BC News: Small parties stake out turf

As the NDP widens its lead over the governing B.C. Liberal Party in a new poll, the small parties are hoping to grow.

VICTORIA – As the NDP widens its lead over the governing B.C. Liberal Party in a new poll, the B.C. Conservatives and B.C. Green Party are hoping an early rollout of their policy platforms will help their support grow. An Angus Reid Public Opinion poll released Thursday, March 21st showed the NDP the choice of 48 per cent of decided voters, up one point since February. The B.C. Liberals were down three points to 28 per cent of decided voters. The B.C. Conservatives and B.C. Greens were both up slightly in voter intention, tied at 11 per cent support. The poll surveyed 809 B.C. adults on March 18th and 19th, claiming a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 per cent. The B.C. Conservatives released their “pre-election platform” Thursday, describing it as a “living document” that could change before the May 14 provincial election. It devotes much of its 28 pages to criticizing the province’s 20-year record on taxes, spending and debt. As party leader John Cummins has signalled, the platform promises the elimination of the five-year-old carbon tax on fossil fuels. It emphasizes the disproportionate impact the tax has on rural and northern parts of B.C., but does not specify if offsetting income tax cuts would be reversed to make up the revenue to the province. The B.C. Conservative pledge to balance budgets is emphasized, but the platform doesn’t identify any reduced spending or tax increases. It decries the low health care spending relative to other provinces, and also calls for an unspecified increase in justice system budgets. The B.C. Green Party’s 40-page platform contains many promises, from creating “green-collar jobs” to doubling B.C.’s park area to 20 per cent over the next 100 years. The Green platform is also described as a “living document,” released last November and updated at the end of January. It also lacks costing for an array of expensive policies, including 24-hour medical clinics in rural areas and replacing all existing income assistance programs with a “guaranteed liveable income” for everyone. Green Party leader Jane Sterk also vows to reduce taxes on businesses that promote health, phase out medical premiums and eliminate gambling in B.C.