BC United party leader Kevin Falcon chose the growing community of Chilliwack to pitch his plan to fix the problems plaguing B.C.
About one year out before the next provincial election, Falcon breezed into Smoking Gun, a downtown coffee shop in Chilliwack on Tuesday (Oct. 24) to share his vision for the newly renamed BC United party.
“I think we’re at a time in history when there’s a lot of division in politics right now, across North America and around the world. So uniting people together with a common purpose to try to fix things is something I think a lot of people can get behind,” Falcon said in an interview with The Chilliwack Progress.
From health care, crime, and drug policy, to BC Ferries, transportation and infrastructure, a lot of things “are broken” right now, he said, “and need fixing.”
He points to the effort by the NDP to decriminalize small amounts of hard drugs as a “failure.”
“Honestly, it was like throwing fuel on an already raging bonfire and made things so much worse,” he said. “I think if we get back to providing proper treatment for folks struggling with addiction, and make sure we fund it so that they get the care they need and deserve, and we will start to get different results than what we’re seeing on the streets today.”
It ended up being a “reckless” mistake since it was rolled out without having “the proper guardrails” in place first.
So how will he tackle the thorny issue of housing?
“Well, first of all, we have to recognize that the NDP government made a fatal decision, misdiagnosing the problem,” Falcon said. “They said that the problem was greedy developers and Chinese foreign buyers and they just completely missed the fact that lack of supply was also contributing massively to the problem we face.
“So what they did was they added a whole blizzard of taxes to housing, and yet if you‘re adding more to the cost of housing, it doesn’t make it more affordable. And not surprisingly, seven years later, we’ve ended up with the most unaffordable housing in North America and the highest rents in all of Canada.”
He points to the pivotal issue of supply.
“We have to make sure we get more supply into the marketplace. The people that can best deliver that supply are the private sector and the not-for-profit sector, but they’ve got to be properly incentivized, and working with local governments.”
Falcon ticked off health-care concerns: one in five can’t get a family doctor; a million people waiting to see a specialist; and the government is sending cancer patients down south for treatment.
Attracting more trained physicians, and international medical graduates to come to B.C. as well as convincing the kids who “studied abroad” to come back” to practise medicine here would help.
“And I’m going to make sure we take a chainsaw to the stupid rules and regulations that have built up over 100 years so we can get them in, and helping people,” he vowed.
BC United would expand and invest in infrastructure “whether it’s hospitals, and we’ve got a record of building 14 hospitals while the former government, whether it’s highways and roads, or the 10-lane Port Mann Bridge.
“That’s why we want to expand Highway 1 right through six lanes, right through to Chilliwack. We’ve got to get on with these things though,” Falcon said. “It can’t just be about making promises and announcements, and re-announcements.
“It’s got to be about actually getting things built and done.”
It was no accident the leader of the Opposition was visiting Chilliwack this week with a press stop, and visits with business and agriculture leaders. Chilliwack’s two provincial ridings voted NDP in the last election, sweeping out the BC Liberal stronghold that had prevailed in an orange wave. So party officials are paying close attention.
“I think Chilliwack is a really important area for us because it’s one of the fastest-growing communities in the country,” Falcon stated.
“You’ve got a lot of folks moving out of urban British Columbia that are moving to Chilliwack because there’s more affordability, you know, although that’s getting really tough now too and they’re facing all the challenges of a fast growing community, lack of transit, frankly, the difficulty of just getting around in the community.”
Falcon was expected to name some new BC United candidates on Oct. 25, the day after he was interviewed about his future vision for B.C.
“We only changed our names six months ago, but I feel very, very confident by the time we come up to the next election, they’re going to look at the calibre of our candidates, the quality of our platform, and they’re going to vote for the people that actually know how to get things done.”