Q&A with BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson

Q&A with BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson

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Dan Walton
Oliver Chronicle

It looks like Jason Kenney might become the Premier of Alberta tomorrow. How do you feel your relationship will be with him if he does get elected and “turn off the taps”?

The important thing is Canada is one country and it serves nobody to have provinces squabbling with each other. So our position will be that John Horgan’s got to get up to see Jason Kenney as soon as possible and solve these problems or we’re going to pay the price for this pointless dispute across the Rockies.

Aside from contention with Alberta, is there anything the provincial government can do to alleviate gas prices?

There’s about 35 cents per litre of provincial taxes in every litre of gas and for a year now I’ve been asking for the provincial government to put some kind of cap on gas prices and to provide a break on provincial taxes when it surges up like it is today.

When it comes to ICBC – what would you do to actually make car insurance more affordable?

BC drivers deserve to have a choice and we need to put all the options on the table. Provide pricing for all of them and then talk to British Columbians about the auto insurance system they would prefer.

Right now we’re told there’s this 46 year old state-run monopoly that the NDP are in love with, and they refuse to discuss anything else. Why can’t we offer private insurance for things like taxis? Why can’t we have insurers enter the market and provide some choices for drivers in B.C.?

Municipal policing costs rise from 30 per cent to 70 once the population reaches 5,000. Do you think that formula could be readjusted?

This is something that’s happening across British Columbia. There are a number of communities that have passed the 5,000-person threshold, and obviously as the population grows up to now five million, this is going to become more and more of an issue in certain communities. Some smaller communities are static or shrinking but others, especially in the Okanagan, are growing and so they are going to face this issue and it should be reviewed.

The new Mayor of Oliver promised to form a Crime Prevention Committee, and the first meeting was just held last week. What do you think about this kind of local initiative?

An interesting problem across British Columbia about crime related to addictions. And we have not seen from the NDP much of a focus on addictions, they’d rather talk about homelessness. And the two go hand-in-hand; many people who are homeless suffer from addiction and there’s a significant crime issue related to addictions. We need to get into the addictions space thoroughly and deal with treatment, rehabilitation and recovery – which the NDP don’t seem to want to talk about.

What would you say is the biggest difference as party leader between you and Christy Clark?

Well Christy didn’t have the interior roots that I have. I grew up in Kamloops and have worked in Dease Lake, Lilouette and Campbell River, so I’ve got a really good feel for the smaller centres in British Columbia and life in the interior. And Christy came from the city that was something she was always trying to sort out. But I’m very comfortable throughout the interior.

Since the NDP holds so many urban seats, how do you plan on convincing voters from larger communities to vote Liberal?

A lot of swing seats in the suburbs of Vancouver and we’re going to be talking to people there about the cost of living, and how they’ve got to have more money in their pocket if they’re going to get ahead and they’ve got to be able to invest in their kids and allow them to get ahead instead of face a declining quality of life.

As leader of the opposition, do you prefer having a coalition opposition or would you prefer an NDP majority?

We’re in a good space in our caucus with 42 members in the legislature, it’s a very unified caucus across a wide political spectrum

And the NDP have 41 seats plus three Green Party members who are prepared to support them through thick and thin, so I think the thing that’s going to push the next election date is when the NDP and the Greens get fed up with each other.

There was a rare occurrence on April 4 when the NDP passed an LNG bill with the support of the BC Liberals and not the BC Greens. Could the BC Liberals have crashed the government by voting against the project?

It’s a difficult topic because we’re looking for strong investment and development across northern British Columbia which will benefit the entire province, so it will be irresponsible to vote against it, but at the same time we wanted to make sure it was on the right terms. So we put forward a number of amendments to legislation, and sadly, the Green Party was quite happy to defeat thoughtful amendments because they feel obliged to support the NDP, and then vote against the bill at the end of the day. So the Green Party is caught between a rock and a hard place – they don’t know what they stand for.

The speculation tax – how would you convince someone from B.C. who can’t afford their first home that they’re better off without a tax on people who can afford two homes?

The speculation tax has very little to do with speculation and has everything to do with slowing down the construction sector in the places that are affected by it. So West Kelowna and Kelowna are dramatically affected by the speculation tax and canceled projects. The rest of the Okanagan hasn’t received this punitive tax from the NDP yet but it may well in the future.

And we gotta be clear: the speculation tax will not create a single new housing unit in British Columbia, if anything it will slow down construction and there will be less and less opportunities to find a place to live.

If you were unable to afford your first home do you think you would oppose the speculation tax?

Well you gotta remember that second homes are mostly for retirement areas like cabins. There will be 32,000 British Columbians who are subject to the speculation tax, mostly on summer cabins. So these aren’t places that people will go and live, they’re places that are seasonal. And so the speculation tax really serves no purpose in creating housing. What we’re seeing is a collapse in the real estate sales market in most of British Columbia because there’s no confidence in the housing market under the NDP.

One last question – with the Canucks not in this year’s playoffs, who are you rooting for?

Well the Canucks are a sad tale now, going on what – 45 years? You keep hoping they’ll pull it off somehow and move it ahead. We’ve seen them in the final game of the playoffs twice and both times they choked. So I guess we have to keep cheering for the Canucks but it’s getting to be a long, slow pathway to glory.

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