BC party leaders to stake out positions in first election campaign debate

BC party leaders to stake out positions in first election campaign debate

In the first leader's debate of the 2017 British Columbia provincial election, B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark and NDP Leader John Horgan sparred early and often on issues ranging from housing to the fentanyl crisis to tolls. Clark responded to a question on home ownership by touting her government's new policy to provide interest-free loans up to up to $37,500 to first time home buyers who qualify for mortgages.

Clark said the ability to buy a home is linked to employment and the province has been successful at creating jobs.

- Horgan says his party would also eliminate fees for adult basic education and English as a second language programs while maintaining a cap on tuition fees at colleges and universities. "We have one of the lowest minimum wages in the country".

BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, in contrast, has been sitting politely and waiting for his turn.

And she defended her focus on the economy, declaring: "You can't afford to do good things for people if the economy isn't working".

Michael de Jong, the finance minister in Clark's government, held a news conference where he said the Liberals' analysis of the NDP platform reveals $6.5 billion in costs that the party has not accounted for because of what he called costing errors and a failure to account for interest costs on increased spending.

The analysis does not include the NDP's revenue assumptions or 40 additional uncosted promises, de Jong said in a statement.

Clark, wedged between Weaver and Horgan on the set, spent a large chunk of the debate staying on her message around the economy.

It's a strategy reminiscent of the one that brought former BC Liberal leader Gordon Wilson success back in 1991 - when Social Credit leader Rita Johnson duked it out with BC NDP leader Mike Harcourt.

"Let's remember that last election, Christy Clark literally put 'Debt-free B.C.' on the side of her campaign bus", said James, referring to Clark's promise to eliminate the debt through a liquefied natural gas industry.

Horgan says in today's debate, he'll stick to ways his party would make life more affordable for British Columbians.

Horgan called it an "ad hoc" approach, and promoted his plan to create a $10-a-day universal child care system within 10 years.

In response, Clark said Horgan wouldn't deliver the NDP's daycare plan until most kids in daycare now "have a driver's license". 9 vote, but the debate marked the first time they have confronted each other in person.

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