The B.C. legislature resumes sitting Monday, and B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has a long list of problems he wants Premier John Horgan to deal with.
The province’s financial state is high on the list, with a slump in the forest industry, real estate revenues falling and the NDP government cutting $300 million from ministry budgets as its surplus dwindles away.
“They’ve sent the real estate sector into a tailspin, so their revenue from property transfer tax is dropping like a stone,” Wilkinson told Black Press in an interview. “I’ve talked recently with people from Fernie, from Revelstoke, from Kelowna and of course Vancouver, who say they’re in a crisis. They can’t get housing built, the cost of housing is too high, young people can’t afford to live in BC any more to build up a life here, whether they’re renting or owning.”
Finance Minister Carole James has described her new speculation and vacancy tax as a needed cooling of an overheated market, including reduction of prices in urban markets of the Central Okanagan, the Fraser Valley, Metro Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island.
Wilkinson noted that young drivers are starting to feel the effect of Attorney General David Eby’s reforms to ICBC, as their rates jump to reflect their statistical risk. Facing billion-dollar deficits, soaring accident rates and legal costs, ICBC has capped minor injury claims and restructured rates to better reflect the risk of new drivers and those with crashes on their records.
Wilkinson calls for a different approach.
“I worked as an insurance defence lawyer,” he said. “This is a 45-year-old state monopoly that doesn’t work any more. So why are we defending something that’s never been used anywhere else in the world? It’s a dud.”
Concerns about the increase in young people vaping is another pressing issue, which “seems to be completely ignored by the NDP for reasons that are hard to fathom,” said Wilkinson, who also worked as a medical doctor.
Health Minister Adrian Dix has suggested that a provincial licensing system for B.C. is one way to deal with unauthorized sale of nicotine vaping products to young people.
Wilkinson agrees with the NDP on one initiative, moving the province to daylight saving time year-round. He said the East Kootenay and Peace region should be respected in their decision to stay on Mountain time because of economic ties with Alberta. Boundary-Similkameen B.C. Liberal MLA Linda Larson presented a private member’s bill in the legislature last spring calling for the change.
Horgan has pushed for a switch to year-round daylight in cooperation with western U.S. states. He acknowledges that the change will not take effect in time for this year’s “fall back” to standard time in November, but is hopeful that the 2020 “spring forward” will be the last one for most of B.C.