B.C. Liberals promise $100 million to improve rural internet access
Published Sunday, October 18, 2020 11:57AM PDT Last Updated Sunday, October 18, 2020 7:26PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- The leaders of British Columbia's main political parties were back on the campaign trail on Vancouver Island and in the south-central Interior on Sunday, making pledges on issues ranging from wild salmon protection to home ownership as the provincial election entered its final week.
Provincial Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson brought his campaign to Osoyoos, B.C., promising to spend $100 million on improving internet access in rural communities if elected after the Oct. 24 vote.
He said the money would also support better mobile connectivity in large parts of the province where it's impossible to get a cellphone signal.
The pledge would match $100 million the province has invested so far in the Connecting British Columbia program created in 2015, with the largest infusion of $50 million announced last April.
Wilkinson also touted the Liberals' promises to eliminate the provincial sales tax for a year and implement a $7,000 annual tax cut to help older people remain in their homes rather than entering assisted-living or long-term care.
Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau, meanwhile, criticized her rivals' records on housing affordability during a campaign stop in Duncan, B.C.
Furstenau said the Liberals treated the early days of the housing affordability crisis as an “economic boom,” in which real estate prices drove up wealth for homeowners in particular neighbourhoods.
She said the boom came at an enormous cost, as a generation of young people in B.C. have been priced out of owning homes in their communities.
Furstenau acknowledged progress to cool the housing market and protect renters under the NDP minority government, which the Greens supported, but says government can't keep “tinkering around the edges” of the crisis.
Furstenau promised the Greens would do more to reduce speculation in the housing market, tackle rising insurance costs in strata buildings and support people who spend more than 30 per cent of their income on rent.
NDP Leader John Horgan was also on Vancouver Island, promising action to protect and revitalize wild salmon stocks while visiting Campbell River, B.C.
He said a re-elected NDP government would double its contribution to the B.C. salmon restoration and innovation fund, a nearly $143-million partnership with Ottawa.
The province currently contributes 30 per cent and the federal government provides 70 per cent for the fund that focuses on innovation, infrastructure and science partnerships to support sustainable fishing practices and protect wild salmon.
“I understand that the constitutional experts will tell us that the federal government is O.K. with managing the fishery. I'm here to say today that British Columbians want a greater say in managing that fishery and we've been doing that over the past three years,” he said.
Furstenau responded to Horgan's announcement in a news release, saying the initial funding for the salmon restoration and innovation fund arose from work by the Greens' former interim leader Adam Olsen.
She said the Greens would go further than the New Democrats by cancelling open-net ocean-based fish farm tenures and providing support for the transition to land-based pens throughout B.C.'s coast.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2020.