Official Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon said British Columbia is on the “wrong track” as a result of its governing policies.
“Many of the challenges that you will face in your communities are actually the direct result of the provincial policies of this government, yet all of you are at the pointy end of the spear, when your residents come to complain about the challenges we are facing,” Falcon told delegates at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference in Vancouver Thursday.
Falcon said B.C. has the highest housing and fuel costs in North America, as well the highest average rents in Canada after six years of New Democratic government.
“I haven’t even started talking about groceries or dining out or all the other expenses that families,” Falcon said in promising that a government under his leadership would “focus like a laser beam” on cutting costs for families.
Addressing housing, Falcon accused the government of creating more bureaucracy and lacking the necessary background.
“We’ve got a bunch of people with virtually no experience in housing, trying to solve the housing crisis,” Falcon said.
Falcon said his government would work with municipalities instead of blaming them for being too slow, cut bureaucracy, and provide financial incentives to help build more housing.
When asked how a BC United government would deal with factors outside provincial control such as interest rates, demographics and global developments, Falcon repeated his claim that he knows the housing sector.
“I spent…decades in the housing sector and I know how to get things built,” he said in accusing the provincial government of having misdiagnosed the problem by blaming “evil developers and Chinese foreign buyers.”
More supply will reduce housing costs, Falcon said. “That requires a lot of coordination between federal, provincial and local governments,” he said. “It require a clear plan and it requires the ability to execute and we have none of that right now.”
Falcon warned B.C. was on the path toward becoming the next Portland or San Francisco, thanks to policies when Premier David Eby served as attorney general and housing minister.
“He made the decision to buy motels in downtown cores and warehouse people with severe mental health and addictions and made sure that they have got access to lots of free drug use and very little support,” Falcon said. Falcon also accused Eby of being soft on crime, adding that the government’s “reckless drug decriminalization” program has made things worse.
A BC United government would scrap the program until “we get the necessary guardrails in place to protect our children and families and give law enforcement the discretion they need when dealing with drug possession,” Falcon said.
Falcon said BC United’s recently released public safety plan would “prioritize the rights of law abiding citizens” over the “rights of criminals to re-offend” by aggressively filling 500 open police positions among other measures.
“(We) will look for some consequences for all criminal activity,” he said. “Not every crime deserves jail, but every crime deserves a consequence,” he added.
Falcon paired this tough-on-crime message with making treatment and recovery from drug addiction a priority, “because we want people to get better and we don’t want them to be a cost associated with that.”
Falcon also used his speech to criticize the government’s record on health care, tout BC United’s plan for an improved, less bureaucratic response to wildfires and other emergencies, and making a case that the LNG Canada project not only benefits northern communities and First Nations, but also the climate.
“Even if we shut down our entire economy, it wouldn’t come close to the contribution we can make globally by reducing emissions (in Asian countries using coal) and I want to underscore this fact, that there are countries including in Europe and Asia that are looking to jurisdictions like British Columbia, with ethical standards, high environmental standards.”
He said B.C. has an obligation to help other countries become less dependent on “coal-fired dirty power” or energy from repressive regimes like Russia’s.
“I know it’s imperfect and the purists will say, ‘well, that’s not good, we have to shut down everything today.’ I just don’t think that’s realistic based in all my years in politics…and that I think is a very important environmental initiative.”