New Democrat, Green alliance fractures on the B.C. election campaign trail

Sep 24 2020, 5:32 pm

The gap between the NDP and its former Green allies widened Thursday, as the focus of their campaigns shifted from the necessity of a snap election to child care.

NDP Leader John Horgan recommitted to bring $10-a-day child care to British Columbia over 10 years during an event in the battleground region of Maple Ridge.

The plan was part of the New Democrats’ 2017 platform, but Horgan said his minority government couldn’t fully implement it because it didn’t have support from its Green partners.

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau contested the claim.

“The Green party in 2017 would not support our $10-a-day plan, so we pivoted to do the possible,” Horgan said. “Politics is about the art of the possible.”

Horgan said the NDP instead worked to open 20,000 new child-care spaces, reduce fees and start a daycare pilot project that cost $10 a day, which was overwhelmed with demand.

He has previously said he wants a majority government to stickhandle the public health and economic emergencies facing the province as a result of COVID-19.

In a statement, Furstenau said her party has been pushing the NDP for child-care legislation.

“In conversations with B.C. NDP this summer, we explicitly asked for more child-care action,” she said.

“Instead of legislation, we got a fall election and more misleading comments about why the B.C. NDP aren’t delivering on something families desperately need.”

Later at a news conference outside the convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities in Victoria, Furstenau said both parties share similar child care goals, but the Greens also want early childhood education included in the public system.

“John Horgan and I both studied history, but I’m not interested in rewriting it,” she added.

In 2018, then-leader Andrew Weaver said the Greens had a more progressive plan than the NDP that involved free child care and up to 20 hours a week of early childhood education.

Furstenau once again accused Horgan of calling an unnecessary election for Oct. 24 in a speech to the convention of local politicians.

She noted that the convention is typically a time when local governments can vote on priorities that they want to press the provincial government on, but the legislature was dissolved on the first day of the conference.

Furstenau also said the minority government resulted in stronger legislation because each bill was reviewed by two caucuses.

The Greens had a hand in getting big money out of politics, lobby reform and launching the public inquiry into money laundering, she said.

“In a majority government, that legislation would have been written and passed with far less scrutiny and almost no collaboration. I would suggest that it takes a kind of arrogance to think that it is better to work alone,” Furstenau said.

During his address to the delegates, Horgan highlighted the funding his government has been able to secure for municipalities from the federal government.

“If we are going to address the inequalities in our communities, we need to do it all levels of government, all hands on deck, all focused, with every ounce of our energy on helping people,” he said.

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson also weighed in on Horgan’s characterization of the NDP-Green agreement Thursday.

“John Horgan’s credibility on the timing of this election is in shreds. No one trusts his answers anymore and any time he brings up one of his allegations about the Green party they immediately say he’s making it up,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson campaigned in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, describing the ridings there as “very important” in the election.

“The NDP won both of them last time and we are going to do our level best to prove ourselves to the people of Maple Ridge,” he said.

A Liberal government would introduce an affordable child-care plan with costs that would vary according to family resources, he said.

“That would mean people with lesser means should pay less for daycare,” he said.

Wilkinson said the Liberal platform will focus on navigating the province through the COVID-19 pandemic and overdose emergencies.

But he said providing a safe supply of drugs should not be used as a one-size-fits-all solution for people who have underlying problems that range from schizophrenia to fetal alcohol syndrome.

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