B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson released his party’s platform for the Oct. 24 election Tuesday, as party leaders prepared for their only leaders’ debate in the surprise election called by NDP leader John Horgan.
Wilkinson pledged to amend B.C.’s election law if he forms the next government, banning elections during provincial states of emergency such as the one that has been extended since the COVID-19 pandemic began early this year. Horgan used the provision in the current law to advise Lt. Gov. Janet Austin to call the election a year before it is scheduled.
The platform includes a pledge to build 10,000 new child care spaces, and appoint an independent commission to review all provincial taxes, including the 23 new or increased taxes that the B.C. Liberals say have been added during three years of NDP minority government.
The platform includes an ambitious 60-day program for a B.C. Liberal government, including a COVID-19 economic response plan that incorporates Wilkinson’s promise to cancel the provincial sales tax for a year and bring it back at a lower rate.
The 60-day plan includes a pledge to “improve students’ and teachers’ health and safety, by implementing a province-wide framework for hybrid and online learning options, promoting distance learning programs and restoring the $12 million the NDP cut from independent distributed learning programs.”
With B.C.’s deficit already estimated at nearly $13 billion for the current fiscal year, Wilkinson repeated his vow that a B.C. Liberal government would not cut services to balance the books. The platform contains more than $2 billion in new spending commitments, including an additional $200 million to improve health care.
The PST cut alone would cost nearly $7 billion in the first year. Wilkinson said his target is to return B.C. to a balanced budget within five years, but for the near future, every developed country is borrowing heavily to get through the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the economy.
A top priority is tourism, where the B.C. Liberals have promised loan guarantees as bridge financing for tourism and hospitality business that are worried about getting through the winter.
“We need to avoid a complete collapse in our tourism industry, and that’s what we intend to do,” Wilkinson said.