B.C.’s NDP government has a master plan that residents are expected to accept without their concerns being heard, opposition Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson charged Sept. 26.
“That is wrong,” he said.
The message he said he’s hearing about government, the Liberal leader said, is, “Don’t talk down to me.”
Wilkinson cited as an example the arrival of hundreds of truckers at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities Vancouver conference Sept. 25 to demand that the concerns of the beleaguered forest community be heard in Victoria.
“That’s not how democracy works,” he said.
He said the forestry industry has been damaged by increased stumpage rates, making the sector unable to compete with lower costs in Alberta or other areas.
And, he said, while Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Doug Donaldson announced earlier this month a $69 million support package for workers displaced in the forestry sector downturn, $25 million was removed from the Rural Development Fund to pay for it.
And that, he said, has made it hard for forestry-linked communities to meet their responsibilities. He cited the need by Williams Lake to halt a water treatment plant to remove manganese from water due to the withdrawal of funds.
Wilkinson said the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions should assist people getting on a path to recovery from drug use rather than perpetuating addicts’ use of drugs.
Wilkinson, a doctor, conceded some part of the addict population would always need injectable narcotics but advocated a “full spectrum of care” for others “who need a pathway of recovery laid out for them by the government of British Columbia.”
“It’s not enough to say ‘Here’s free drugs,’” he said.
And, he challenged the so-called Community Benefits Agreement adding extra costs to provincial projects. He cited the upgrading of a two-kilometre Rogers Pass road section approved by the Liberals for $64 million. Under the agreement, he said, that cost has increased by $11,000 a metre.
“That’s a recovery bed for a year,” he said. “That’s someone’s life.”
Wilkinson said the Employers Health Tax is wreaking havoc in municipalities facing significant employee costs as a result. He said costs have increased 400- 600% in some Lower Mainland cities – increases that mean other services must be cut to meet those tax demands.
Wilkinson also levelled his guns at ICBC, which the NDP has said the previous Liberal government left in a financial mess.
“We have this 46-year-old state-run monster shoved down our throats,” he said, calling for greater choice. He said such a move would also assist the taxi industry, where 5,000 province-wide licence owners pay $37,000 for insurance.