The leaders of British Columbia’s three main political parties squared off for the first time on Thursday in a live radio debate focused in large part on the environment and economy.
The 90-minute debate, which was moderated by CKNW radio host Bill Good, gave Green party Leader Jane Sterk her first face-to-face with NDP Leader Carole James, and Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell.
One hot topic was the controversial carbon tax, which James called ineffective and unfair to low-income and rural British Columbians.
Sterk, on the other hand, called James’ plan to get rid of the tax for a cap-and-trade system “irresponsible,” while Campbell pointed out that the NDP voted against “every single environmental initiative” the Liberals have introduced.
The leaders also debated their parties’ plans to deal with homelessness, health care, transportation and the economy.
James promised to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour from $8, pointing to the 80,000 jobs lost in B.C. since Christmas as proof that Campbell’s economic recovery plan has failed.
Campbell, however, said James’ plan to raise minimum wage would hurt small businesses and lead to more layoffs, adding that “a job is by far the best social program you can have.”
Sterk came to Campbell’s defence briefly, saying it was “crazy to blame the premier for the loss of the jobs,” but added that finger pointing between the Liberals and NDP is “unhealthy and non-productive.”
As for the Green party’s fiscal plan, Sterk proposed shifting B.C.’s forestry industry from an industrial to an ecological model, saying that underscoring local production for local markets would boost the economy.