BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson Address to Delegates at UBCM 2018

MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena Andrew Wilkinson. Photography by John Lehmann

All across B.C., we’ve seen natural disasters like never before.

We’ve just followed a terrible spring flood season with the worst summer for wildfires in B.C.’s history.

From Chilliwack, Grand Forks, Summerland, and Burns Lake – unprecedented

And many communities like Williams Lake are still struggling to recover from 2017.

These mayors and councillors have been on the front lines.

On behalf of the people of B.C. – thank you for your service.

We’ve had two record wildfire seasons in a row.

People of B.C. expect us all to manage fires better.

When the world around us changes, we need to change.

We are calling for a new wildfire recovery and prevention program to prevent wildfire and assist with recovery when it does hit our communities.

Mayors and councillors have stood up for their communities this year, and we need to recognize their work:

 

Stew Young – Langford

Walt Cobb – Williams Lake

Malcolm Brodie – Richmond

Carol Le Clerc – Terrace

Wendy Booth, Regional Director, Kootenays /outgoing UBCM President

Arjun Singh – Kamloops Councillor / incoming UBCM President

 

Twenty years ago, the relationship between the province and municipalities was very different.

The NDP government of the day had cut in half – and then eliminated – revenue sharing.

With spending out of control, and our economy crashing, the NDP turned to municipalities to pay the ever-mounting bills.

Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals said its time for government to work in partnership with local government.

The BC Liberals brought in the Community Charter.

The BC Liberals got a deal with the federal government to match infrastructure funding.

And the BC Liberals convinced the Feds to direct their gasoline tax revenue to the UBCM for distribution to local governments and spent on transportation.

We believe that if there’s a local problem, local government will know best how to fix it.

And the provincial government’s role is to provide support.

We need to work hand in hand for the people of B.C.

To many of us, this seems like a simple common sense idea.

And it worked for over 16 years. But now it’s changing.

It’s been extremely disappointing to watch the NDP take a high handed approach to local government.

Unfortunately, this is part of a trend from the NDP government.

They’re ignoring your strongly held views.

Let’s remember –

The theme of this conference is Communication, Collaboration, and Cooperation.

But the NDP’s tax policies fly in the face of those words.

Let’s start with their Employer Health Tax.

The cost to municipalities will be millions of dollars every year.

Next year Maple Ridge will pay a 400% increase in health premiums.

New Westminster: another 400% increase.

Oak Bay goes from $83,000 to $450,000. More than 400%.

Prince George. From $330,000 to $1.6 million

Saanich. From $208,000 this year to just under $2 million next year. Ten-fold.

Vancouver. A 600% increase from $2.5M – $17.5M.

How do they expect you to afford these massive increases?

The only options are layoffs, reduced services, or property tax hikes?

You asked to be kept whole – and the NDP flatly refused.

Another major tax issue: NDP’s phony Speculation Tax.

It’s a tax on retirement, plain and simple.

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater has been a real champion for his community – and communities across the province – in fighting this tooth and nail.

And we’re with him 100 percent.

And why are the NDP tearing apart retirement dreams?

Picking winners and losers. Friends and enemies.

That’s not the role of government…

That’s just plain wrong.

Which makes the NDP’s phony Speculation Tax all the more infuriating.

It’s deliberately misnamed to fool British Columbians.

It has no relationship to speculation in our real estate market at all.

Two-thirds of the people who will be paying this tax will be from right here in BRITISH COLUMBIA!

People who own retirement homes and family cabins.

So what this phony tax DOES DO, is penalize British Columbians.

It also means housing projects are being cancelled.

Projects from Parksville to Radium Hotsprings – all scaled down, in trouble, or not happening at all.

The BC Liberals have already proposed a different idea.

We put a bill before the Legislature for a tax on flipping of pre-sale condos.

This would be a REAL tax on speculation, and on the people who use housing as a stock market.

We do need to take strong action to make sure British Columbians can afford to raise their families here.

But punishing homeowners, your communities, and the people who are trying to create new housing is the WRONG way to do it.

So we’re going to be working with Mayors like Doug Findlater to push back the NDP on this unfair tax.

Because that’s what it means to stand up for local government.

And now let’s talk about the issue of the year, cannabis.

This is not fun and games, folks.

I’ve seen it in the clinic, and you’ve seen it on the streets.

Public safety should be government’s top priority.

As local governments you should have the final say in how cannabis is sold in your communities.

When Mayor Lois Jackson and her council in Delta say they don’t want cannabis grown in greenhouses of Delta – then cannabis should not be grown in greenhouses in Delta.

And in Richmond, when Mayor Malcolm Brodie and his council make it crystal clear that they do not want marijuana sold at retail in Richmond, then marijuana should not be sold at retail in Richmond. Period.

Because municipalities will end up carrying the enforcement costs and could see very little of the revenue.

We will be watching closely to make sure you get your fair share.

Because that’s what it means to stand up for local government.

And there’s another way local voices are being silenced.

We are deeply concerned about the NDP’s attempt to take local voices out of Victoria.

That’s what happens with a Prop Rep system.

Many of you work closely with your local MLA.

Under Prop Rep, this relationship ends.

It means massive ridings

Multiple MLAs chosen off a party list

And MLAs appointed by party bosses after the election and from outside your region

So who is asking for this?

The NDP have stacked the deck and rigged the game in order to make sure this referendum passes.

Why? So the Green Party will keep them in power.

So local representation will be lost because of a backroom political game.

The prop rep referendum must be defeated.

We need to fight to keep local voices in the legislature and hope you’ll join us.

Because that’s what it means to stand up for local government.

By working together we can stand up for things that make this province thrive – for enterprise and for choice.

Let’s start with how we insure our cars.

ICBC is broken.

The NDP have laid blame at the feet of B.C. drivers, instead of overhauling a broken system.

It’s time for a complete overhaul of auto insurance in B.C.

It’s a 45 year old state-run monopoly that doesn’t work anymore.

And when a program doesn’t work anymore you have to be bold enough to fix it.

Because making the same errors for 45 more years is not leadership.

And there’s another area where British Columbians need choice.

Because freedom and choice are values we all hold dear.

It’s the freedom to work on a construction project without being forced to join a big union.

That’s a freedom at risk.

And there’s another one at risk.

The chance to start a small business without fear that government will drive you out of business with punitive taxes and property taxes forced onto local government by the NDP.

The NDP can make up names for their taxes and agreements – but the result remains the same.

They are taking away your choices and destroying opportunity all across B.C.

Because government cannot create opportunity by taxing us until we can’t stand it anymore.

B.C. should be the place where dreams come true.

I have three young adult children who are just getting going in life.

I want them to be able to prosper – and I want them to believe – to know – that they can prosper right here in B.C.

But instead we’re all worried about the cost of housing, gas, and food.

We want our kids to focus on opportunity, not on taxes that make the cost of living unaffordable.

Let’s think big picture.

1 million more people are going to arrive in the Lower Mainland over the next 25 years.

Where are they going to live in this expensive housing market?

How are they going to get around?

The answer is clear.

We need a 30-year plan for the Lower Mainland.

No more one offs… no more building a single bridge without a plan for the rest of our transportation network.

The Massey Tunnel replacement project has been killed by the NDP.

Leaving the biggest traffic bottleneck in Western Canada untouched.

And we’re getting less bridge for more money on the Pattullo Bridge project with the cost of on-ramps on the Surrey side being downloaded to local government.

And it’s not just the big Lower Mainland transit projects that worry us.

Because it also means that your municipal projects won’t happen under the NDP.

Your local projects don’t make as many splashy headlines, but these critical projects need provincial funds just the same.

The NDP are following the bright lights of politics in the Lower Mainland.

And they’re completely ignoring your less glamorous – but critical – municipal projects.

Let’s not forget that sewer and water projects – even if they don’t get headlines – they really are the meat and potatoes of local government.

And you need to get faster answers to grant requests.

The never-ending waiting game only leads to missed construction deadlines and delayed or cancelled projects.

By the time you have an answer, the project is no longer affordable – or you’ve spent more on the application than the grant is worth… just to get to No.

Let’s create a streamlined applications process that will help provide certainty – sooner.

And let’s talk about housing.

Finding a place to call home for the 1 million new neighbours we’re expecting from Revelstoke to Oak Bay won’t be easy.

We need a housing program that will generate a massive increase in supply.

Let’s get British Columbians working to house British Columbians!

Our housing problems will not be solved by piling on tax after tax after tax.

That’s ridiculous.

Our housing crisis will only be solved with beds and roofs.

And it can be done. Just look at what they’re doing in Langford.

Mayor Stew Young and council have reduced barriers to housing growth, and Langford kept up with demand in one of the fastest growing communities in our province.

They’re getting projects through the permitting process – fast.

In Langley, permitting times are ten times faster than in Vancouver.

If places like Langford and Langley can do it, so can every municipality.

Because – from housing to public safety, we are better when we work together.

We should be working together to make B.C. a place where the future is bright.

To support excitement about what the future holds.

B.C. needs to be the place where your kids get to say:

I got the job!

I got into my program!

We bought that townhouse!

That’s the British Columbia we need to build.

That’s the spirit of B.C.

And that’s why we do this work.

We should all have a shot at building the life we strive for.

A society where kids can have the same opportunities and chances that their parents had – and even better.

And with people like you in City Hall – people who are working tirelessly on behalf of your communities, who won’t stop until you’ve made a difference – I know that B.C. will be an amazing place for our kids.

As BC Liberal Leader – I believe that local governments should have the freedom to fix their own problems.

And when something’s not working in your community – the provincial government should listen.

As Official Opposition, we will be standing by your side

So we can all be proud to say that we can make BC a better place – for everyone!

Because that’s what it means to stand up for local government!

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