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Party leaders spar over housing, resources and environment at B.C. election debate

Warren Frey
Party leaders spar over housing, resources and environment at B.C. election debate
SCREENSHOT COURTESY OF CBC NEWS — BC NDP Leader and British Columbia Premier John Horgan, BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau debated on Oct. 13 and addressed the environment, affordable housing and natural resource projects.

NDP Leader and Premier John Horgan, BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and B.C. Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau all met on Oct. 13 at the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey campus for the first and only televised debate of the B.C. election.

All three leaders addressed issues of importance to the construction industry. Summarized below are some of their answers to questions asked by moderator Shachi Kurl during the debate.


Provincial election during a pandemic

Horgan: “We grappled with the decision to call an election. We are in a pandemic and will likely be in a pandemic next spring and into fall. We want to put the election behind us and focus on recovery. As we’re going into the recovery phase, we should ask British Columbians what they want and where they want to go.”


Would the Green Party in alliance with another party support liquified natural gas (LNG) projects and other projects?

Furstenau: “We were choking on fires from the U.S. for weeks on end. There is no doubt we are in a climate emergency and the last thing we need to do is prop up industries to the tune of $6 billion.”


Housing affordability

Horgan: “The average house price went up because previous government focused on speculation and money laundering.”

Wilkinson: “The NDP housing program isn’t a housing program, it’s an ‘increased cost’ housing program. We have said there’s a better way to deal with this. We need to anticipate the supply needed as people come to live and work in British Columbia.”


Elimination of the provincial sales tax (PST)

Wilkinson: “We need investment now in infrastructure. This pandemic not going away quickly and eliminating the PST a good way to do it.”

Furstenau (addressing Wilkinson): “There’s a $6 to $7 billion hole in revenue from removal of the PST in addition to a sizable deficit. Why take money out of the coffers?

“The outcome those kind of tax cuts is homelessness and mental health problems.”


Housing affordability

Horgan: “The Liberals want to get rid of the speculation tax, and those units now have renters in them.”

Wilkinson: “The NDP housing plan is a complete fiasco, and the rental situation the same as it was when you took office.”

Horgan (to Wilkinson): “You want to go back to speculators building one-bedroom condos in downtown Vancouver and leave everyone else?”


Reconciliation and Indigenous opposition to resource projects

Furstenau: “We have to work government to government in a way that is sustainable and healthy for Indigenous people and for every British Columbian.”

Wilkinson: “We have a bright future if we engage all people in every decision. It’s important to go forward with resource development and we have many First Nations very keen to go ahead with projects. The right place to resolve conflicts is in the courts. Blockades don’t work and Indigenous projects are part of the future for B.C.”

Horgan: “I was very proud to be the premier who introduced the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the other leaders here supported it. The challenges of keeping our economy going when we’re just starting reconciliation after 150 years of occupation is daunting, but we have to go forward.”


Site C, LNG and the environment

Horgan: “It wasn’t my project and I didn’t start it, the BC Liberals did. Former B.C. premier Christy Clark’s goal was to get it past the point of no return and it was most difficult decision we had to make in our term. $4 billion had already been spent, so we decided to go ahead. We’re not going to foreclose anything at this time. It’s a daunting challenge but I think we’re up for it.

“I’ve always supported LNG if it fits our economic framework and our environmental plan.”

Furstenau: “We would end oil and gas subsidies and put money towards retraining. We can’t leave people behind in the transition to a green economy but can’t leave young people behind in the move to a green economy either. To keep oil and gas afloat when it can’t stand on its own makes no sense. All the poker chips are on LNG and fracking and we’re the largest emitters of GHG in Canada.”

Wilkinson: “CleanBC is a bit of a sham and we have to have a real plan that would work with the federal government to address climate change.”

Horgan (to Wilkinson): “CleanBC has been trendsetting for the rest of Canada. We need a plan that works for everybody.”


Follow the author on Twitter @JOCFrey.

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