NDP platform includes budget deficits, BC Rail inquiry
New Democrat government would consider selling BC Place, Vancouver convention centre
The B.C. NDP released its full election platform today, including three consecutive budgets and an inquiry into the sale of BC Rail — on the same day the party said it would consider selling BC Place and the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre.
Party Leader Adrian Dix released the platform in Victoria this afternoon.
He said British Columbians can expect three consecutive deficit budgets if the New Democrats are elected and there are no guarantees the province will have climbed out of the red by the fourth year either.
The deficit projections are based on the NDP's analysis of the current Liberal budget. The party forecasts deficits of $790 million next year, $847 million in 2014-2015 and $452 million in 2015-2016.
Dix also promised to create a ministry of women's equality, hold an inquiry into the sale of BC Rail at a cost of $10 million over two years, spend $4 million for an environmental assessment of the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal and end the controversial Jumbo Resort deal — effectively killing the project.
The platform also promises reviews or audits of BC Ferries, Community Living B.C., fracking, B.C.'s liquor laws and independent power projects. The NDP is also pledging to push Ottawa to review the temporary foreign worker program.
The NDP platform does not contain specific job-creation targets but the party maintains its reforms will create jobs.
Sale of BC Place a possibility
At a stop in Vancouver earlier in the day, Dix says his party would consider selling downtown Vancouver’s BC Place if the NDP forms the next provincial government.
Dix said an NDP government would set up an independent team to look into "the long-term viability of debt-plagued BC Pavilion Corporation," including the sale of BC Place.
Dix said the panel would also look at other public assets managed by the Crown corporation, adding he wouldn't rule out selling the new Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre as well.
"BC Place and the Trade and Convention Centre are symbols of the misplaced priorities of the B.C. Liberals," Dix said. "Massive cost overruns on construction and renovations, along with a bungled naming rights deal, have saddled taxpayers with a mountain of debt."
Dix said the provincial government should put its focus on things like health care and education.
"If the private sector can do a better job of running BC Place, while freeing taxpayers of millions in annual losses and reducing public debt, we’ve got a win-win, and we will pursue that."
Dix said the panel would appointed as soon as possible and would be given 90 days to report back to government. He said any revenue from the possible sale of BC Place would go to paying down debt on the renovation project.
The NDP proposal garnered support from an unlikely source — the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
"There's no doubt PavCo is an unhealthy organization," said Jordan Bateman, the federation's B.C. director.
"It's got a massive debt, it's very secretive, they routinely refuse Freedom of Information requests. They've caused a lot of problems for a lot of us watchdogs over the years. It's very interesting to see what Mr. Dix has proposed today, and frankly quite out of character for what we've come to expect out of the NDP."
Liberals, Conservatives weigh in
Liberal Leader Christy Clark dismissed the NDP proposal as nothing more than a gimmick, saying if there had been a potential buyer for the stadium over the last 12 years the government might have considered a sale, but no one was interested in buying the building.
Abbotsford West candidate Mike De Jong called the proposal a "spending agenda" and compared the B.C. NDP platform with a popular television reality show.
"This isn't a platform. This is a weekend with the Kardashians. It's spend, spend, spend," De Jong said on Wednesday.
"All I'm saying is for a group that has railed against the sale of public assests, to suddenly arise and present this more or less out of the blue, is very, very interesting."
B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins, meanwhile, says his party would restructure PavCo if elected and the corporation would be self-sustaining by 2016.
He says the party would end provincial subsidies to the corporation to the tune of $9 million a year, sell the naming rights to the stadium and use the revenue to replace the government subsidy.
BC Place recently underwent a $563-million renovation, including a retractable roof, new wider seats, some of the world's largest television screens and windows that turn on a high-tech light show.
Last year, the B.C. Liberal government announced it had decided not to sign a $40-million agreement with Telus for the stadium’s naming rights.
The stadium's two primary tenants, the B.C. Lions and the Vancouver Whitecaps, did not return calls to CBC News.
A spokesperson for PavCo declined to comment, saying Crown corporations are not allowed to make public statements during an election campaign.
B.C.'s provincial election is on May 14.
With files from The Canadian Press