B.C.’s three main party leaders went head to head in the only televised debate on the 2020 election issues Tuesday, with support for business in the COVID-19 pandemic and the struggle to protect seniors in care among the top issues.
The timing of the election itself was an early target for opposition leaders.
B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson pressed NDP leader John Horgan on the delay in business support caused by the surprise election he called for Oct. 24, after a long delay for consultation. Wilkinson cited the latest survey showing that up to a quarter of B.C. businesses expect to close for good.
Horgan gave a now-familiar answer that the “it’s never a bad time” to consult the public, either on business relief money or in a general election.
B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau was a week into her new role when the election was called, and called Horgan on terminating the minority government agreement she had promised to uphold.
“You’re willing to break your word, you’re willing to break your agreement, and you’re willing to break the legislation,” Furstenau said.
Horgan went after Wilkinson on the state of seniors’ care homes, nine out of 10 of which were not providing the province’s level of daily care due to lack of staff before the pandemic. The NDP government has moved since COVID-19 to increase staff wages and make sure care aides aren’t working multiple part-time jobs at different facilities.
All three party leaders endorsed the current mix of public and private for-profit seniors care, with additional staffing. Horgan has promised to hire 7,000 more care home staff, and Wilkinson has vowed a construction program to give all long-term care home residents a private room.
All three leaders clashed over clean energy policy, with Horgan calling his CleanBC program for housing and transportation world-leading. Wilkinson called CleanBC “a giant hot-air balloon with not much in it,” adding a quarter of the plan isn’t funded as greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise in B.C. up until the pandemic slowdown.
Wilkinson called for the province to greatly expand wind and solar energy, which works with the province’s network of hydro dams. He accused Horgan of “importing dirty American power,” a reference to the NDP’s proposed changes to electricity imports. That move was objected to by Indigenous communities who want local power projects, and the legislation was withdrawn when the two Green Party MLAs refused to support it.