Horgan promises Crown land for housing

NDP leader raps B.C. Liberals for selling land to developers, promises to scrap local government auditor

A B.C. NDP government would provide provincial Crown land to communities to lower the cost of new housing, NDP leader John Horgan says.

Horgan used his address to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention Thursday to highlight local government struggles with high urban housing prices, homelessness and treatment for mental illness.

He said the NDP would use Crown land to help communities with housing instead of selling it off to “wealthy developers” as the current government did recently with a tract of land on Burke Mountain in Port Coquitlam.

Horgan praised the work of Maple Ridge and Victoria to address growing homelessness, and the B.C. Liberal government’s support for shelters. The province announced $550,000 Thursday to help run a 40-bed shelter in Maple Ridge through the winter, after the closure of a Salvation Army-run facility was announced by the local council.

Victoria council wants to raise $50 million through a levy on Capital Regional District property taxes to build social housing for the city’s chronic homeless population, many of whom camp in city parks.

Horgan also promised mayors and councillors that as premier he would scrap the B.C. Liberals’ new Auditor General for Local Government and redirect the money to communities. Communities Minister Peter Fassbender told the convention Wednesday he has appointed a new auditor, former Metro Vancouver chief financial officer Gordon Ruth.

Responding to Horgan’s speech for the B.C. Liberal government, Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett acknowledged the new local government auditor got off to a poor start, with the firing of the original auditor after an overly ambitious start and poor relations with municipalities.

Bennett rejected Horgan’s claim that the B.C. government ignores recommendations from its own Auditor General, and said all elected officials should learn to accept independent scrutiny of their spending and management.

Bennett said Horgan mocks Premier Christy Clark for pushing to establish a liquefied natural gas export industry, and insists the government is focused on nothing else. The $9 billion Site C dam project got underway this summer, and Horgan still has no clear position on it due to factions within the NDP, Bennett said.

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