B.C.’s four major party leaders made their best pitch for voter support in a 90-minute TV debate Monday evening, with economic and resource issues dominating.
B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark pressed her attack on Adrian Dix, the front-running leader of the NDP, accusing him of advocating big spending on government programs and restrictive environmental views that deter industrial development.
“The NDP plan would rob Peter to pay Paul, hoping Paul will vote NDP,” Clark said. “My plan is to put both Peter and Paul to work.”
Dix referred to B.C.’s ninth-place position in provincial job growth so far this year. “Neither Peter nor Paul are working,” he said.
Both Dix and Clark pressed B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins on his rosy revenue forecasts, despite a promise to phase out the carbon tax on fossil fuels that would cost the provincial treasury more than $1 billion a year.
Cummins responded to Clark’s jab about him being forced to fire four of his candidates for various indiscretions. One of them was accused of impaired driving, Cummins said, adding that one B.C. Liberal candidate is seeking re-election after being convicted of the same offence.
Green Party leader Jane Sterk was on the defensive about her long list of promises, including a guaranteed annual income to replace existing social programs, and extensive social programs for rural areas. Asked about her proposal to immediately raise the carbon tax by 66 per cent, Sterk described it as a “gradual increase.”
As they have in the first two weeks of the campaign for the May 14 B.C. election, Clark and Dix clashed over oil and natural gas development. Dix denied there was a plan to impose a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, saying Cariboo-Chilcotin NDP candidate Charlie Wyse was wrong in referring to one last week.
Clark stuck to her five conditions for approving new heavy oil pipelines, refusing to endorse or oppose either proposal to bring more Alberta oil to the West Coast. She pressed Dix on his reversal to oppose an expansion of the 60-year-old pipeline to Burnaby, which has seen increased demand for crude exports.
B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark spars with NDP leader Adrian Dix during Monday’s televised leaders debate.