VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s Liberal party began its bid for a fifth straight majority government today as Premier Christy Clark visited the lieutenant-governor to formally dissolve the legislature.
The campaign has been underway unofficially for weeks with the Liberals, NDP and Greens releasing platform details for an election that polls suggest will be a tight battle.
Clark has tried to make NDP Leader John Horgan’s judgment an issue, accusing the New Democrats of siding with fringe advocates over mainstream interests that drive job creation in a province that has led the country in economic growth.
Horgan has attacked Clark on social policies, arguing too many people have been left behind by a Liberal government that is out-of-touch after 16 years in power as he promises a $10-a-day daycare program and a minimum wage that would be significantly increased to $15 an hour.
Green Leader Andrew Weaver, the first member of his party to win a seat in a provincial legislature, is asking voters who are tired of the status quo to give his party a chance, promising a revamped economic plan that encourages growth in emerging business sectors while protecting the environment.
Job creation has been an early theme in the unofficial campaign for the May 9 vote.
At dissolution, the Liberals held 47 seats in the legislature, the NDP 35, and there were three Independents, which includes Weaver. There are two new ridings in this election, bringing the total to 87 seats.
Clark unveiled her party’s platform on Monday, promising to freeze income taxes, deliver balance budgets and create jobs in the technology and resource sectors.
The Liberal leader visited the lieutenant-governor to formally start the election and emerged to remind voters that British Columbia has Canada’s fastest-growing economy, which she argued would be at risk by higher taxes and deficits if the NDP is elected.
“B.C. is just getting started,” she added. “We don’t want to throw this all away. The Opposition would replace our tax cuts with tax hikes. They would scrap projects that create thousands of jobs for working people and they would push B.C. families to the brink.”
Horgan has also offered voters a peek at his platform, saying his party will create jobs in every corner of the province by making public investments to attract more private-sector investment.
“Change starts today,” he said at a concert hall in downtown Vancouver where he countered Clark’s rosy economic outlook.
“It’s not working for everybody. It’s not working if it’s all part-time jobs and temporary jobs.”
From the base of his single seat on Vancouver Island, Weaver is pushing for a breakthrough for his party by setting out a Green vision that offers free daycare for children up to the age of three, tougher greenhouse gas emission standards and more money for public education.
Weaver campaigned Tuesday in Vancouver’s Olympic Village on his party’s housing policy that he says aims to cool the overheated real estate market by, among other things, improving the supply of homes through capital spending to build about 4,000 new units a year.
This election comes down to whether voters want change from what the Liberals and NDP have traditionally offered, said Weaver.
“People are ready for politics to be done differently,” he added.
Weaver said voters have produced surprises with the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union as he dismissed the NDP and the Liberals.
“Why do you need more than two NDP MLAs? They all vote the same,” he said.
As for the Liberal platform, Weaver said it’s “so void of ideas, it’s staggering.”
— With files from Laura Kane and Geordon Omand in Vancouver.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
A primer on some of the main issues in the B.C. election on May 9
Voters in British Columbia elect a new government on May 9. Here's a look at some of the major issues:
Housing: The benchmark price for detached properties in Greater Vancouver stood at more than $1.5 million last May, giving rise to complaints about unaffordable homes as tent cities for homeless people sprang up in Victoria and Vancouver. The government imposed a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers in Metro Vancouver to help cool the market and restore hope that home ownership was still achievable for people who feared they couldn't afford to live in their communities.
Campaign finances: With no set limits on corporate, union or individual contributions to political parties, fundraising in B.C. has become known as the Wild West. The New Democrats blame the Liberals for continuing to fill party coffers while the party turned down six attempts to ban union and corporate donations to political parties. A special prosecutor has been appointed to assist the RCMP in its Election Act probe of donations to both major parties.
Child care: The NDP is promising $10-a-day daycare based on Quebec's system as one of the major planks in its campaign. A shortage of child-care spaces, coupled with the added strains of sky-high house prices in B.C.'s major cities, are making it difficult for young families, say the Opposition New Democrats, who believe affordable care is good for families and the economy.
Education: There's peace on British Columbia's education front, but the toll of a long-running battle between the government and teachers that saw a bitter strike shut down schools and a court case in the Supreme Court of Canada could be a campaign issue. The NDP is pointing to years of turmoil, while the Liberals say they have brought stability to classrooms.
Pipelines: The federal government approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline last year, but the prospect of more oil tankers in Burrard Inlet near Vancouver is controversial. The Liberals say they fought for increased environmental protections from Ottawa and economic benefits from the company behind the project. But the NDP says the environmental risks are too great.
Economy: B.C. leads Canada in job creation and its economic growth has put it among the country's best performers for years, but rural regions are hurting. The promise of riches from proposed liquefied natural gas operations have yet to appear. Clark says good jobs help families and make strong communities, but the NDP says the government forgot about industries such as forestry to chase the LNG dream.
Minimum wage: The NDP, backed by the B.C. Federation of Labour, is promising a minimum wage of $15 an hour, while the Liberals have been implementing staggered increases that will bring the minimum wage to $11.35 an hour by September. The Liberals say the minimum wage has increased six times since 2011 and less than five per cent of workers in British Columbia earn the minimum wage.
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