In advance of tonight’s televised election leaders’ debate and amid a controversy over his handling of sexist comments made by one of his MLAs, BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson released his party’s full platform today. Wilkinson stated that his plan offered a bold vision to support small businesses, protect and create jobs, and invest in the services that people count on. He repeated his attacks on BC NDP Leader John Horgan, characterizing the early election as unnecessary and breaking the government’s own law. Among other key election promises, Wilkinson said if elected, his party would create legislation to limit the Premier’s ability to manipulate election dates during provincial emergencies.
Highlights from the platform:
- Eliminating the PST for one year and bringing it back at 3 per cent until the economy recovers;
- Implementing a new economic response plan within 60 days of taking office;
- Adding $8 billion to the provincial capital plan to build more schools, hospitals, transit and roads;
- Replacing the Massey Tunnel with a 10-lane bridge as part of this plan;
- Eliminating the small business tax;
- Creating an independent Fair Tax Commission to review all provincial taxes and recommend which should be lowered or eliminated;
- Creating a loan guarantee program for those working in the tourism and hospitality sectors;
Seniors Care and Affordable Child Care for Families
- Investing $1 billion in seniors care to help seniors stay in their own homes longer and increasing the number of private rooms in long term care facilities;
- Expanding daycare capacity by 10,000 spaces and providing subsidized access for $10, $20 or $30 a day for eligible families dependent on household income;
- Finding a solution to rising costs of strata insurance issue through collaboration with the private sector;
- Expanding the supply of housing and reforming zoning;
- Exploring new strategies to address homelessness and end tent cities; and,
- Creating new public safety initiatives, including filling 200 empty policing spots and hiring 100 psychiatric nurses to attend mental health checks with police.
- Ending the ICBC monopoly and allowing drivers to purchase private automobile insurance
Like other political leaders in Canada, when asked about the fiscal impact of platform commitments and when a BC Liberal government would get back to balanced budgets, he said the COVID pandemic was extraordinary and required government spending. He committed to not cutting spending on social services and stated that he would like to see a return to balanced budgets within five years of a vaccine.
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Response to sexist remarks dominated the event
While Wilkinson tried to keep the focus on his party’s platform, his lack of public appearances either Sunday or Monday meant media questions focused more on remarks made by BC Liberal candidate for re-election in North Vancouver-Seymour Jane Thornthwaite about BC NDP candidate for re-election in North Vancouver-Lonsdale Bowinn Ma during a virtual BC Liberal Party fundraiser last month. A leaked video showed Thornthwaite making sexist comments about Ma while Wilkinson and several other BC Liberal MLAs were visible on the call smiling as Thornthwaite spoke. Wilkinson said today he felt the remarks were inappropriate at the time, but he did not want to ruin the event by intervening.
While Wilkinson stated that both he and Thornthwaite had apologized unequivocally to Ma, reporters pointed out those apologies only came after a sustained backlash emerged on social media several weeks after the event took place. When asked why he did not address this issue at the time, Wilkinson repeated his apology and said he was embarrassed and disappointed in himself over how he handled the situation.
High stakes for all leaders in tonight’s televised debate
John Horgan, Andrew Wilkinson, and BC Green leader Sonia Furstenau all have much to gain or lose in tonight’s leaders’ debate.
As the frontrunner, Horgan will likely find himself under attack for his government’s record, perceived delays in the roll-out of the province’s economic recovery strategy, and the decision to call an early election. While he is well known and has high favourability ratings, he must avoid appearing at odds with his “Premier Dad” image. He can speak to British Columbia’s positive record in managing COVID and promise to continue to let public health officials make critical decisions while making strategic investments to support individuals and businesses impacted by the pandemic.
With low name recognition but an impressive background as a physician, lawyer, civil servant and minister in multiple portfolios, Wilkinson has the most to gain from tonight’s debate. In normal circumstances, his impressive background should leave a positive impression with voters. However, his difficulty in presenting the friendly but knowledgeable personality his colleagues and friends see behind closed doors is a challenge, especially compared to Horgan’s “Premier Dad” persona. To make inroads tonight, he will need to pivot from his role as opposition leader and show British Columbians his vision for B.C. without being perceived as overly negative or wooden. He also has to get past growing internal questions about his leadership.
Furstenau has been impressive on the campaign trail, especially as she was only leader for a week before Horgan called the election. While she will be fighting for relevance given her small caucus and low expectations around the Greens in general, she could use this opportunity to hit at her opponents on both sides and highlight the significant impact that the BC Greens have had on policy since the 2017 provincial election. She has the opportunity to present herself and her party as a suitable alternative for a disgruntled electorate.