Liberal MPs from around B.C. are meeting on Vancouver Island this week, hearing about the need for low-cost housing and child care as they prepare for a federal election next year.
The party’s B.C. caucus now has 18 MPs, through the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley and as far north as Kelowna, much of it fallow ground for federal Liberals until Justin Trudeau took the leadership into the 2015 election. The latest addition is former MLA Gordie Hogg, who won the Conservative stronghold of South Surrey-White Rock in a December by-election after it was vacated by former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts.
Hogg spoke with Black Press after meeting Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Vancouver Island community groups, mainly about the pressures of homeless people and a shortage of child care options for parents.
Funding applications are coming in for the Trudeau government’s national housing strategy, a $40 billion program that aims to reduce homelessness by half over 20 years. Hogg said the B.C. caucus is doing “triage” on the many requests, to represent the B.C. needs with the national caucus as housing and other funds are allocated.
Liberal MPs are also bracing for the start of work across the B.C. portion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which is being taken over by the federal government amid protests and legal action by the B.C. government in an effort to impose more restrictions on crude oil transport.
“There’s certainly a lot of controversy over it,” Hogg said. “In some of our urban ridings it’s more prevalent, although polling is telling us now that even in some of the urban ridings it is at least 50-50 and seems to be growing in favour of it. So we’ve seen a shift in terms of the public perception.”
The federal government supports the project because Alberta oilsands crude is currently selling at a discount of about $20 a barrel.
Trans Mountain has filed its latest six-month work plan with the National Energy Board, with work camps and pipe yards across the province to be set up this summer.
“The intent is to get it up and going as quickly as we can,” said Hogg.
Meanwhile, one-time Conservative leadership candidate Rick Peterson is heading a pro-resources group called Suits and Boots, planning a series of meetings and rallies. He said the recent media stunt by Greenpeace, with activists dangling off the Ironworkers’ Memorial bridge in Vancouver, appears to have backfired.
“Peterson said the group has been “overwhelmed with messages and donations” since the bridge protest ended in arrests of the participants last week.
“We can no longer stand by and let this stream of anti-resource propaganda spread like an infectious disease, so we’re gearing up for pro-resource blitz across B.C. this summer,” Peterson said.
The group plans to meet with mayors, councillors, MLAs and MPs in the Northwest, Cariboo, Okanagan, Vancouver Island and Kootenay regions.