VICTORIA â€” Voters in British Columbia elect a new government on May 9. Here’s a look at some of the major issues:
Housing: The benchmark price for detached properties in Greater Vancouver stood at more than $1.5 million last May, giving rise to complaints about unaffordable homes as tent cities for homeless people sprang up in Victoria and Vancouver. The government imposed a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers in Metro Vancouver to help cool the market and restore hope that home ownership was still achievable for people who feared they couldn’t afford to live in their communities.
Campaign finances: With no set limits on corporate, union or individual contributions to political parties, fundraising in B.C. has become known as the Wild West. The New Democrats blame the Liberals for continuing to fill party coffers while the party turned down six attempts to ban union and corporate donations to political parties. A special prosecutor has been appointed to assist the RCMP in its Election Act probe of donations to both major parties.
Child care: The NDP is promising $10-a-day daycare based on Quebec’s system as one of the major planks in its campaign. A shortage of child-care spaces, coupled with the added strains of sky-high house prices in B.C.’s major cities, are making it difficult for young families, say the Opposition New Democrats, who believe affordable care is good for families and the economy.
Education: There’s peace on British Columbia’s education front, but the toll of a long-running battle between the government and teachers that saw a bitter strike shut down schools and a court case in the Supreme Court of Canada could be a campaign issue. The NDP is pointing to years of turmoil, while the Liberals say they have brought stability to classrooms.
Pipelines: The federal government approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline last year, but the prospect of more oil tankers in Burrard Inlet near Vancouver is controversial. The Liberals say they fought for increased environmental protections from Ottawa and economic benefits from the company behind the project. But the NDP says the environmental risks are too great.
Economy: B.C. leads Canada in job creation and its economic growth has put it among the country’s best performers for years, but rural regions are hurting. The promise of riches from proposed liquefied natural gas operations have yet to appear. Clark says good jobs help families and make strong communities, but the NDP says the government forgot about industries such as forestry to chase the LNG dream.
Minimum wage: The NDP, backed by the B.C. Federation of Labour, is promising a minimum wage of $15 an hour, while the Liberals have been implementing staggered increases that will bring the minimum wage to $11.35 an hour by September. The Liberals say the minimum wage has increased six times since 2011 and less than five per cent of workers in British Columbia earn the minimum wage.
The Canadian Press