In Your Corner: B.C. byelections send message about cost of living

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On Feb. 2, two new women were elected to the B.C. legislature in Victoria. Jodie Wickens won the byelection in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain and Melanie Mark won in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, making her the first First Nations woman elected as a B.C. MLA. Both women are with the NDP and I am so very looking forward to working with them.

While both ridings are in the Greater Vancouver region, they are quite different. Vancouver-Mount Pleasant is home to the Downtown Eastside, Canada’s poorest neighbourhood. It also has a high population density and very urban environment. Coquitlam-Burke Mountain is suburban with most people commuting to work and activities by car and a household income on par with the B.C. average. Yet, this election both communities were talking about the same thing to candidates on the doorstep: the cost of living.

Wages have stagnated or are down, while food, housing and clothing are all up. Making ends meet feels harder than ever. That’s what Jodie and Melanie heard from voters. It’s what I hear in the Kootenays too — not just on the doorsteps either. Seventy-five per cent of Kootenay respondents to the Chartered Professional Accounts’ Business Outlook Survey said that lack of affordable housing makes it harder to do business and retain skilled employees. Whether through surveys, statistics or on the doorstep, it’s clear that the high cost of living in B.C. is a major issue everywhere.

So what’s going on and what can we do to make life more affordable? Well, Christy Clark isn’t interested in studying the issue, or is she? One day she’ll say there is no need to look into the housing cost crisis, another day she says government is looking into it. This kind of wishy-washy attitude is not what British Columbians deserve. We deserve concrete action based on solid information.

But that’s not what Christy Clark’s government is doing.

While they increase your MSP, ICBC and electricity rates, they are also footing millions in legal bills for BC Liberal insiders and staff who have done something wrong.

Space doesn’t allow me to go into all the details of all the scandals that have followed Christy and her friends in recent years, but I invite you to read up if you haven’t already. I’ve let her know that she has to stop increasing costs to you so that she can pay her friends’ legal bills, but she doesn’t come to work in the legislature very often and when she does she typically says one thing and does another. Meanwhile, you have to pay those increased MSP premiums and read about rundown bungalow homes selling for $2.4 million.

Unlike Ms. Clark, John Horgan and my NDP colleagues are seeking solutions to the affordability crisis. For example, we hear your concerns and are talking to experts like UBC’s Sauder School of Business’s Thomas Davidoff. He is proposing a way to address the housing cost crisis. Through taxation tools that apply to foreign housing speculation and unoccupied homes, we can build a fund that invests in more affordable housing. It’s a simple and doable solution that the NDP is supporting.

When talking to voters in the recent byelections, Melanie and Jodie showed that they listened, they cared and were ready to solve the big challenges their constituents faced. Voters responded by sending them to Victoria. I can’t wait to work with them on building a better B.C.

Michelle Mungall is the member of the legislative assembly for the Nelson-Creston provincial riding, and is the Opposition critic for social development.