B.C. leaders square off for first time in campaign

The leaders of British Columbia’s three main political parties sat around the same table for the first time in the provincial election today, zeroing in on jobs, the economy, government spending and housing in a live radio debate.

Liberal Leader Christy Clark stuck to a similar refrain in telling voters the province’s economy is healthy and the outcome of the election on May 9 could place that in jeopardy.


But her main adversary, NDP Leader John Horgan, told listeners on News 1130 in Vancouver that Clark’s government has failed the middle-class.

The Greens’ Andrew Weaver said the Liberal promise of jobs from projects like liquefied natural gas have failed to materialize as he urged voters to embrace a new vision for the province’s economy that creates jobs in emerging industries.

In the early part of the debate, Horgan spoke over Clark as she attacked his platform by accusing the New Democrats of hiding the true cost of their promises.

Horgan said the platform is based on the financial figures in the government’s spring budget, telling Clark that Finance Minister Michael de Jong’s analysis of the budget released Wednesday was an embarrassment.

The Liberals have said the NDP platform is too rich. The NDP is promising to bring in $10-a-day child care and eliminate tolls on two busy bridges in Metro Vancouver, but the party says a new tax on housing speculators and raising taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations will help balance the budget.

Horgan jumped in whenever Clark attacked the NDP plan, accusing her of bending facts.

“You are making it up again,” Horgan said.

The Liberals say the NDP platform contains costs of $6.5 billion over four years that the party has not accounted for.

They say an NDP promise to eliminate medical services premiums would cost $1.7 billion. The Liberals have also promised to eventually kill the MSP, starting with a 50-per-cent cut in January, but de Jong said the Liberals won’t ditch the fees within the next three years.

A freeze on BC Hydro rates would cost $1.2 billion over four years, the Liberals say, while a rate freeze on automobile insurance would cost $1.9 billion.

Weaver said his party would ease rising housing costs in Metro Vancouver by doubling a tax on foreign buyers to 30 per cent.

“Housing has become unaffordable, precisely under this premier’s watch,” said Weaver.

Asked if Vancouver was any different than other major cities around the world where housing prices have risen dramatically, he replied: “It has got out of hand here in British Columbia because of the fact that the issue of affordability was ignored.”

Clark said the ability to buy a home is linked to employment and the province has been successful at creating jobs.

“To be able to pay for a home, you need a job,” Clark said.

“Thank you, how’s that going,” Horgan quipped.

Clark said the NDP and the Greens would kill jobs.

“Under both of my colleagues proposals, British Columbia would go back to the 1990s,” she said.

“Youth unemployment was higher than anywhere west of Quebec. British Columbia was struggling.”