Where the parties stand on key Vancouver Island issues
We asked you to name the election issues that mattered most. Here’s what we found.
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We asked you to name the election issues that mattered most. Here’s what we found.
At the beginning of this election, we asked you, Capital Daily readers, to tell us the election issues that mattered most to you. Hundreds of you responded, and we dispatched our own Omar Washington to spend the week reading platforms, watching speeches and combing through tweets to get answers. Here’s what he found.
As part of a $1 billion plan to expand mental health services over four years, the BC Green platform aims to provide “enhanced counselling outreach services to work with the homeless community.” In speaking about “tent cities” that have sprung up in Victoria parks and elsewhere throughout the province, Green Leader Sonia Furstenau has advocated for a humane “housing first” approach that focuses on “the basic human dignity of having a place to sleep at night.”
Jenn Neilson, Green Party candidate for Victoria-Beacon Hill has called housing “a basic human right” and advocates for expanded provincial spending on housing; specifically that the province needs to acquire more hotels, vacant buildings and homes to house the homeless.
The BC Liberal Party platform recognizes that the homeless need health and social service support, but the party’s consensus on camping in parks is largely framed through an anti-crime lense. Andrew Wilkinson has spoken regularly about putting an end to permanent tent cities saying, “this is wrong, this is not our British Columbia, this is not what we want as a society.” In speeches Wilkinson argues tent cities contribute to the rise in street crime, while reminding that, “the first victims of crime in these circumstances are those most vulnerable people in the camps themselves.”
Locally, Karen Bill, Liberal candidate for Victoria-Beacon Hill has made ending “24/7 camping” in Victoria parks the top priority of her campaign. Roxanne Helme, BC Liberal candidate for Oak-Bay Gordon Head, has echoed both Wilkinson’s and Bill's remarks. Helme “is calling for an immediate end to unsupervised 24/7 camping that threatens the safety of both local residents and the homeless population within them,” according to a statement from the candidate.
The BC NDP plan is to “bring housing” to the homeless population while also supporting city governments as they respond to the increased homelessness caused by the pandemic. Their platform calls out a new community safety fund from which local governments can apply for money to “tackle street disorder, cleanliness, and public safety.” As far as tent cities go, BC NDP leader John Horgan has taken a more hands-off approach. At a June 27 event at the University of Victoria Horgan told reporters, “there is a bylaw in place that says you can’t camp during the day, you have to fold up your camp in the morning. Victoria has chosen not to enforce that because they believe that in a pandemic, that would be ill-advised. I disagree with that, but that’s not my responsibility. The city is responsible for their bylaws and they can and should manage them.”
Grace Lore who is running to hold Victoria-Beacon Hill for the NDP has taken a stronger stance against the camping, telling CHEK news, “it’s unacceptable for folks who are sheltering in our parks but also for neighbours and community members.” Lore has said investments in housing and mental health and addictions care, as a solution to the homelessness, are her top priority.
The BC Green platform calls for investments “in mental health services at every stage of British Columbians’ lives.” This includes integrating mental health care directly into the BC Medical Services Plan, a proposal estimated to cost roughly $250 million a year over four years. Sonia Furstenau has broken their plan for mental health down to four key bullet points: treatment for anxiety and depression, developing youth specific programs, creating community based centres for mental health and adopting a loneliness strategy to deal with the impact of social isolation.
As for curbing overdose deaths, the Greens advocate for scaling up the safe supply of drugs, (including low barrier tools like dispensing machines), expanding harm reduction services like overdose prevention sites and supporting Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry’s recommendation to decriminalize possession of drugs in the province.
The BC Liberal platform calls for treating the causes and preventing harm of opioid addiction. Their plan to increase the number of mental health beds in hospitals and to expand response teams for mental health-related emergency calls is part of a $30.9 billion infrastructure plan. Specific to addictions and the opioid crisis, the BC Liberal approach emphasizes getting people off drugs. Their plan calls for increasing mental health support in secondary schools, increasing addiction treatment and recovery programs, supporting abstinence-based treatment programs and implementing a provincial prescription-drug monitoring program to prevent addiction.
In a recent interview leader Andrew Wilkinson said BC needs to address, “mental health problems, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome, childhood trauma, there are lots of reasons why people find themselves using drugs.” In 2018 when campaigning for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party Wilkinson said, “there has been a lot of emphasis on harm reduction, that’s fine but the harm reduction that matters is reducing the number of deaths.” He went on to say, “we can do that through treatment programs, through prevention, through enforcement.”
The NDP plan for mental health and addiction notes that their government created a Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, asserting it is “the only one of its kind in Canada.” As part of their 2020 campaign promises, the NDP propose to increase the number of treatment beds, create new mental health initiatives for kids, increase the number of nurses and psychiatrists in supportive housing and expand access to counselling in rural communities through e-health programs.
As for the overdose crisis, the NDP plan to scale up harm reduction, prevention, treatment and recovery programs. Additionally, they plan to “free up police” in cracking down on the toxic drug supply, while fast-tracking decriminalization and identifying new ways of managing chronic work-related pain. In a July letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, leader John Horgan called for decriminalization saying, “criminal prohibitions are ineffective in deterring drug use, and criminalization of drug possession directly leads to both individuals and systemic stigma and discrimination that prevent people from seeking services.”
The BC Greens’ platform calls for more funding to TransLink, BC Transit and BC Ferries and argues that the ferry corporation neither should, or could, run with a profit motive. They argue for bringing BC Ferries back into government as a Crown Corporation so it can focus on providing essential services.
The Green transit plan also seeks to work with local governments to establish a vision for the South Island region ensuring frequent and affordable transit links between cities like Cowichan and Victoria. “Our plan would electrify our transit systems including partnering with the federal government to support BC Transit and Translink’s efforts to electrify their bus fleets,” leader Sonia Furstenau said at a recent campaign stop in Nanaimo.
The party’s plan to spend $4.5 billion on transportation over the next three years is billed in their platform as “part of the biggest infrastructure investment in BC history, to reduce congestion and improve travel for drivers and transit users.” This includes increasing transit hours on Vancouver Island, providing hourly ferry service on high-frequency routes and providing more funding for electric vehicle charging stations.
A big part of the Liberal transportation plan also involves eliminating the ICBC monopoly on auto insurance by allowing private insurance companies to compete. At a recent campaign event Andrew Wilkinson said, “the way to get cheaper rates is to introduce competition for all forms of auto insurance in British Columbia.”
The NDP transportation plan criticizes the previous BC Liberal government for running ICBC into debt by using the insurance corporation “as their private ATM.” Their platform plan calls for reducing ICBC premiums by 20%, allocating more space for reservations on ferries, allowing children up to 12 to ride for free and implementing a South Island transportation strategy that includes “safety upgrades to the Malahat highway.”
The Greens are the only party pushing to transform the senior’s care sector into one that is entirely not-for-profit. To this end, their platform envisions a blend of public, non-profit, community-based services and co-ops. Their overall vision advocates ensuring public funding in private facilities is going to direct care for seniors, increasing pay for caregivers in long term care facilities, supporting programs that integrate youth and seniors in the community and expanding the mandate of the Seniors Advocate.
The BC Liberal plan calls for an independent review of the provincial government’s response to COVID-19 in long-term care (LTC) and assisted living facilities; roughly two thirds of BC’s COVID-19 deaths have been linked to senior’s care homes. The party also proposes to ensure a private care home bed for every senior who wants one, a tax credit of up to $7000 to support seniors who need care at home and a $1 billion plan to upgrade or replace LTC facilities. The BC Liberals have also promised to cover the costs of mandatory health exams for drivers over 80.
The NDP platform includes plans to hire 7000 new workers for LTC and assisted living facilities, increasing pay for those workers, increase transparency in private care facilities and expand funding for home care. Their plan also calls for the creation of a Silver Alert system to help first responders track down missing seniors, especially those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The BC Green Party’s plan for housing is particularly centered around making it more affordable for young people. They are focused on their “housing first” approach which emphasizes government money for affordable, supportive and social housing. This includes expanding the availability of townhouses, supporting non-profit acquisition and maintenance of rental property and building off the existing speculation tax by closing loopholes for foreign owners and satellite families. The Green Party is also proposing introducing a rental supplement that will help low and moderate income earners who are paying more than 30% of their income on rent. When unveiling the plan Sonia Furstenau said, “despite some progress to cool the housing market, we need to do more to support people who rent their homes.”
The Liberal Party plan for housing touts itself as “the most comprehensive housing strategy of any jurisdiction in North America.” Their platform indicates they would use tax incentives to boost housing supply. This includes a plan to work with municipal governments in structuring property taxes in such a way as to prevent speculation and incentivize affordable rentals. The platform also includes a plan to use provincial and municipal land for affordable housing. The BC Liberal Party has been very critical of what they call “the phony NDP Speculation Tax.” Andrew Wilkinson has proposed replacing that tax with “a real tax on speculation”; specifically, taxes on capital gains made on condo presales.
The NDP’s housing plan is a 10 year effort “to build and revitalize affordable homes for everyone.” Within the plan they target building 114,000 affordable rental and supportive homes. This election cycle they are pledging to maintain a COVID-19-related rent freeze until the end of 2021, provide a $400 renter’s rebate for homes earning up to $80,000 a year, controlling the rise of strata insurance costs and creating new rent supplements for people moving out of supportive housing. The NDP also assert in their platform that the speculation tax they introduced has created thousands of rental units out of empty homes and that the BC Liberals want to eliminate it. John Horgan recently defended it saying, “It's designed to make sure we don't have empty houses and empty condominium buildings in the Lower Mainland largely, and in Kelowna and Victoria, in our major urban centers.”
Lost in the disruption caused by the pandemic has been the conversation around making Daylight Saving Time permanent. In 2019, the BC government passed legislation that would end the practice of springing forward and falling back (we would simply spring forward one last time and then never fall back). While it isn’t clear where Sonia Furstenau and Andrew Wilkinson stand on the issue, with 93% of BC supporting the move, one thing is clear; ending Daylight Saving Time may be among the few things that can truly bring British Columbians together.