By John Horgan
As leader of B.C.’s New Democrats, I spend plenty of time talking to British Columbians about their hopes for our province.
I have heard about their hopes for good jobs, for relief from endless cost increases, and for an end to punitive policies that drive B.C. kids into poverty.
I have heard anger and frustration that the B.C. Liberals have broken promises to protect our food supply and improve our schools.
My New Democrat team and I stood up for the hopes and concerns of British Columbians during the legislative session that ended last week. Regrettably, the B.C. Liberals had nothing but evasions when they were asked for accountability.
There are about 144,000 people in B.C. who are unemployed and looking for work. They are wondering what happened to Premier Clark’s promise to create jobs.
In the legislature, we asked the government to account for putting B.C. last in job growth while the use of temporary foreign workers rises, but they responded with empty rhetoric, cold comfort to any of the 400 newly laid-off miners struggling to support their families in Tumbler Ridge, or to a new graduate competing for jobs with 41,000 other unemployed young people in this province.
The B.C. Liberals had nothing but evasions for cash-strapped families wondering how they will afford yet more hikes in rates and fees. Within the next three years, the average B.C. family will pay $900 more thanks to a 28-per-cent increase to hydro rates and a 12-per-cent increase to medical premiums. Ferry fares shot up 7.5 per cent in three months this year, while tuition fees and car insurance costs continue to rise.
Worst of all, the B.C. Liberals continue to take money away from kids of single parents. If a single mother in this province can’t work, and she receives disability payments to support her family, any child-support payments her children receive are callously clawed back into government coffers.
It’s wrong to take money from kids in poverty, and in the legislature we called on the government to do the right thing and end the clawback. They refused, claiming the money was helping their bottom line, ignoring that it’s the children’s money in the first place, not government’s money.
For the B.C. Liberals, helping hard-working families make ends meet is just not a priority. Sadly, they’ve shown their priority is breaking election promises.
The B.C. Liberals promised, in writing, to protect agriculture during the 2013 election campaign. Yet one week ago, with no consultation, they rammed through a law that removes protection for 90 per cent of farmland in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
The B.C. Liberals also broke a key election promise to bring labour peace with teachers and stability in our schools for parents and kids.
Two court rulings — unprecedented in B.C. — have found the government violated the law in its bargaining with teachers.
The kids who were starting elementary school when then-minister Christy Clark first stripped class size and composition from bargaining are now set to graduate from high school. That means a generation of kids has been affected by the premier using them and their schools as a political football.
In the legislature, we demanded the premier bring 12 years of meddling and provocation to an end, take responsibility for the chaos her government has created in education and negotiate in good faith with B.C. teachers. All parents, kids and teachers received was escalation and provocation from the premier.
Contrary to their slogans and promises, the B.C. Liberals are making life in this province harder.
In the coming months, I look forward to hearing more from British Columbians about their hopes and concerns, holding the B.C. Liberals to account for their empty slogans and broken promises and offering strong leadership to make your life easier.
John Horgan is the leader of the B.C. New Democrat Official Opposition
This article originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun