Six days ahead of the BC provincial elections, three of the candidates pursuing the Vancouver-Point Grey riding seat — Amanda Konkin, David Eby and James Lombardi — debated issues such as the legalization of marijuana, health care and the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion this past Wednesday. The debate was hosted and moderated by the West Point Grey Residents Association.
The first question was the contentious topic of campaign finance reforms, largely in reference to the New York Times calling BC the “Wild West” of political donations. British Columbia is one of the few provinces (along with Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland) to have almost no restrictions on campaign donations.
Konkin proudly responded that the BC Green party is the only major party to have banned corporate and union donations. She added that the BC Greens were now running one of their most visible campaigns funded by individuals because “that’s what people want — they want parties with integrity.”
Lombardi said that as somebody who had worked previously in the charitable sector, “fundraising has never been a dirty word.” He said that if the BC Liberals were to be re-elected, they would bring forward an independent panel to make recommendations on how to reform campaign finances.
Eby said that he was the one who filed a complaint to the BC Conflict of Interest Commissioner when it was discovered that Christy Clark participated in private dinner parties where donors paid thousands of dollars to meet with her. His complaint was ultimately dismissed by the commissioner, but Eby asserted that the rules need to be fixed and that it would be the first bill introduced if the BC NDP were elected.
Staying true to local concerns, the candidates also discussed the Broadway subway line.
“We sat at UBC just a few weeks ago and when asked, Mr. Eby said ‘absolutely, we’ll build the extension out to UBC.’ When I said ‘what about public consultation? What about a business case?’ he scoffed,” said Lombardi. He asserted that ultimately it is necessary to have a business plan and consultation with constituents.
In response, Eby stated that he was a proud supporter of rapid light rail transit out to UBC and was sick of the 99 B-Line.
“Here’s a government that will spend $9 to 11 billion on Site C dam and exempt it from the utilities commission that’s supposed to have oversight on this project so that the utilities commission doesn’t tell the government what they already know, which is that we don’t need the power,” he said. “Here’s a government that’s going to spend $5 billion on the Massey bridge extension without any business case — and then I get criticized for saying, ‘why are we building the subway halfway?’”
Konkin reiterated the importance of community consultation and rethinking the idea of community, which she believes is not the role of the province, but should support the decisions of the community.
“We’re going to have to keep re-examining this,” she said. “It’s not as if it’s a quick fix, it’ll be something that is continually needed in consultation for how we want to grow as a city and Vancouver, and I think the strongest voices to listen to in that conversation are the people who are going to be affected by it.”
On the issue of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, Konkin said that BC Green Party leader Andrew Weaver has actively spoken out against the approval of the pipeline and that the government should be investing in sustainable enterprise.
Tasked with defending his party, Lombardi stated that the Kinder Morgan approval was the decision of the federal government.
“To say that the provincial government could have somehow stopped this federal decision would be disingenuous,” he said. Instead, they “fought tooth and nail” for an ocean protection act.
Eby disagreed and said that the province actually did have a say in the decision.
“When bitumen spills, it doesn’t matter if we have $1.5 billion in coast guard money,” he said, referring to the ocean protection act that Lombardi mentioned. “When it spills, we’re not going to be able to clean it up. This is a huge risk to take with very little return.”
The final topic was on the legalization of marijuana and provincial control of cannabis. Eby chose to focus on the current existence of organized crime in Vancouver and improving treatment options. Konkin noted that the BC Greens platform did not include marijuana, saying that the party is interested in looking at the best evidence-based policies that they can while working with the federal government. Lombardi said that the provincial government would have about a year to figure out how to proceed with legislation after the federal government signs off on it (likely in time for Canada Day, 2018), promising that the policy would be informed by an independent panel of scientists and that the revenue generated by sales would go to drug awareness and gang violence prevention.
Other issues that the candidates discussed included the BC real estate crisis, public school funding and provincial debt. A recording of the whole debate can be found online.
General voting day is May 9.