The B.C. Liberal leadership contenders traded some political jabs and introduced a few policy ideas during a panel discussion before a business-community crowd today (January 18) in Vancouver.
Hosted by the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, the morning event at the Vancouver Convention Centre drew all six candidates vying to succeed outgoing premier Gordon Campbell in a party vote on February 26.
Christy Clark unveiled a proposal to create a provincially funded office of the municipal auditor general to review taxation at the local-government level.
The former deputy premier said there is need for “a serious look at the way municipal governments spend their money in this province if we want to make sure they’re delivering real value for money”.
Also during the event, Clark faced criticism from George Abbott over her support for a free vote in the legislature on the fate of the HST.
Abbott, who resigned as education minister to enter the leadership contest, emphasized his support for the provincewide referendum on the tax set for September.
“We need to give the people an opportunity to be heard because that’s what they desperately want,” the MLA for Shuswap said.
For her part, Clark said she doesn’t support Abbott’s proposal for a referendum on the future of the carbon tax, noting the government has already “talked to people” about the levy.
“The HST was exactly the opposite,” she said. “The government had an election, didn’t talk to anybody about it, and brought it in, and then refused to talk about it some more.”
Moira Stilwell, who stepped down as minister of advanced education and labour market development to become a leadership candidate, introduced a policy idea as well.
Stilwell proposed creating a provincial fund to help some municipalities wean themselves off of tax revenue from major industry.
“Obviously there’ll be costs to this, and we’re going to have to figure out what we can afford in the next budget process,” she said.
Responding to questions from a moderator and the audience, the leadership candidates—which also included Mike de Jong, Kevin Falcon, and Ed Mayne—tackled such issues as tourism, workforce development, and transportation.