By John Horgan, Leader of B.C.’s New Democrats
I work for you, the people of British Columbia. Every single day I think about the families, the young people, the seniors and the businesspeople of British Columbia. Your future and your welfare is my first priority.
As the leader of your Official Opposition, it’s my job to stand up for the people of British Columbia when this government’s empty promises come to light.
Over the past four months at the legislature in Victoria, it’s clear that Premier Christy Clark has forgotten that she works for you. Whenever she’s faced with a choice, she picks wealthy special interests and Liberal insiders over the hard-working families of B.C.
Christy Clark has turned her back on middle class and struggling families.
Here are a few examples. Premier Clark’s budget imposed a whole bunch of stealth tax increases on families – MSP and ICBC premiums went up, and BC Hydro rates also went up. Bridge tolls and ferry fares went up. Even camping and beer got more expensive. The premier could have tried to contain some of these costs, but instead she spent $236 million to cut taxes for only the richest two per cent of the population.
The premier also refused to repeal a terrible policy that claws back every penny of maternity leave benefits from families with a disabled parent. This policy effectively drives children into poverty.
Your Official Opposition also uncovered a Liberal giveaway of public land. While people struggle to get into housing, Citizen Services Minister Amrik Virk signed off on a deal that sold prime development real estate in Coquitlam to a Liberal insider for $43 million less than it is worth. One 16-acre piece of land, worth $5.6 million, was sold for only $100,000. I can think of an awful lot of middle-class families in B.C. who would jump at that price, but they weren’t invited to the Liberal firesale.
Amrik Virk is the same person who was vice-chair of the Kwantlen University board that dined on steak, lobster and scotch at the public’s expense. They were forced to pay all the money back after your Official Opposition uncovered this, but Virk is still a minister in Clark’s cabinet.
The Liberal waste goes on. Every time you open your BC Hydro bill, remember that the Liberals have wasted more than $600 million of your money on failed computer projects and defective transmission line towers. They squandered so much of your money that Christy Clark’s minister of energy was forced to issue an unprecedented apology to the public. None of those projects are finished yet.
Then there’s the centerpiece of Christy Clark’s election campaign, liquefied natural gas. The premier promised an LNG plant would be up and running by 2015, a promise she has not kept. She promised a $100-billion prosperity fund – it doesn’t exist. She promised to wipe out the provincial debt – which has also not happened. She promised to reduce or remove the PST, and I think you already know that promise has been broken too.
Premier Clark promised you that LNG corporations would pay a fair price for the publically owned natural resources they use, in order to fund schools, hospitals, and the services we all depend on. She’s already broken that promise as well, slashing the LNG taxes in half and offering an even lower “introductory rate.” This spring, she passed a law that means all future LNG deals will be conducted in secret. As CKNW’s Jon McComb recently asked, “are we being played for suckers here?”
But when it comes to LNG, Premier Clark’s real betrayal of the middle class is on jobs. The people of British Columbia should be first in line for the training and jobs that come with our resources. Instead, the premier’s very first agreement for an LNG plant allows for the company to use temporary foreign workers for up to 70 per cent of their labour force.
It seems that Christy Clark just wants to cut a ribbon. I think most people agree that what we need instead is a long-term strategy for high-wage sustainable jobs.
We can do so much better. But first we need a government that remembers that every dollar of its budget is your hard-earned money. We need a premier whose first priority is the welfare and the future of British Columbia’s middle class, not the wealthy and powerful.