B.C. Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon pitched his platform to northerners during a visit to Terrace in which he attacked B.C. NDP leadership candidate David Eby’s approach to solving the housing crisis, opioid epidemic, crime and healthcare access.
“David Eby has been responsible for overseeing one of the greatest increases in social chaos, social disorder and criminal activity that I’ve seen frankly in my lifetime,” Falcon told Black Press Media during his visit to Terrace.
“The reason is that he is giving direction not to charge people for what are considered minor offenses. And the problem is that this has created, in the criminal community, a very clear understanding that there’s no consequences.”
Eby was attorney general for the province, as well as overseeing housing, until July after announcing his bid for NDP leader.
Falcon pointed to the issue of repeat offenders being allowed to “steal and just walk right out the door” and when they do get arrested, he said, they are released often on the same day and are soon back doing the same thing without any consequence.
“There has to be consequences for that kind of behaviour otherwise we have chaos like we’re seeing in our communities.”
The province has promised to release recommendations from an expert report into prolific offenders in mid-September.
Falcon said northern communities such as Terrace are being “totally left out” by the current NDP government, which he described as an urban government.
“The majority of wealth is generated outside the Lower Mainland and we have to make sure as a government that we’re reinvesting back into rural communities,” Falcon said.
“They just pay lip service to the rest of the province… The premier has visited Prince George twice during the second year of their mandate and that’s unacceptable. You’ve got to be in communities like Terrace and Prince Rupert, Quesnel, Williams Lake and Prince George, otherwise you’re not going to understand the issues they’re dealing with.”
Falcon said he’d be open to discussions with communities in northwest B.C. about keeping tax revenue generated in the north in the region. He said before designing a sharing agreement he would first want to speak with local leadership to better understand what the needs of the communities are.
During his northwest tour, Falcon spoke with doctors amid the province-wide shortage in physicians and nurses. He said priorities include more training spaces for nurses and doctors, better pay and more supports to take leave when needed.
“We’ve got a government that is going and opening up these urgent primary care centres with all this hoopla and fanfare, and the day they’re opened there’s almost nobody in there staffing them because they didn’t think to figure out a human resources strategy to figure out how they’re going to get workers in these places.
“Sadly, when the new Terrace hospital opens I’m concerned that we’ll have the same problem [as] in Kamloops when they opened up the new tower at Royal Inland Hospital… There’s nobody in it because they haven’t got the staff.”
Falcon slammed Eby’s approach to the housing crisis and accused the NDP of getting housing “completely wrong.”
“They’ve focused on just layering a whole bunch of taxes onto housing and thinking that was going to solve the affordability issue,” Falcon said.
“Here we are five years later, they’re in their second term, and we have the highest housing prices in North America, third highest on the planet. It has been one of the most disastrous policy initiatives I’ve ever seen.”
Falcon called the NDP’s “government must do everything” housing solutions “laughable” and proposed a “carrot and stick approach” that would incentivize the private sector and local government to “do the right thing” and create more supply.
“I would bring in legislation to ensure that the development approval process has clarity, consistency and timeliness.”
That, he said, saves industry from a costly municipal approval process before breaking ground on projects, adding that such policies would lower rents and give young British Columbians a better chance at home ownership.
Speaking on the opioid crisis, Falcon said the NDP’s focus on safe supply isn’t the answer, adding the NDP’s approach has “avoided and ignored law enforcement,” and “totally ignored the issues” around treatment and recovery.
He added that carrying small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use is already de facto decriminalized. The BC Liberals under Christy Clark were criticized for not creating new beds at the start of the opioid crisis in 2016 at a pace that met demand.
“What I want to do is make sure, again, that we’re making significant investments in recovery and treatment so that we’re helping people get off their addictions, not just trying to create an ecosystem that supports an addictions lifestyle.”
It’s been 42 years since the former Social Credit government closed the Riverview psychiatric hospital in Coquitlam.
Falcon said successive governments, including the former Social Credit Party, Liberals and NDP, made the wrong decision by de-institutionalizing people with mental health issues and he would do things differently.
“As people were coming out of mental institutions you saw that the rates of those that are incarcerated and homelessness have increased… We have to acknowledge first of all that what we’re doing isn’t working.”
Promising a “massive upfront investment” Falcon said his government would build 24/7 mental health facilities that would help “stop a lot of the chaos that we’re seeing on our streets” adding the situation in Terrace is one example.
“We (would) compassionately, lovingly but firmly take them off of the street and put them into that 24/7 care so that they can be properly looked after by a team of psychiatrists that are trained to look after these folks.”
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