B.C. party leaders squared off in their main TV debate of the provincial election campaign Wednesday.
Liberal leader Christy Clark, NDP leader John Horgan and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver started with a series of questions on housing affordability.
Clark took aim at Horgan’s proposal to provide renters with a $400-a-year tax credit, and accused him of wanting to cancel her government’s program to offer second mortgages up to $37,500 with five years interest free.
The renters’ tax credit amounts to little more than a dollar a day, Clark said.
Horgan responded that the B.C. Liberals’ 15-per-cent foreign buyers’ tax has slowed the rise of prices in Metro Vancouver, but young people are still leaving B.C.
“They don’t want to live in a basement apartment, but that’s all they can find,” Horgan said.
Weaver defended his plan to double the foreign buyers’ tax for “mega-mansions” costing more than $1 million. He said his plan would make it easier to buy more modest homes, and Clark’s government has ignored high housing prices in Kelowna, Victoria and other B.C. urban areas.
Horgan asked about temper
In a section on leadership, moderator Jennifer Burke put Horgan on the spot about his temper, asking him if he has an “anger management problem.”
Horgan said he is passionate about public service, and when he sees battles with teachers and children in care left to take their own lives, “I get angry.”
Weaver challenged Horgan about being a “career politician” who has spent 16 years in opposition, saying no to the B.C. Liberals. In a heated exchange that followed, Weaver asked, “are you going to lose your temper on me now, Mr. Horgan, because you did last week.”
Clark ducked questions about big donations received by her party, referring to the province’s record on job creation. Horgan said he has moved six times to ban “big money” from B.C. politics, and would do so immediately if he forms government.
MSP a hot topic
Horgan and Weaver clashed over their plans to eliminate Medical Services Plan premiums. The Green platform calls for MSP to shift to income taxes, and Weaver accused Horgan of having “a plan to have a plan” with different claims about how Canada’s only medical service charges would be eliminated.
Horgan replied that he has been “crystal clear from the start.” He will match the B.C. Liberals’ promise to cut MSP premiums by half in January 2018, and eliminate the rest of it by the end of a four-year term in government.
Clark said the NDP will also move the burden of MSP premiums onto other taxes. Horgan noted that the B.C. Liberal government raised MSP premiums every year until they were doubled, and promised to cut them on the eve of an election.
Clark targets Horgan on health spending
On health care and surgical waiting lists, Horgan promoted his plan to develop urgent care centres that he said will take pressure off emergency wards.
Clark shot back that during the 1990s, the NDP government didn’t add a single doctor training space, closed hospitals and laid off nurses, because they ran out of money to provide services.
Weaver said his approach is not to throw money at a top-down system, but to develop community care that would keep more people out of hospital.