B.C. political parties spar over best way toward economic recovery at Board of Trade event

The premier and opposition leaders presented their respective paths toward financial prosperity.

The premier and his rival leaders presented their respective paths to financial prosperity

They weren’t in the same room and they weren’t talking at the same time, but that didn’t stop the leaders of B.C.’s three top political parties from taking shots at each another.

While Premier John Horgan focused mostly on his record at a virtual Greater Vancouver Board of Trade event, BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau and BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson argued against a return to an NDP-led government as they addressed the local business community.

The leaders spoke after the release of a GVBOT poll showing that one in four businesses in B.C. don’t expect to survive more than 12 months, and that two thirds of those surveyed weren’t confident in the current government’s economic recovery plan.

So Horgan, who spoke first, knew he was facing a tough crowd. Before taking questions from moderator Simi Sara, the premier delivered an intro that acted as long summary of the NDP’s work in government. That included pre-pandemic accomplishments like a low unemployment rate and a high credit rating, as well as his party’s efforts to bend the COVID-19 curve.

Horgan also highlighted improvements in health care (7,000 new jobs in long-term care facilities) and real estate (the speculation tax has helped affordability, he said), as well as the expansion of industries like film and tech.

Furstenau emphasized Green Party’s work on early childhood education while taking the NDP to task for calling an election instead of continuing to solve problems for British Columbians.

When it comes to housing, she said, a Green government would “use more supply that’s built sustainably to be able to build sustainable housing that serves generations to come.”

On the business side, Furstenau talked about ensuring that employees have access to preventive mental health resources while maintaining that the employer health tax the BC NDP launched in place of MSP premiums with “wasn’t what businesses, stakeholders and experts said was the best way to recover health coverage. The NDP could have folded that into progressive income tax so people pay what they can, as opposed to putting it on the backs of businesses.”

Predictably, Wilkinson emphasized new Liberal pledges like halting PST for a year, privatizing auto insurance and building a bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel while lobbing grenades at the NDP government.

He also committed to scrapping the current small business income tax—something he first announced this morning—and said the Liberals’ full housing plan, due next week, would include cancelling the NDP’s speculation tax.

“We’re going to put in a real speculation tax,” Wilkinson said. “It’ll be a speculation on anybody who takes a paper agreement and flips it immediately. The current speculation tax didn’t work very well. The goal was to reduce cost of housing; it’s gone up. The NDP told us it would go down. It’s time to focus on increasing supply and driving down costs so people moving into the market can afford to get ahead.”