Greens target NDP in 1st appearance on leaders' debate
Last Updated: Thursday, April 23, 2009 | 11:57 AM PT
The leaders of B.C.'s three main political parties faced off on live radio Thursday morning, in a debate dominated by some familiar election topics.
Jobs, the economy, transportation, the carbon tax, privately owned power projects, homelessness and health care were among the hot topics during the 90-minute debate on Vancouver station CKNW.
The lively exchange was Green Leader Jane Sterk's first time in the spotlight with the two other leaders, and she saved her sharpest attacks for NDP Leader Carole James, calling her plan to axe the carbon tax "irresponsible."
For her part, James aimed her attacks at Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell, saying the carbon tax was not an effective way to fight climate change and was unfair for rural and low-income residents of B.C.
James said she would instead bring in a cap-and-trade regime to cut down on industrial greenhouse gas emissions, and sell so-called green bonds to help homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
Campbell responded by saying, "The NDP has voted against every single environmental initiative we have brought in," including plans already underway to join a regional cap-and-trade program under development in western North America.
The Liberal leader attacked the NDP's economic plan, saying it had "no credibility whatsoever," and its proposed budget would add $1 billion in taxes.
Campbell also targeted the NDP's promise to raise the minimum wage from $8 to $10, saying the additional costs would force businesses to lay off 50,000 workers.
James in turn attacked Campbell's economic record, saying the province had lost 80,000 jobs in the last three months and that his economic recovery plan was not working.
The Green leader seized on that point to attack James, saying it was "crazy to blame the premier for the loss of the jobs," that was the result of a global economic downturn.
Sterk proposed her party would use the economic downturn to retool B.C.'s economy with an emphasis on local production for local markets.
Hydro, alternative energy spark debate
On the topic of run-of-river hydro power projects, James repeated her calls for a moratorium on the development of the projects, saying Campbell was selling off B.C.'s natural resources to private interests, rather than keeping them under public ownership and management.
Campbell responded by saying it was the NDP that began selling rights to run-of-river power projects in perpetuity in the 1990s, while the Liberals have only been selling 40-year leases.
The Green leader said she did not support any run-of-river power projects. She then attacked Campbell's support of the oil and gas industry while he also promised to make B.C. a global leader in alternative energy.
"The leader's suggestion that we are going to be the leader in alternative energy is just laughable. We have wasted years and years," said Sterk, who pointed out many European countries already have far more developed alternative energy programs.
The Greens would aim to diversify the provincial power sources away from hydro power and toward wind and solar power, and provide incentives for people generating surplus green power to feed it into the power grid. Sterk would also limit oil and gas exports, she said, in order to keep the resources in B.C. while the province made a transition to alternative energy.
James attacked Campbell's support for the development of an offshore oil and gas industry, saying it was "hypocritical" to support the further development of the fossil fuel industry while trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Campbell responded by saying that exporting natural gas to Asia would reduce some greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent. Natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal, which is the primary fuel used in Asia.
Sterk was also the only leader to clearly support the transformation of the province's electoral system with the BC-STV system, which is also facing a vote in the May 12 referendum, saying the proportional voting reforms were one of the most important issues facing voters.
Campbell and James both refused to take a position on the coming referendum, saying the choice should be up to citizens, but both encouraged people to study the issue and vote. Both said they would implement the change to a proportional representation electoral system in B.C. if the referendum passed.