After all-party support for the effort to battle COVID-19, the B.C. NDP held back their $1.5 billion economic recovery fund for three months so they could run taxpayer-paid advertising to build political support for a surprise election, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson told local government leaders at their annual convention.
Speaking to an online version of the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention Sept. 23, Wilkinson said NDP leader John Horgan has picked the worst possible time to stall provincial government initiatives, with the worst of the pandemic likely about to arrive.
“We know about the $13 billion deficit,” Wilkinson said. “We know the economy is shrinking by five per cent or more. Business investment is down 11 per cent, and we expect it to go down further. And there’a big lump coming seven days from now, on Sept. 30, when $6.2 billion of deferred taxes come due, everything from employer health tax to carbon tax to sales tax, and this is going to be a very large obstacle for many businesses and small businesses in B.C. to meet.”
The annual convention’s main focus has also been derailed by the snap election call. While B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau and Premier John Horgan are still scheduled to make their own speeches to delegates Thursday, the hundreds of meetings with cabinet ministers to discuss local concerns are scrubbed so MLAs can campaign for the Oct. 24 vote.
Horgan campaigned in Surrey on Wednesday, one of the hotly contested areas where he will spend much of his time before the election. While promoting the NDP’s improvements to health care delivery, he blamed the B.C. Green Party for having an election a year early, despite Furstenau’s pledge that she would continue to honour the minority government agreement that called for no early election or vote to defeat the NDP government.
With an expected surge in mail voting likely to delay the election result, B.C. is going two months with only “caretaker” government at a time when leadership is needed most, Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson promised to release details of the B.C. Liberal platform shortly, including a housing plan. The NDP promised 114,000 new housing units in the 2017 election, and after three and a half years there are 2,963 completed, mostly temporary modular structures, he said.
Another B.C. Liberal promise is to take mining and other resource project permitting entirely online, part of what he described as “provocative environmental policies” in the party platform.