Today, as part of the provincial government's budget update, Finance Minister Carole Taylor announced the cost of an earlier announced tax incentive specifically benefiting British Columbia's biotech industry - $20 million annually. At the time, we reported on the premier's personal and partisan connection to that industry. And since then, Elections British Columbia has released filings showing QLT Inc., the province's leading biotech firm, donated $102,990 to the Liberal's election campaign. So is there any connection between the tax incentive and those incentives? That's the question we posed to Minister Taylor at the lock-up. The following is a complete transcript of that interview.
Public Eye Carole, I noticed this government is paying particular attention to the life sciences sector to the tune of about $20 million annually. I would also note the Liberal party received about $100,000 from QLT - BC's leading biotech company - and the premier has a good personal relationship with (biotech lawyer) Hector MacKay-Dunn. I just wondered if you wanted to comment on the juxtaposition of those two pieces of information.
Minister Taylor Well, I know Hector. And I have no idea what he has to do with QLT...
Public Eye He's actually been QLT's lawyer on a number of occassions.
Minister Taylor Well, I have no idea. And I'm sitting in finance. And I also have no idea about the funders of the provincial election. This is something that has been in the public domain since - I'm not sure when it was first announced but I was speaking with Minister Hansen this morning. And they were talking about this idea last spring. And the premier certainly talked about it in June publicly. It is a tax initiative that we believe will help keep some of our important biotech companies here. We believe it is the right thing to do. We look at how we nurture them and we keep them here and we give research help. We have universities geared to pulling in this critical mass of people doing really smart things for society. And we don't want to lose them once they're successful. It's as simple as that. It's broader than QLT. This is going to touch forestry. It's going to touch aquaculture, mining. There are many areas that are doing work with living organisms. And I assure you I wouldn't bring in a tax policy that I didn't think was the right thing for British Columbia.
Public Eye Can you assure British Columbians that neither of those parties was involved in negotiations or determining the structure of that particular (tax instrument)?
Minister Taylor We started to work on the design of this when I came in in June. And I have been working with finance staff since that time. And I have never had anything to do with any of the companies you mentioned.