more efficient than taxpayer funded equivalents. They improve outcomes with community-based strategies vs. those dictated from afar. They don’t incur nearly as much administrative cost as direct giving to the delivery agency would, in part because they are often run by volunteers.  Charitable organizations are also less likely to be swayed in their decision making by political motivations.

It is expected this program will effectively displace the government provision of certain social services that are particularly well-suited for societies to provide.  Wherever possible, the BC government should try to reduce its reliance on federal transfers. The BC Libertarians will lobby the federal government to match the $750 tax refund, in exchange for equal reductions in social welfare-related transfers to the province.   We will also lobby the federal government for an additional $750 tax refund to those who have donated an equal or greater amount specifically to health delivery agencies such as hospitals or treatment centres, in exchange for similar reductions in federal health transfers.  The combined effect of receiving these tax refunds would be a base exemption for maximum donors of $53,500 provincially and $21,600 federally (doubling the existing exemption).

Growth Funded Deficit Reduction

Taxes that affect disposable income for every British Columbian have an effect on their total spending.  Eliminating those taxes add back to the spending power of everyone, creating jobs, real wage increases and competitiveness on a global scale.  

The BC Libertarian Party will pursue completely open trade agreements with the other provinces and other markets.  Trade is good because it allows for an ever greater division of labour. The increasing specialization it enables makes domestic producers more attractive and competitive in open global markets, increasing the wealth of everyone involved to a far greater extent than any closed economy trying to produce everything for itself.  For example, the economic potential of eliminating inter-provincial trade barriers has been estimated as high as $7500/family. Indeed, incremental steps made in the past to liberalize provincial trade in wine have resulted in Canadian wines going from laughing stock to internationally renowned, as the various disparate regions learned to do only what they do best and trade that for what the other regions specialize in.  Our reforms will see the same sorts of productivity enhancements across all industries.

The BC Libertarian Party will raise the base exemption to $31,200.00.  By raising the base exemption on income taxes paid by individuals, we expect the marginal propensity of workers to reject further offered work to be diminished.  In other words, workers will take more hours knowing the earnings will end up in their pockets. Fewer people working cash jobs and more hours worked per employee will drive total wages higher.  

The combined effect of tax cuts will be faster economic growth, and paradoxically, more sales tax revenue and more corporate/personal income tax revenue.  The BC Libertarian Party will use these revenues equally to further reduce taxes and pay off provincial debt.

Expenditures

Tax cuts need to be paid for either by corresponding cuts in expenditures or regular sales of assets.  The BC Libertarian Party will do both and will select the expenditures which are least effective in delivering desired outcomes and those capital assets which would be better managed by municipal governments, non-profits or private corporations.  

Tax Enforcement and Administration Costs

Our plan replaces $700 million of convoluted tax credits with a higher basic exemption for everybody.  We project that the impact of these changes on the budget will be neutral, but that administrative cost savings would be inevitable.

Those targeted for the $700 Million in annual tax credits, are primarily those of low incomes.  By increasing the base exemption to such a high level, the same ends are achieved with a much simpler process for filing taxes.  Shuffling money back and forth between you and government gets expensive. The replacement of these tax credits with a higher base exemption minimizes the complexity of filing taxes, the need to hire accountants to ensure all eligible credits are properly applied for, the need for the finance ministry to then audit that all to ensure the correct people are being given the credit, among other administrative costs.

Post Secondary

Under our plan, subsidies to post-secondary would be phased out over a 10 year period, reducing expenditures by $400 million annually.  Please see our education policy (est. 2019) for more information and background on recent research about the societal returns to post-secondary education and possible alternative methods for enabling social mobility through the accumulation of human capital.  

Post-Secondary subsidies are particularly costly to taxpayers, consuming roughly $4 billion dollars annually.  These subsidies are intended to make tuition more affordable. However, schools are in business to make money and like all businesses they have difficult decisions to make in covering their costs.  To match supply with demand, these subsidies do not reduce the cost of school, but are simply added to the amount students are generally able to pay and paradoxically increase the costs of education.  In other words, the subsidies increase demand for post-secondary education and push prices higher. The result is higher tuition costs, students leaving school with larger debts, higher taxes, and a less productive economy.  

Ending ICBC

We project that our plan to end ICBC’s Monopoly will save BC tax-payers nearly $1 Billion annually. The insurance monopoly is a mess and its losses are directly related to its centralized control, lack of market-based competition and politicized incentives.  It is a testament to the dysfunction of centralized economies that our government loses money running an insurance monopoly. Our plan to end ICBC’s monopoly, convert it to a co-op owned by remaining premium paying drivers and to depoliticize auto insurance will directly subtract from government expenditures.  Please see our detailed policy document to End ICBC.  

Ending Boutique Tax Credits and Corporate Welfare

The BC Libertarian party will remove the $600 million film industry tax credit. Industries should be able to survive on their own without government assistance.  Subsidies breed dependence, which stifle creativity and productivity. The BC Film industry and related fields have grown to consume $600 Million annually in special government tax breaks.  Before long they will be considered “too big to fail” and will be able to hold the government hostage by demanding even more. BC Libertarians do not believe in corporate subsidy of any sort and will remove all such favouritism for special interests.  A regime of significantly lower taxes, as we are proposing, will be enough to target all mobile industries to relocate to British Columbia, the film industry included.

Healthcare Administration

We propose to liberate the administration and delivery of our universal healthcare. BC Libertarians take issue with the inherent inefficiencies that exist with the administration of the system by a centralized and politicized control structure, and with how those funds are deployed to delivery agencies.  We expect some efficiency gains through competition in delivery of care and through incentivized payments as global budgets are phased out. These gains will help to moderate the budgetary effect of growing health expenditures.

We plan to reduce health administration expenses by $125 million annually over a ten year period through increased administrative efficiency. While we cannot affect the funding source (taxpayers) for health care as a provincial party, we can affect the administration and delivery with reforms intended on improving both productivity and delivering more appropriate patient-centred care.  Under our plan, there would be no change in universal coverage for all British Columbians compared to what is currently covered.

Healthcare expenditures are resistant to budgetary cuts due to a rising population, aging demographic, and steadily increasing availability of new treatments.  Governments across the country have made many attempts at getting health budgets under control, but if the above factors don’t confound them, they are confronted with a paradox: improving the healthcare system (e.g. reducing wait times, patient satisfaction efforts, extending lifespans) stimulates more demand for healthcare resources.  Additionally, many people would (and already do, where allowed) choose to spend more money on their or their children’s health as a first priority. Reducing the total amount spent is neither realistic, nor desirable.

The BC government is currently funding an opposition to the Cambie Surgery Centre led by Dr. Brian Day.  BC Libertarians would remove the opposition and allow Dr. Day to proceed through the courts to the federal level, which is the appropriate venue for issues pertaining to the Canada Health Act.   Please read our healthcare policy (est. 2019) for more info on the above reforms.  

Affordable Housing Subsidies

The BC Libertarian Party will eliminate provincial affordable housing subsidies, saving an estimated $500 million annually.  Affordable housing subsidies for purchasers make housing less affordable. Their introduction encourages insiders to speculate on the price gains that will occur when all the new buyers soon compete for the same properties with a larger borrowing capacity.  

Affordable housing subsidies for renters may marginally increase the supply of rentals, and thereby lower the price.  But the cost of doing so, at nearly $500M annually (projected to increase substantially) is far too great for the actual impact it will have (even if successful, only keeping up with population growth).  When combined with the poor incentives introduced with changes to the Residential Tenancy Act, it is likely the number of rental units per person will fall again. BC Libertarians would remove the subsidies completely, and instead focus on measures that will increase supply of entry-level accommodations, such as reducing the complexity of building codes and encouraging municipalities to offer extra Floor Space Ratio for rental only buildings.  We will put property owners back in the driver’s seat under the tenancy laws, allowing more to put their properties up for rent without the risk of being locked in with a bad tenant.

Asset Sales

We project receipt of $10 Billion over 5 years through Asset sales.

Asset sales will be considered where qualified purchasers can be found at an acceptable price.  BC has $66 Billion in debt and commits $1.2 Billion per year to debt servicing costs. Municipalities have an interest in ensuring their residents’ good health.  Sweden, after reforming their medical system in a similar way to our proposals made municipalities the primary owners of hospitals. We would encourage the charitable hospital societies and municipalities to form joint ventures on the purchase and operation of BC’s largest hospitals.   Assets owned through PavCo such as BC Place and the Vancouver Convention Centre, as well as crown corporations like the BC Lottery Corporation can be sold to realize many billions of dollars in debt cancellation. Provincial lands can be released for development, as can high value commercial and office space like the Liquor Distribution Branch and the ICBC head office.  

The future security of access to affordable infrastructure is better defended by eliminating debt and the need to service it, a cost that currently sits at nearly $500/year per person and with rising interest rates is projected to rise considerably.  Even if these assets were operated by non-government organizations at prices not as favourable to consumers (a speculative assumption at best), the cost savings from debt elimination would more than compensate. At every opportunity, this debt should be eliminated.  It is economically unjustifiable as well as ethically dubious to burden non-consenting future generations with the repayment of debts to fund the profligate tendencies of today’s unleashed governments.

Adapting to a Changing Climate

The climate is changing.  As we become more populated, the effect of a changing climate will be amplified.  How can the effects be best minimised? A provincial government grounded in reality can only really consider this question.  Talk of “leading by example to fight climate change” may sound heroic, but is only naive. Even if the planet cut greenhouse gases by 50%, the results of this are shrouded in uncertainty.  Yet imposing crippling carbon and fuel taxes guarantees a reduction in the standard of living immediately and a slowing of economic growth.  Poorer societies do not have the spare capacity to tend the environment. The current set of policies is sending us in precisely the wrong direction if we care about the environment.  

We believe if there is an effort to “fight climate change” it should be most focused on preparing for a changing climate.  Many of these efforts are best undertaken through various local government levels:

  • Expanding existing and building new water reservoirs
  • Sensible forest management
  • Raising of dykes around low-lying areas

Environmentalists will better affect change by taking ownership of their issues and contributing toward conservation efforts.  BC Libertarians encourage more activities with non-profit organisations that engage in fisheries habitat restoration, forest management, wetland preservation, species preservation and more.  Our $750 charitable tax refund could be used toward these organisations and will have a greater net benefit to the environment than all the lobbying and tax schemes have combined.  

BC Libertarians believe we should clean up our own backyard before setting out to change the world.

The GreeNDP government’s CleanBC plan is primarily an effort at virtue signalling rather than a realistic program. Previous efforts to change consumer behaviour with punitive consumption taxes on fossil fuels have been unsuccessful, and we do not believe these increases will be any more effective.  Consumers instead internalise the costs and make adjustments to other spending habits or priorities.  Regressive policies such as those promoted by the current government impact the poorest people and smallest of businesses the most, and often result in many unintended negative consequences on other things such as charities, research foundations, entrepreneurial innovation, and long term business investment.

BC Libertarians believe that a healthy, prosperous economy that promotes human flourishing is the best path to a cleaner environment. When more people are more affluent they will be able to elevate values-based consumption like choosing to purchase electric vehicles or paying to make their homes more energy efficient. Taxing these same people into oblivion or banning the best energy alternatives they have then shaming them for simply trying to scrape by will have the opposite impact. A BC Libertarian government will help them by axing both the provincial carbon and fuel taxes in our first year.

This policy is currently in development. The policy team is soliciting expert and stakeholder advice in developing the best, evidence-based, land Use and environment plan for BC. We welcome your thoughts and input. Email the policy committee at policy@libertarian.bc.ca.

Effective Cannabis Legalization

In Brief:

  • The Cannabis Act is a missed opportunity for marijuana legalization.
  • Avoid adding to federal regulations and rules.
  • Allow decentralized distribution to continue, keep regulations as simple as possible.
  • Apply no new marijuana taxes, provincial sales tax only.
  • Allow communities to make relevant regulations surrounding marijuana businesses.

Summary:

A Light Touch

The Cannabis Act attempts to create a new state-enforced oligopoly in the production of marijuana, in direct competition with local, established businesses. Accordingly, a BC Libertarian government would maintain a light-touch in implementing the proposed legal market. We would apply only the PST as a provincial tax on marijuana and would adopt the minimum federal regulations without adding to them. These federal regulations:

  1. prohibit the sale of marijuana to any person under 18;
  2. prohibit marketing to this demographic;
  3. place a limit of 30 grams for personal possession; and
  4. place a limit of growing 4 plants per person.

Regarding distribution licenses, any resident who applies pays the licensing fee, and complies with the proposed regulations would be issued a  license to distribute or sell the federal product. The licence fee would merely cover the cost of administering and issuing licences.

Municipalities would use existing authority to regulate the sale, use, and distribution of marijuana in local communities.

Police forces across the province are well-prepared to identify the signs of driver impairment for a number of drugs, including THC. It is already illegal to drive impaired whatever the reason, whether by alcohol, marijuana, or a legal prescription drug. Drivers who cannot safely operate a vehicle are a danger to other drivers and consequences should remain severe. Neither new policing powers nor restrictions on drivers should be advanced until there is clear evidence that legalization negatively and materially affects road safety.

At Length:

The Proposed Cannabis Act – A Missed Opportunity

The BC cannabis market is an international economic juggernaut, responsible for upwards of $3.5B in annual economic activity.  This does not include downstream products and services. By exporting to our full potential, the cannabis industry could eventually rival our softwood lumber industry.  Economic growth on that scale would drive conventional tax revenues far beyond what a regime of “sin taxes” could possibly deliver. Ancillary markets for processing, cannabis-related tourism, edible goods, paraphernalia, growing supplies and more will naturally congregate around friendly jurisdictions producing at the largest scales.  Successfully gaining a first-mover advantage in a market this large could add 1.5% to BC’s GDP annually.

Unfortunately, the proposed federal Cannabis Act ensures the legal market for marijuana will remain relatively small, expensive, and corrupt.  The regulatory regime sets up a battle between established, local producers and politically-connected national and international corporations. British Columbians will be the losers under the proposed regulatory regime. We expect:

  1. revenues from legal sales to be significantly offset by increased enforcement costs in policing, municipal enforcement, and judicial process;
  2. a marginal increase in violent crimes as the legal market attempts to upset the existing, stable marijuana market;
  3. more, not fewer, effective restrictions on individual liberties and the use of marijuana;
  4. A lower quality product and service at a higher cost for consumers.

Cannabis Taxes

The BC Libertarian Party would not impose any additional taxes to the cultivation, distribution or retail sale of cannabis or it’s derivatives, beyond PST.  A significant tax burden or complicated tax scheme would limit the growth of the legal market and ensure the black market continues, with all of its associated problems.  For this reason, implementing a punitive tax rate would not significantly increase government revenues from cannabis over a simple sales tax applied to the entire market. Likewise, creating a state monopoly for the distribution of cannabis will guarantee significant rejection of the legal product by consumers and vendors alike. We would allow retailers to source their product from any wholesaler of their choice. A large and vibrant cannabis market will enable the success of both a mass producing industry primarily for export, as well as a craft industry well-positioned for the domestic and medical markets.  No new or existing laws or price controls will preclude the participation of any entrepreneur that wishes to compete with incumbent producers, ensuring a free market without political interference.

Cannabis Production

We would not add to the federal regulations or restrictions on the production of cannabis.  Regulations that restrict the type, size and quantity of cannabis growing operations provide too great an opportunity for large corporations to use their scale to gain a disproportionate advantage over smaller local producers.  Transferring profits from local small business owners to big, politically connected corporations should not be the legacy of cannabis reform. The BC Libertarian Party will defend the local craft cannabis industry, whether individual growers or retailers.

Cannabis Sale and Distribution

The province would maintain a registry of license holders.  Licensing fees would be based only on the cost of maintaining and administering the registry.  We would not add provincial-level barriers to the federal regulation of the sale or distribution of marijuana, or the acquisition of a licence.

Municipalities and local communities would employ their existing authority to implement the regulation of dispensaries, processing facilities, and agricultural operations.  A one-size-fits-all approach is not what is best for the marijuana industry or consumers. Local communities are the best ones to judge what level of regulation is required; whether dispensaries, smoke lounges, and compassion clubs should exist in close proximity to each other, schools, or at all.  They are also better able to determine what sorts of signage and advertising they can display, what other items they may or may not offer, whether cannabis can be consumed on the property, or even whether retail sale of cannabis should be limited to dispensaries or be sold at other points of sale.

Cannabis Marketing

The BC Libertarian Party would not add provincial regulations to the existing federal regulation of product safety, quality control, and accurate labelling.  These important issues would be best addressed by individual vendors and consumers, in conjunction with industry-related associations such as the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, the Cannabis Trade Alliance, and the Craft Cannabis Association of BC.  This approach is more effective than a top-down government regulator, will come at a fraction of the cost to taxpayers, will promote the local craft-cannabis industry, and will ensure that end-user prices do not drive consumers to the point of re-enabling a thriving black market.

Impaired Driving  

There is no evidence that legalization will increase marijuana use. Further, the effects of marijuana impairment on driving are not well understood.  Existing methods and enforcement levels are sufficient until such a link is established. Impairment for any reason is sufficient basis to prevent a driver from continued operation of a motor vehicle. More research needs to be done on determining a definitive, objective correlation between cannabinoid concentration in the blood or saliva and level of impairment.  If such a correlation exists, a means of measuring impairment beyond a reasonable doubt needs consensus. New policing powers or restrictions on individual freedoms should only be implemented in the face of clear and overriding evidence of harm.

Provincial Health and Safety Rules

Provincial occupational health and safety rules would have to be updated to account for the medical use of marijuana.  Companies with employees and contractors in safety-sensitive positions should still be within their rights to require their employees and contractors to prove they are fit for duty and not impaired by the recent use of marijuana, medical or otherwise, as they are with any pharmaceutical.

Abolishing The Liquor Distribution Cartel

In Brief:

  • Disband the Liquor Distribution Branch
  • Liberate tourism and hospitality industries
  • Prohibit minimum pricing schemes

In summary:

The BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) generates $1 Billion annually for the provincial government by artificially raising the prices of beer, wine and spirits by up to 170% their original price before distributing it to retailers.  By law, the LDB is the only one permitted to purchase, import or distribute alcoholic beverages in the province. This unnecessary bottleneck creates inefficiencies that have additional added costs to consumers and taxpayers. We propose to eliminate the Distribution Branch, to tender any assets it has for sale, and to set a timeline of 6 months for the sale or closing of all BC Liquor stores.  The BC Liquor Control Board will continue in its role of regulating the sale of alcoholic beverages. PST would be the only tax that applies to alcohol.

Our archaic liquor laws are starting to have major impacts on the viability of the tourism and hospitality industries, as sky-high compliance costs and alcohol costs mean continually higher menu prices for all items.  Small, independent restaurants are particularly hurt by regulatory compliance costs. Specialty restaurants or distilleries are also being victimized by having their craft liquor confiscated if it does not happen to be on an approved list.  Restaurants should be free to purchase directly from sellers local or abroad at the wholesale price they agree on (like any other good). They should be free to sell their products at whatever price they feel will be competitive. And they should be free from burdensome regulations that distract them from running their business.  Other jurisdictions heavily subsidize their tourism industries. BC can compete with them as long as we are not handicapping ourselves with artificial prices on liquor which get filtered into every other cost. A competitive industry will see more cruise ships, more tourism jobs and more economic activity which will replace lost revenue from liquor taxes.

At length:

We will repeal the Liquor Distribution Act through an act of the legislature.  By doing so, private distribution and logistics firms will be able to begin warehousing and distributing alcohol like they do any other consumer product.  The site at 2625 Rupert St, Vancouver will be sold (valued at $33M), and any leases for warehousing will be terminated or assigned to a private distributor.  

The LDB mandates minimum pricing.  Retailers cannot sell product for less than the below per litre (2016): Wine – $6.44, Spirits – $27.88, Liqueurs – $20.39, Packaged Beers (bottles and cans) – $3.19, Draught Beer (kegs 18 litres of greater) $1.97, Ciders and Coolers – $3.7.   Suppliers will work backward from the minimum price minus the tax, to arrive at a wholesale price that is expensive enough to be sold in BC. If they normally wholesale wine at $3/L, the tax would only make it $5.67 – not the minimum price. So they will instead adjust their wholesale price to $3.41.  A bottle of vodka that wholesales at $6.00 would only come to $13.44 – the wholesale price will instead be raised to $12.45. This is price gouging targeting specifically poor people that purchase the cheapest product. The benefactor is primarily the mass producers which reap a windfall profit on their BC sales.  Any advantage the LDB has in mass purchasing is essentially forfeited with minimum pricing.

Liquor consumption has proven to be something that is resistant to significantly higher demand from lower prices.  Countries in Eastern Europe have high, but falling rates of alcoholism, despite prices as low as non-alcoholic beverages.  Liquor consumption in Canada appears to be more closely linked with economic prosperity than prices. The LDB says itself that it’s minimum pricing and taxation strategies are in place “to help ensure that liquor with very low wholesale prices is not retailed as prices that may encourage abuse or over-consumption.”  The BC Libertarian Party disagrees with this tactic. Our suggestion is to instead remove government from the position of moral authority and restore that role to our local communities, where those who suffer from alcoholism can access the mental health system – and those who do not are not categorically targeted as deserving of payments to the government in the $1000’s annually.  The government should not be in the business of running rackets.

It is unknowable what the total cost that the anti-market pricing schemes of the LDB are to our economy.  But they are not zero. We do know that in 2017 it cost $338M to deliver profits of $1.41B to the provincial government coffers.  They consume 24% of tax revenue just to deliver the funds to the government. Operating costs are also expected to rise with the projected $114M spending plan for the BCLDB to “modernize” its operations.  Private distributors can operate with far lower expenses, and with sufficient competition will further lower prices for consumers. These are tangible economic benefits that will be felt by every British Columbian upon abolishing this institution and will subtract from the $1.08B hole that its removal will leave in the budget.  Other ministerial administrative cost reductions will make up for the balance.
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