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FACE TO FACE: Christy Clark v/s John Horgan

FACE TO FACE: Christy Clark v/s John Horgan

The clock has started ticking towards 41st British Columbia’s provincial elections in May this year. While there are three major political parties (BC Liberals, BC NDP and BC Greens) bracing up for the battle to attract voters, all the eyes are on BC Liberal Party leader and current Premier Christy Clark and John Horgan, who has stepped in recently to take a lead in NDP. Clark is seeking her second mandate and Horgan, on the other hand, is desperate to get a breakthrough in a province which has seen Liberals rule for the last five elections. But for the past few years Liberal government led by Clark has faced harsh criticism from all over due to increasing cost of living and unaffordable housing market. British Columbians will have hard time deciding their next Premier. To make our voters job a bit easier, we invited leaders of both the parties to put forth their agendas and talk about their priorities for the people of this province. Desi Today presented similar set of questions on affordability, housing market, Kinder Morgan Pipeline, education and political donations, to both the leaders. Read their response and decide who will win the hearts in the coming elections (Excerpts)

CHRISTY CLARK

While there is still some time before we see a formal 2017 Platform for the upcoming elections, what are some of the top areas that you feel should be any premier’s priority for British Columbia’s growth?
CC: Like anyone else, British Columbians are concerned with good jobs, keeping more of their hard-earned money in their own pockets, and reliable services they can depend on, such as health care, education, and public transit. The only way to afford to make these kind of record investments is a growing economy.

In the recent Liberals party convention you said, “we are going to have to fight to succeed in 2017 like we have never fought before…” Did this statement come out as a leader’s natural way to motivate the party or you really think, 2017 elections will be a tough fight for the Liberals?
It will absolutely be a tough fight. Every election in B.C. is a tight race. And that’s a good thing, because it means every vote matters. It’s up to us to earn those votes.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced after 2013 elections?
CC: There have been many challenges, from low commodity prices for resource industries that B.C. depends on, including copper and natural gas, to getting our fellow provinces, the federal government, and the rest of the country to acknowledge, accept, and finally act on our Five Conditions for heavy oil pipelines. But I think the biggest challenge was economic risk. No matter how many tough decisions we made to control spending and grow the economy, our neighbours and trading partners continued to struggle, sometimes from misfortune, sometimes from short-sighted decisions. But in a global economy, you need prosperous trading partners.

A lot has been said and written about B.C’s unaffordable housing market. Ironically the government came out with various plans at the beginning of the year to make housing affordable with more than 800 million dollars investment, the housing market became hot this year. What according to you went wrong that the real estate became so expensive? What were some of the challenges in front of the government before rolling out plans for the damage control?
CC: I wouldn’t describe the actions we have taken – including the largest-ever investment in affordable housing in a single year, as damage control. We are making a determined effort that includes all levels of government to make sure that we preserve the dream of owning a home and keeping it within reach of the middle class. Governments at all levels need to work together to ensure there is an adequate supply of affordable new construction, particularly multi-family housing.
We know that for many people the dream of home ownership can be very difficult. We have the number one economy in Canada, and people are excited to make their homes in our amazing province. The key to improving housing affordability over the long term is creating new supply. Government is here to help in any way we can to make purchasing a home easier.
We announced $855 billion last year in affordable housing throughout the province. We recently announced the BC Home Partnership Program, which will see the government partner with qualified first time home buyers on purchases of up to $750,000. This can lower monthly costs, and make home ownership more affordable.  Hardworking British Columbians have built the number one economy in Canada, and with programs like this we are giving back some of that economic benefit to the people who have earned it
We also implemented the additional 15% property purchase tax to purchasers of residential real estate who are foreign nationals or foreign-controlled corporations. This tax will help manage ongoing demand in residential real estate while the housing market responds by building new homes to meet local needs.

Day-to-day affordability is one of the biggest challenge residents of B.C. are facing today –rents, student debts, ICBC rates, MSP plans. How do you plan to curb the rising cost of living in B.C in your next tenure?
CC: We believe in empowering ordinary, hardworking British Columbians to build the lives they want. That means moving more British Columbians up the income ladder by removing the obstacles that stand in their way. And it means leaving more money in people’s pockets – because they should get to decide how they spend it, not the government.
When all taxes are considered, B.C. families continue to have one of the lowest overall tax burdens in Canada. We have the lowest provincial personal income taxes for individuals earning up to $122,000.
We’ve made a number of changes to MSP Premiums so that more lower income families, seniors and individuals qualify, including significantly expanding premium assistance.  Also, children are now exempted from MSP premiums, and the rates households pay are based only on the number of adults. With these changes, about 40% of B.C. families will pay reduced premiums or no premiums, including 2 million people will not be charged MSP at all.

Quality education remains another concern for the B.C. parents especially after the much infamous B.C. teachers’ strike and school closures. You think adding a 1000 more jobs is enough or there is a lot more to come from Liberals if they win the next elections?
CC: The Supreme Court decision is an opportunity to rebuild and repair a difficult relationship between government and the BCTF – even the NDP were never able to successfully negotiate a long-term deal. The agreement we have with the BCTF is the longest ever in the province’s history. It’s a good starting point, but there’s more work to do. We’re going to continue to work with B.C.’s teachers on these issues, but also on things like curriculum, teaching coding, and making sure B.C. students continue to enjoy world-leading results.

The province has given a nod for the construction of Trans Mountain pipeline however the project still faces opposition from environmental groups, some mayors of B.C. communities affected by the pipeline and aboriginal leaders who have threatened legal action to block it. Do you think the battle is won?
CC: It’s important to understand this is federal jurisdiction. The decision to approve or deny this or any pipeline was always going to be made in Ottawa. My job was to stand up for B.C.’s interests. We took a clear, consistent position with the 5 Conditions – they had to be met for us to support any pipeline. As recently as last year, Kinder Morgan’s proposal had not yet met the 5 Conditions. But with the Trudeau government’s commitment to implement world-leading spill prevention, response, and recovery systems in the Ocean Protection Plan, and with Kinder Morgan’s agreement to to ensure B.C, receives its fair share of financial benefit, we believe this project is in the best interests of the people of British Columbia.

Many eyebrows have been raised after The New York Times published the article on BC’s policy to accept donations from big Corporates. How do you respond to that? Do we see any legal changes coming in Province’s Conflict of Interest Act?
CC: Political parties require money to operate. The only other viable option is moving to taxpayer subsidies for parties, which I don’t believe is right – nobody should be forced to contribute to a party they don’t agree with or even like very much.
The BC Liberal Party has recently committed to real time disclosure of all donations. Our system is based on transparency and I believe that the public has a right to know who is donating to political parties. This spring we will be introducing legislation to enshrine that practice into law. The NDP has thus far opposed the idea of real-time disclosure. What means for voters is that when we all go to the polls on May 9th, they will know everyone who has donated to the BC Liberal Party in 2017, but no idea who’s funding the NDP.

What is your message to the people of British Columbia?
CC: B.C. is doing better than most of our neighbours because we have stuck to our plan to control spending and grow the economy – and because of their hard work. But we are still surrounded by risk. Look at what is happening in the U.S. – now more than ever, B.C. needs someone to stand up for our interests. Someone who will put British Columbians first.

John Horgan

While there is still some time before we see a formal 2017 Platform for the upcoming elections, what are some of the top areas that you feel should be any premier’s priority for British Columbia’s growth?

JH: My number one priority is standing up for people and for families. Christy Clark has spent the last four years making decisions based on what is best for big money donors to her party – and it’s hurt ordinary people who can’t afford to spend $10,000 or $20,000 to go to one of her fundraisers.

People are telling me that affordability is the biggest issue for their households. Christy Clark has raised the medical services premium (MSP) tax, car insurance and hydro bills over and over again. That, combined with letting housing prices and rents spiral out of control has left ordinary families struggling to make ends meet. More than half of British Columbians are living paycheck to paycheck – if their pay was delayed even one week they would face real hardship. That hurts families and it hurts our economy.

During the last NDP convention in November, you spoke about getting known to the communities outside Vancouver Island as one of the challenges in front of you. How far do you think you have come in countering this one? What are some of the other challenges with you during the upcoming elections?

While Christy Clark has been spending her time at exclusive dinners where people are required to donate $10,000 or $20,000 to meet her, I’ve been spending my time listening to seniors, students, parents and other everyday people in communities across the province.

I’ve met with thousands of people, and what I’ve heard from them is that they are tired of a Christy Clark government that isn’t working for them.

They are tired of paying more and more on their hydro bills and on their ICBC car insurance. They are tired of not being able to find a family doctor while their MSP tax goes up and up. People are tired of paying more and getting less. Families want a premier who is in their corner.

 

A lot has been said and written about B.C.’s unaffordable housing market. Ironically the government came out with various plans at the beginning of the year to make housing affordable with more than 800 million dollars investment, the housing market became hot this year. What according to you went wrong on the first place?

JH: For two years, New Democrats told Christy Clark that housing prices were getting out of control. But Christy Clark was too busy raising big money from people profiting from the housing crisis to take action. Ordinary people were left to pay the price so that Christy Clark could rake in millions from big donors.

The price of many homes went up by more than half a million dollars between the time when New Democrats first raised the issue and the B.C. Liberals finally stopped denying it was a problem.

And it’s still a problem. Nothing that Christy Clark has done has made housing more affordable. The B.C. Liberals have even refused to close loopholes that are being used to drive up rent prices and throw people out of their homes.

Christy Clark is not working for everyday people – she is working for her wealthy donors. It’s not in their interest to have housing become more affordable – and so it won’t get more affordable as long as she is in charge.

I’m willing to stand up for the interests of everyday people who are just trying to get by and take real action to ensure that people can afford to continue working and living in our communities.

Who is John Horgan?

I’m a husband and a father to two grown sons. My passion for politics comes from a desire to see young people get the same opportunities to succeed that I enjoyed. My father passed away when I was very young and so I grew up as one of four children in a single parent family. If it hadn’t been for strong public services, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today. Education in particular, changed my life. Without a strong public education system I would have been on a very different path. I was headed in the wrong direction, but good teachers brought me back to my studies and helped me develop my leadership skills on the basketball court and in the lacrosse box. In my early adulthood I learned responsibility while wearing a hard hat – working in a B.C. mill, and later, in a joinery. I know how important forestry jobs are to British Columbians because they were my first ladder of opportunity in my working life. After I fiished my Master’s degree I had the great opportunity to meet the legendary New Democrat leader Tommy Douglas, the father of Canadian health care. That led me to an interest in participating in politics, and my next career, where I worked first for Members of Parliament and then for the B.C. government. I later started my own business helping public and private sector organizations meet their goals. I ran that successfully until I became a member of the B.C. legislature, and later the Leader of the B.C. NDP.

3) Day-to-day affordability is one of the biggest challenges residents of B.C. are facing today –rents, student debts, ICB.C. rates, MSP plans. The party proposes bringing the minimum wage up to $15 an hour and child care to $10 a day. How far would those policies help?

JH: Increasing the minimum wage and bringing in affordable, $10 a day child care will make a big difference in the lives of many people. So will my plan to get rid of the unfair and inefficient MSP tax.

But what will make the most difference is having a premier who is working for everyday families, not wealthy donors.

It’s not just people making minimum wage and people with young children who are struggling – more than half of British Columbians are living paycheck to paycheck. More than half of new jobs created last year were part time – that has left many individuals and families juggling 2 or even 3 jobs just to get by. Food bank use is at an all time high.

Christy Clark is turning British Columbia into a place where only the rich can thrive – by letting housing spiral out of control, raising the MSP tax, hiking hydro bills and jacking up car insurance rates for ordinary people, then giving a billion dollar tax break to millionaires.

After years of her making the wrong choices, families are struggling.

I want to build a better B.C. for all of us – a B.C. where people don’t have to struggle to simply make ends meet. Eliminating MSP, raising the minimum wage and ensuring families have access to affordable child care is a start.

Quality education remains another concern for the B.C. parents especially after the much infamous B.C. teachers’ strike and school closures. What does NDP propose?

JH: Unfortunately Christy Clark has spent the last decade and a half fighting a war against the public education system for her own political gain. We even have a B.C. Supreme Court judgement that says she deliberately tried to provoke a strike with teachers to score political points.

That’s wrong, and that’s not the way I’d govern because I’m in this for everyday people and I understand how important public education is to families and to the future of this province.

After 15 years of fighting teachers, the highest court in Canada ordered Christy Clark to restore supports she took from B.C. school children back when she was education minister. So she’s been forced to restore some of the cuts she made over the last decade and a half.

Christy Clark’s war on education has left children learning in overcrowded classrooms, children spending their entire school experience in dingy portables, and families thrown into chaos because their children have to go to school in shifts.

That’s not how I’d run the education system. I won’t sit back and let bad things happen. I won’t pick fights and provoke strikes to win political points. I’ll work with parents, school districts and teachers to rebuild our education system, get kids in real classrooms with real supports and invest in the next generation.

The province has given a nod for the construction of Trans Mountain pipeline however the project still faces opposition from environmental groups, some mayors of B.C. communities affected by the pipeline and aboriginal leaders who have threatened legal action to block it. What is NDP’s stand and what do you propose to do if NDP comes to power?

JH: The Kinder Morgan project means too much risk to our coastal economy and environment. Seven times the tankers are a threat to thousands and thousands of jobs that rely on our clean coast, in industries like tourism, film and fisheries. If you drive a cab, work in a hotel, work on set, or rely on Fraser River sockeye to put food on the table and money in the bank – a massive oil spill has the potential to hurt you and your family.

I saw how bad our spill response is first hand when I went up to Bella Bella after the Nathan E Stewart tugboat spill. It took almost a full day for clean up to even begin, and it never took all the oil out of the water. That was a tiny spill compared to what could happen if the Kinder Morgan expansion is allowed to go forward, and it was still devastating for the local community and the Heiltsuk First Nation. Some messes can’t be cleaned up – they can only be prevented from happening.

Unlike Christy Clark, who received nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in donations from Kinder Morgan and other pipeline supporters, I’m standing up for the best interests of ordinary people, communities and B.C. First Nations who would be negatively impacted by this project.

If I become premier I will do everything in my power to stand up and defend our coast from the risk of seven times the tankers moving through the heart of our biggest city.

6) Many eyebrows have been raised after The New York Times published the article on B.C.’s policy to accept donations from big Corporates. How do you respond to that?

JH: I want to ban big money from B.C. politics. It’s long past time. New Democrats have introduced legislation to ban big money five times, since 2005, and five times the B.C. Liberals have refused to vote on it.

Christy Clark comes up with all sorts of excuses about why she doesn’t want to ban big money, but the truth is over the past five years she has collected more than $300,000 in her second salary, paid by wealthy donors to the B.C. Liberal party, many who paid $10,000 or $20,000 just to sit beside her at dinner. So it’s hard to take anything she says seriously.

Ordinary people don’t have $10,000 or $20,000 to get their concerns heard. That’s why millionaires got a billion dollars in tax breaks over the last four years, while ordinary people paid more for MSP, hydro, and ICBC premiums.

Unlike Christy Clark, I believe the job of the premier and the government is to stand up and work hard for everyday people, not for rich donors and big corporations. That’s why I will be giving Christy Clark one last chance to get big money out of B.C. politics this spring – when I bring forward a bill in the legislature to ban big money for the sixth time.

What is your message to the people of British Columbia?

JH: I’m a leader who is in your corner. Unlike Christy Clark, you can count on me to stand up for your best interests, not the interests of a handful of millionaires and big donors from outside of B.C.

I want everyone in British Columbia to enjoy the opportunities I had growing up and raising my family – a strong public education system, reliable health care, good paying, secure jobs, and a safe, affordable home. I’m not going to sit back and watch Christy Clark make it harder and harder for families to build a secure future for their children.

We can’t afford four more years of her government.

We want to make life easier for you, your friends and your family by scrapping the unfair and inefficient MSP tax, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and bringing in $10 a day child care.

I’ll scrap Christy Clark’s billion-dollar giveaway to millionaires and put that money toward making life more affordable for regular people and families.

I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and pull people together to fix the problems left behind by Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberal government. Whether it’s unaffordable housing, portables instead of classrooms, or the lack of family doctors, I’m ready to solve the problems that matter, because I’m looking out for you.

It’s time to build a better B.C. for everyone.

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