Premier John Horgan used his speech to B.C. municipal leaders Friday to pitch a ‘yes’ vote in the coming referendum on electoral reform, while steering clear of his government’s controversial tax policies.
Horgan was warmly received by Union of B.C. Municipalities delegates in Whistler, promising to be “a partner, not a senior partner” as B.C. works on ways to protect communities from wildfires. The second straight summer of flooding and widespread fires means a new approach is needed, and he pleaded with local politicians to share their ideas as the government prepares its next budget.
Horgan described flying up and down the lower Fraser River during the flood threat this spring, with local opposition MLAs. He pledged to tackle the hugely expensive work needed to strengthen flood control and helping communities reduce their interface forest fire risk.
“This is not another review, we need your ideas,” Horgan said. “We need a call to action.”
Horgan described his evolution on proportional representation, which he opposed in 2005 and now promotes as mail-in ballots are prepared for a November vote.
After four years in opposition to “a government that was dismissive of everything I brought forward,” he supported proportional representation in 2009 and is now promoting it in cooperation with the B.C. Green Party.
B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson described the premier’s speech as a rehash of well-known policies of the minority NDP government, and took issue with Horgan’s theme of a new, more co-operative approach to governing.
The referendum has been dealt with in a “high-handed” manner, with no maps and little time for people to consider the options, Wilkinson said.
An improved federal-provincial infrastructure fund for B.C. communities doesn’t make up for a huge tax increase faced by municipalities and businesses next year due to the NDP government’s payroll tax for health care, he said.
B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver reiterated his opposition to a $400-a-year rebate for renters, in spite of a potential 4.5 per cent rent increase allowed under provincial legislation. Handing out money to renters only allows landlords to raise rents when they might not otherwise, Weaver said.