VANCOUVER – A look at some of the key moments from the first debate between three main party leaders in British Columbia’s election on Day 10 of the campaign:
Liberal Leader Christy Clark continued her attack on the NDP’s platform, accusing John Horgan of running on a plan that B.C. can’t afford.
Horgan says his promises are affordable and the costs associated with them and the impact on the province’s finances are based on figures in the Liberal’s spring budget.
He said the party’s promise of $10-a-day child care, more affordable housing and removing tolls on two major bridges in the Vancouver area would be paid for by increasing the corporate tax rate by one percentage point and cancelling a tax cut for the highest income earners.
Clark says the province is on track to become debt-free down the road after falling short of that promise from the 2013 election campaign.
“We want to make sure we aren’t throwing the furniture in the fire to pay for the operating expenses,” she said.
Clark said the province has the lowest unemployment rate in the country and 220,000 positions have been created through the Liberal government’s jobs plan.
Green Leader Andrew Weaver said he wants to retool the economy to create jobs in emerging sectors, rather than “chase the economy of yesteryear.”
Weaver said the government has been effective in bringing in harm-protection measures, but he wants to see more money spent on public education and prevention, starting with reversing cuts for counsellors and therapists in schools.
He also wants more money spent on mental-health and addiction programs.
The problem needs to be treated as a health crisis, not a criminal justice one, Weaver said.
Clark agreed that the crisis cannot be treated just as a law-enforcement issue.
She said the government has spent about $100 million to try to curb overdoses, but the number of deaths appears to have stabilized at about 100 a month, which is too high.
“Everyone who dies is someone who is loved and we need to remember that. Every single one of those people deserves our help.”
Horgan said more safe-injection sites are needed, as well as treatment facilities to help people with mental health and addiction problems.
“If it’s a crisis, if there is a fire burning in the Interior, we don’t wait to see if we’ve got the budget for it,” he said. “We have a fire in our major cities and right around British Columbia.”
The NDP would also appoint a minister of mental health and addictions to advocate for change at the cabinet table, Horgan said.
There is an area of agreement between Clark and Horgan on the legal age for the sale of marijuana.
The federal government has introduced legislation that would legalize pot on July 1, 2018, giving provinces time to come up with sales and distribution systems and to decide whether to raise the age limit from 18.
Clark says she would lift the limit to “at least” 19, the same age when it’s legal to purchase alcohol in B.C.
Horgan says he would consult on how best to roll out the new industry, but it’s his opinion that 19 is the right age to bring it into line with the minimum age for alcohol sales.
Weaver says he’s troubled by the federal government’s plan because it favours large licensed producers and B.C. needs to foster a strong “craft cannabis” sector.