The first order of business for the NDP is making life more affordable for British Columbians.
It was the message NDP leader John Horgan touted as he announced his party’s platform Thursday in Coquitlam, promising to create jobs, build homes and improve public services.
Horgan visited Structurlam Products Ltd. in Okanagan Falls Thursday, then made a stop to check out the expansion at the Penticton Lakeside Resort, with a final stop at local candidate Tarik Sayeed’s office before heading back West to Vancouver Island.
Horgan said their platform will create 96,000 jobs through investments in schools, hospitals, transit and infrastructure. Investments paid for by raising large corporate income tax by one per cent, imposing an “empty housing speculation tax” and reinstating two-per cent income tax increase on high income earners removed by the BC Liberals in 2015.
Horgan responded to criticisms relating to the $400-a-year rebate for renters in B.C. In response to a critique from BC Liberal leader Christy Clark saying the credit would go to wealthy tenants of high-end apartments in downtown Vancouver, Horgan said those tenants would be “such a modest number.”
“We wanted to make the program universal as we announced it so all renters would have confidence they would get factored in,” Horgan said.
He noted with current homeowner grants, the higher value of the home, the less the grant takes effect.
“We didn’t want to get into all of that off the start. We wanted to launch the program and see how it goes,” Horgan said. “Regular people are struggling and that’s what we’re focusing on.”
He said the 500,000-plus renters in B.C. could benefit from a break to help stretch their budgets further.
With promises to freeze BC Hydro rates, roll back ICBC rate increases and eliminate bridge tolls, Horgan said average B.C. residents are going to see assistance they aren’t getting from the Liberals.
“Housing affordability is a critical issue in the Okanagan, a critical issue in the Lower Mainland. In fact, everywhere we go in B.C. we hear over and over again how tough it is to find a place to live that people can afford,” Horgan said.
He said the NDP would continue to focus on affordable housing in Penticton and the province, committing to 114,000 new units over the next 10 years of co-op housing, not-for-profit housing, purpose built housing as well as market housing.
Horgan also noted an NDP focus on public education, citing the back-and-forth battle on school closures in Penticton and the South Okanagan.
“That was a whole bunch of anxiety, a whole bunch of stress for families, for school board trustees, for students and parents as well. That’s just not necessary. That’s not how you build strong communities or confidence in public services,” Horgan said. “We’re going to fix that. We’re going focus on making sure our public education system is back at the top, not at the bottom where it is right now — and not because the court ordered us to do it.”