Premier claims HST support is growing
It won't be easy for Royal Inland Hospital to get the money for proposed improvements if the harmonized sales tax is axed, according to Premier Christy Clark.
Speaking to local media during her first official visit as premier to the Tournament Capital on Thursday, July 14, the premier said if the HST falls in the referendum, it will be more difficult for the provincial government to accommodate funding needs, such as future plans for RIH.
"Part of the issue we have with managing funding requests, is we don't know where our budget is going to be in a few months, because if the HST fails, it's going to be a $3-billion bite out of the bottom line," she said.
Clark added it's too early to speculate on funding for the hospital's master site plan, noting the province hasn't even received a formal request.
However, she indicated the plan would get consideration once a request is made.
"We want to make sure Royal Inland Hospital is functioning as well as it can and giving the people in Kamloops the best service it possibly can," Clark said.
A new multi-storey surgical tower and a new multi-storey parkade have been highlighted as the two main priorities in RIH's master site plan, which was released on July 12 and had been about a year in the making.
The premier was in Kamloops this week to take a tour of the province's Wildfire Co-ordination Centre, followed by a meet-and-greet with local B.C. Liberal party members.
As for the HST, when questioned why she refused to debate NDP Leader Adrian Dix on the tax — a challenge he issued a few weeks ago — Clark said the debate has been ongoing for two years.
She argued the reason Dix is eager to have a debate is he sees public momentum shifting in support of the HST.
Clark also noted the tax has already been debated in the legislature.
In May, the provincial government promised to cut the harmonized sales-tax rate by two percentage points over the next three years — to 10 per cent from 12 per cent by 2014 — and issue $175 rebate cheques to parents for each child under 18 and to lower-and-modest-income seniors this year.
Though the premier admits the HST at the proposed 10 per cent will result in a $1.5-billion hit to the province's finances, she believes the decrease will spur economic growth, bringing in more revenue to the government.
She argued the tax cut will encourage people to spend, putting more money in the local economy.
Meanwhile, Clark gave no indication she was planning to call a fall election, which has been widely speculated to be held after the HST referendum.
However, she did allude to a major policy initiative she intends to unveil in the fall, something she called a "job creation plan" for B.C.
She gave no other details.
Clark also stopped in Merritt prior to her visit to Kamloops.