The unprecedented civility and cooperation between political parties in the BC Legislature throughout the COVID-19 pandemic was fragged in public Tuesday night when Green and Liberal Party Leaders Sonia Furstenau and Andrew Wilkinson tag-teamed against NDP Leader John Horgan for calling a snap election during a pandemic.
Fursteanau had given Horgan assurances that his government was stable, the Greens would not trigger an election and that Horgan's snap election call was therefore unnecessary.
“We didn’t need to be in this election,” Furstenau said Tuesday night in what is to be the only televised leaders debate.
She said “you’re willing to break you word,” in order to put his own interests ahead of citizens in calling an early election.
Wilkinson said all the parties agreed to work together to get B.C. through the pandemic, and calling an early election was a breach of the agreement to work together for the good of all.
"He decided to look out for himself by calling this unnecessary election," Wilkinson said.
Horgan said he "grappled" with the decision but defended it by saying that B.C. will be dealing with the pandemic and its fallout well into next fall "and beyond" and that's therefore necessary to have a stong mandate.
"I think the best course of action is to put the politics and the election behind us and focus on the needs of British Columbians," he said.
In a wide ranging debate that covered everything from homelessness and child care to racism, leaders were asked questions agreed to by major broadcasters and of each other.
Horgan displayed none of the testiness Tuesday night that earned him the nickname "Hulk Horgan" while he was in opposition.
Wilkinson said BC “desperately needs a plan” for its economic future, suggesting everything the NDP has done to date has short-term.
“We believe that the livelihoods of British Columbians are at stake," Wilkinson said.
The Liberals have vowed to eliminate the PST for one year to help kickstart the economy and leave more money in the pockets of B.C. consumers.
Furstenau slammed the pledge, saying it would cut $10 billion in government revenue at a time when government spending is needed.
“Why would you want to put more deficit into government coffers right now?” Furstenau asked.
Wilkinson responded that deficit spending is necessary in what is tantamount to a "wartime economy," and vowed a Liberal government would balance the budget in five years.
“We can get back to a balanced budget within about five years," he said.
Moderator Shachi Kurl said B.C.'s economic recovery is driven in part by large resource projects, like the LNG Canada project. She asked Furstenau if she would support those projects, if the Greens are once again in the position of propping up a minority government.
She didn't directly answer the question, but hinted she wouldn't.
"If we are propping up a dying fossil fuel industry with taxpayer money, what we're going to get on more emergencies in the future," Furstenau said, pointing to forest fires in the U.S. as an imediate example.
"There is no doubt that we are in a climate emergency right now and the last thing that we need from governments is to be doubling down on investing and propping up and subsizing to the tune of $6 billion this industry."
The pandemic revealed problems in B.C.'s long-term care home system, which has suffered the most in terms of infections and death rates -- problems that Horgan said the previous Liberal government created through cuts to front-line workers.
“You fired 10,000 people," Horgan said, adding most were women. The consequences were “profound and tragic,” when the pandemic hit, Horgan said. The NDP have pledged to hire and train 7,000 front-line health care and long term care workers.
Horgan was taken to task for not delivering on his pledge to provide $10 a day child care by 2027, and was asked if he thought that target could still be met. Horgan said he thinks it can be met, but also blamed the Green Party for not supprting the NDP's plans for day care.
“We can get it done in the next seven years," Horgan said.
On housing affordability, Wilkinson said the NDP speculation and vacancy tax is a failure and said rent has increased, on average, $2,000 a year for many renters since the NDP took office.
“You’ve got to get out of your neighbourhood and talk to people my friend,” Horgan snapped back, adding that the tax has freed up 11,000 condos for renters.
Horgan was taken to task for delays and cost overruns on the Site C dam, something he managed to dodge by reminding viewers that Site C dam was a Liberal project that his government only agreed to proceed with because cancelling it would mean having to eat $4 billion in sunk costs.
“Site C was not our project," Horgan said. "We inherited it. We’re doing t best we can.”
This article was originally published here.