VANCOUVER — The BC Green Party is calling for a reformation of the financial system used by local governments to help them better address issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Green Leader Sonia Furstenau says that B.C. has a “unique” chance to keep some of the changes brought by the pandemic and improve residents’ quality of life.
The Greens’ election platform points on livability and transit, released Saturday, call for the province to work more closely with local governments to create walkable neighbourhoods, explore the modernization of municipal revenue models and reform the local government finance system.
Local governments are too dependent on property taxes to fund new projects, Furstenau said.
“The current model of local government funding makes local governments reliant primarily on property taxes, which are regressive and inadequate to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” she said.
The party is calling for a change in transit funding, as providers face a drop in revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We cannot let these public assets fall behind or let our transit infrastructure be compromised by the pandemic,” Furstenau said.
She cited southern Vancouver Island as an area in need of an improved transit system to deal with a growing population.
The Greens did not have an estimate of how much the plan’s points would cost.
When asked to provide a cost estimate, Furstenau said the other two main parties are making short-term promises aimed at garnering votes instead of long-term solutions to help the province deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic.
Other platform promises include expanded provincial funding for projects such as bike lanes, trails, parks, community spaces, and pedestrian-only streets.
The Greens announcement comes as the BC NDP and Liberals squared off over a proposed plan to build a new tower at the Richmond hospital.
The NDP promised a new nine-floor tower at the hospital during a July announcement, with an additional 220 beds as well as a new emergency room, pharmacy, another intensive care unit, a medical imaging department, and expanded pediatric, surgical, and mental health services.
Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson criticized the delay in construction, adding that he sees it as the latest in a line of promises the NDP government failed to follow through on, and promised to build a new hospital tower if elected.
“This hospital was approved by the BC Liberals in 2016. It was then handed to the NDP in 2017 when they took office and they have accomplished nothing,” he said at a press conference.
Wilkinson said the Liberals would make the tower’s construction a priority if elected.
Wilkinson reiterated his belief that governments around the world would be running deficits over the next few years, and now was the time to spend the money on infrastructure projects.
“We all learned in the depression and World War Two that there’s time that spending is required. And this is one of them,” he said. “We have an economy that’s in trouble and that’s the time when the borrowing power of the government has to be used.”
NDP candidate and former health minister Adrian Dix defended his party’s hospital overhaul plan.
“The people of Richmond have waited a long time and we are moving forward with a hospital project everyone can be proud of,” he said at an afternoon press conference.
The plan announced in July has significant changes from the plan announced several years previously, he added.
The NDP also said Saturday that they would build a new school in Olympic Village if elected.
Parents have complained about the lack of schools in the area, starting petitions and websites in an effort to have their concerns addressed.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 10, 2020.
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press