The gloves are off.
In the first leader's debate of the 2017 British Columbia provincial election, B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark and NDP Leader John Horgan sparred early and often on issues ranging from housing to the fentanyl crisis to tolls.
The debate, airing on News1130 radio, opened with a back and forth between Horgan and Clark on affordability in Metro Vancouver. Clark responded to a question on home ownership by touting her government's new policy to provide interest-free loans up to up to $37,500 to first time home buyers who qualify for mortgages.
"It is really hard for first time home buyers in this market to scrape together that down payment they need," said Clark. "I think we all want our kids to afford the homes they live in, rather than be a renter the rest of their lives."
- B.C. Votes 2017 Opinions and Analysis
- How to register to vote in B.C.'s election
- B.C. Votes 2017 Data Dives
Horgan fired back, interrupting the premier to question why she believes renters are 'second class citizens'.
"That is so disrespectful to people who have spent their entire lives in rental housing because they can't afford anything else," said Horgan is response. "We have one of the lowest minimum wages in the country. The economy is not working for everybody."
'Unicorns' for everyone
Green Party leader Andrew Weaver held back during many of Clark and Horgan's skirmishes, but did attack the governing Liberals on the LNG industry failing to boom.
"[Clark] promised unicorns in everyone's backyards," said Weaver.
The debate was at times combative. Horgan stepped in to cut Clark off on issues including disability benefits and the government's action on the fentanyl crisis. At one point, while arguing with Clark over the cost of the NDP platform, declared the B.C. Liberals were putting forward 'alternative facts'.
Clark focuses on economy
Clark, wedged between Weaver and Horgan on the set, spent a large chunk of the debate staying on her message around the economy.
"You can't afford anything if the government is taking more money out of your pocket and if you don't have a job. We want to make sure we lower taxes for people," said Clark. "Life does not become more affordable when you double the carbon tax, Mr. Horgan and when you roll MSP into income tax."
Listeners also sent in questions that ranged from road congestion to disability assistance to child care.
On a $10 a day child care plan, Horgan acknowledged the plan will take 10 years to fully implement but will get more people working.
- Can the NDP deliver on $10-a-day child care?
- The NDP's platform is populist and progressive — but are the projections precise?
In response, Clark said Horgan wouldn't deliver the NDP's daycare plan until most kids in daycare now "have a driver's license."
Weaver, Clark and Horgan will have their second and final all leader's debate next Wednesday on April 26, as part of a media consortium that will air on CBC television.