British Columbia

B.C. Liberals' platform promises new economic plan, review of all provincial taxes

The B.C. Liberal Party has announced its full election platform ahead of the first televised debate of the campaign on Tuesday, highlighting policy promises already made on the campaign trail and doubling down on attacks against the NDP's record over the past three years.

Platform fleshes out promises already made on campaign trail, doubles down on NDP attacks

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson listens during a campaign stop in Richmond, B.C., on Oct. 10, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The B.C. Liberal Party has announced its full election platform ahead of the first televised debate of the campaign on Tuesday, highlighting policy promises already made on the campaign trail and doubling down on attacks against the NDP's record over the past three years.

The plan reiterates the party's promise to end the ICBC monopoly on auto insurance in B.C., opening the market to private companies to fuel competition so drivers can shop around for the best rate.

The platform also said the Liberals would scrap PST for one year, if elected, then set the rate at three per cent after that. 

"There are serious issues facing this province … they have failed to be addressed by what [NDP Leader] John Horgan has laid out as the province continues to face the challenges of COVID-19," said B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson while announcing the platform Tuesday.

Many elements of the platform had already been announced over the course of the campaign, but the full platform fleshed out details of the party's plans.

Other key parts of the Liberals' platform include:

  • Creating a new COVID-19 economic response plan within 60 days of the election.

  • Subsidizing $10-a-day childcare to families with incomes under $65,000.

  • Replacing the Massey Tunnel with a 10-lane bridge.

  • Investing $1 billion in long-term care facilities over five years.

  • Increasing funding for "public safety" initiatives by $58 million.

  • Establishing a Fair Tax Commission to review existing taxes.

  • Replacing the speculation tax.

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson is seen after making an announcement during an election campaign stop in Delta, B.C., on Oct. 8, 2020. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Focus on election call

As he has done throughout the campaign, Wilkinson repeatedly attacked Horgan on Tuesday for "selfishly" calling a snap election last month in the middle of the pandemic. Wilkinson said the Liberals would introduce legislation to ban early elections during a provincial emergency.

He said the Liberals would also create a new economic response plan to the COVID-19 pandemic within 60 days of the election on Oct. 24. The leader said the NDP has failed to follow through on election promises made in 2017 on matters of housing, infrastructure and drug policy,

"We need to rebuild confidence and we need to rebuild B.C.," Wilkinson said.

Dropping PST for a year and removing the ICBC monopoly on car insurance would blow a significant hole in provincial income, as would roughly $2 billion in spending promised as part of the Liberal platform.

Wilkinson said his "personal goal" would be to have balanced the B.C. budget again within five years of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

"We can't run deficits forever, but for the next couple of years, we will certainly be running deficits just like every other government in the western world," he said.

Tax changes

The Liberals said they would replace the "phony" NDP speculation tax with a "true" real-estate speculation tax, but turning it into a "condo-flipping" capital gains tax. The party would also bring in higher property taxes for owners who aren't residents of Canada "to help prevent inflation of housing prices caused by foreign investors." 

The independent Fair Tax Commission would immediately review all provincial taxes and recommend which should be lowered or eliminated, the party said. Politicians across party lines have discussed the idea of a non-partisan tax commission in the past, but this is the first time the Liberals have highlighted the proposal so far in the campaign.

The $58 million allocated by the Liberals for public safety would be used to hire more police officers, prosecutors and psychiatric social workers and nurses. Wilkinson said the Liberals would "end tent cities" and work to house people who are homeless, though the plan did not say how.

"The level of street disorder is unacceptable," Wilkinson said.

The B.C. NDP platform, released Oct. 6., largely expanded on policies the government created in its first term after being elected in 2017. Highlights included a one-time $1,000 benefit for low-income families, a rent freeze until 2022, free transit for children, upgrades to Highway 1 through the Fraser Valley and work to get the Surrey SkyTrain extension to Langley. 

The NDP's platform in 2017 contained 122 promises with clear policy outcomes, 96 of which had been completed or were on their way to being finished when the election was called. 

The B.C. Greens will reveal their full election platform Wednesday but the party is focused on livability and transit. On Saturday, it called on the province to work more closely with local governments to create walkable neighbourhoods, explore the modernization of municipal revenue models and reform the local government finance system. 

Other promises from the Greens include expanded provincial funding for projects such as bike lanes, trails, parks, community spaces, and pedestrian-only streets.

The B.C. leaders' provincial election debate is happening Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. PT. CBC News will broadcast the debate live on television, radio and online.

With files from The Canadian Press

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