supportive housing
(Province of British Columbia/Flickr)

BC NDP leader John Horgan announced the party’s election campaign platform in Vancouver Tuesday morning, less than three weeks before general voting day on October 24.

“This election is about what kind of future British Columbians want as we face a new reality and move towards full recovery,” said Horgan.

“Our plan provides the support people need right now and lays out a vision for how BC can emerge from the pandemic stronger and more secure than ever.”

See also: Where each B.C. political party stands on mental health, addiction and the overdose crisis

Many of the 154 policies and initiatives released are existing ongoing projects, or things that were announced and underway long before the election was called.

Nevertheless, Tuesday’s platform launch contained a plethora of new promises, particularly on issues related to health care, housing, capital projects, and the overdose crisis.

Direct cash and benefits pledges

One of the biggest promises in the NDP’s platform is a one-time recovery benefit of up to $1,000 for families that earn less than $125,000 per year, and a $500 deposit for single people who earn less than $62,000 per year.

When asked about their rationale for this funding, given that there are several existing benefits packages for those who are struggling financially during the pandemic, party leader John Horgan said this initiative is a way to put money in people’s pockets so that they can spend and reinvest in local businesses.

For people earning minimum wage in B.C., the NDP platform promises that after it reaches $15/hour in 2021, they would tie that wage amount to the rate of inflation, making it increase incrementally every year.

Another major economic policy announcement was that if re-elected, the BC NDP would instate a freeze on rent increases until 2022, and limit rent increases after that point.

This freeze would still apply to people who have already received a notice of rent increase for next year. Before the pandemic, rent increases were capped at 1.4 per cent per year.

In a further promise to support renters, Horgan said the NDP would bring in an income-tested renter’s rebate of $400 per year for households earning up to $80,000 annually that are not already receiving other rental support. This renter’s rebate was first promised by the NDP during their 2017 election campaign.

Moreover, the party pledged to create a new Recovery Investment Fund by reinvesting 1 per cent of GDP or around $3 billion in new capital projects over the next three years. This money would be slated to fund the construction of new schools and hospitals.

The NDP’s platform also promises to make transit free for children under 12 for both BC Transit and TransLink users.

In the City of Victoria, transit is already free for children under age 18.

Health care

In the health care sector, the BC NDP promised to open a second medical school, potentially in the Lower Mainland, to help expand the province’s health care workforce. The decision on where this will be located will be made after conversations with post-secondary institutions.

The party also pledged to create a 10-year Cancer Care Action Plan that would aim to improve individualized care for cancer patients, and expand funding for research and diagnostics in the province.

If re-elected, the BC NDP says they would launch a new ‘Silver Alert’ system—a replica of Amber Alerts, but to help first responders locate missing seniors instead of children.

On the COVID-19 front, Horgan pledged to offer free vaccines to all B.C. residents once it is available. However this has been criticized as a moot promise by many, including BC Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson.

“In what world would a life-saving vaccine not* be free to British Columbians? It’s our duty to provide healthcare to everyone in B.C.,” said Wilkinson in a tweet.

One major new pledge does stand out: the NDP has promised to make prescription contraception free for everyone if they are elected. No further details were presented, however, on how much this measure would cost.

Education and childcare

One of the NDP’s first promises during their campaign was reiterated in their campaign platform: the expansion of their existing $10/day child care spaces, through a partnership with the federal government.

The party did not specify how many spaces they would add if re-elected. They said that since 2018, over 32,000 child care spaces have been offered at less than $10 a day.

They also plan to form partnerships with crown corporations, universities, local
governments, First Nations, and public and private sector employers to make sure new office spaces include room for child care options.

To accomplish all this, the BC NDP pledged that responsibility of fulfilling these child care promises would be brought under the purview of the Ministry of Education.

Within the K-12 system, the party promises to provide investments to schools that would allow them to purchase all the classroom supplies they need so that parents and teachers are no longer have to pay out of pocket for these items.

Climate change and overdose crises

As part of their plan to address and mitigate the impacts of climate change, the NDP says they would remove the PST on electric bike purchases, and provide a new income-tested incentive for people to purchase new and used electric vehicles.

Horgan also promised to begin banning single-used plastics through a provice-wide approach. In B.C., the City of Victoria led the charge on this issue by starting the process of banning plastic bags in 2017 and receiving the green light from the Supreme Court to implement it this year.

Last year, the federal government also announced their initiative to implement a plastic bag ban by 2021.

In response to the rising number of overdose deaths in recent months, Horgan pledged that the NDP would continue to push the federal government to decriminalize the use of drugs, in accordance with the recommendations of the provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

 

Besides this approach, the party promised to “develop a made-in-BC solution”—a recommendation that was made by Henry in her 2019 report, but was initially dismissed by the incumbent government who stated that decriminalization is a federal issue.

The party’s full platform can be viewed in its entirety on their website.

Victoria Buzz will have full coverage and comparisons of each party’s platforms once they become available.