Liberal supporters troll Horgan campaign kickoff (Updated)

NDP Leader John Horgan says he doesn't want big union donations

NDP Leader John Horgan rallies the troops at campaign kickoff in Vancouver. | Nelson Bennett

NDP Leader John Horgan officially kicked off his election campaign in Vancouver Tuesday, April 11 – the day the writ was dropped – by reiterating his promise to scrap bridge tolls, implement universal $10-a-day daycare, doing everything he can to halt the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and “take big money out of politics.”

While Horgan was talking about the need for political finance reform at a troop rally at the Orpheum Theatre, BC Liberal Party supporters were outside trolling the NDP by holding up placards spelling out a single number: $672,576.

That’s how much the NDP raised in donations from a single union – the United Steelworkers. It was the largest single political donation in a single year in B.C. history, according to a BC Liberals press release.

Asked about the apparent conflict between what he is saying and what he is doing, Horgan said he didn’t want the Steelworkers’ money. He wants reforms that would ban donations from institutions, organizations and private corporations.

“I don’t want to take another dollar from the Steelworkers or anybody else that’s not an individual,” he said.

He added it was “absolutely rich” for Premier Christy Clark to criticize the NDP taking donations from unions, given the scrutiny her party is under for the millions it has raised through “pay-to-play” fundraising that the New York Times characterized as “the wild west of political cash.”

Horgan said an NDP government would put election reform to referendum.

The NDP will be releasing its platform on Thursday. Until then, Horgan sketched out his three main planks:

• reducing the cost of living for average British Columbians;

• restoring basic services and funding for education and health care; and

• developing an “economy that works for everyone.”

As part of the first commitment, he reiterated his support for $10 a day daycare.

“It should be a universal program,” he said. “If they can do it Quebec we can do it here.

“When we have a federal government – as we do now – who’s giving signals that they’re committed to helping provinces deliver (affordable child care) for young families, we need to take advantage of that.”

He said the BC Business Council (BCBC), the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBOT) and Surrey Board of Trade “all support the initiative we’re proposing.”

In fact, the GVBOT and BCBC both say that they support additional funding child care, but not Horgan's plan.

“The NDP have yet to explain the new revenue source of these funds, and how such a program would be delivered,” the GVBOT states. “Without clearer details, it is difficult to ascertain whether the B.C.’s costly plan would be of a net benefit to the province's economy, and its families."

"We support two things: increasing accessibility of spaces and targeted subsidy on a means tested basis for families that require it," said BCBC president Greg D'Avignon. "We don't endorse what is being proposed by Mr. Horgan. To mischaracterize our view is really frustrating."

As for his promise to scrap tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, Horgan was asked if he would consider replacing the lost revenue with some form of road pricing.

Horgan answered that he would ask the Mayors Council on Regional Transportation “how we proceed to implement their plan to build transit.”

That’s putting the ball back in the mayors’ court, since the mayors’ council just last week launched a campaign asking each party to spell out their plans for funding public transit.

Horgan’s most powerful moment came when he spoke about backlogs some hospitals now face.

He cited the case of Jean Donaldson, an octogenarian from Port Moody who donated “for most of her adult life” to the Eagleridge Hospital Foundation.

In January, when she was admitted to emergency for bleeding on the brain, Horgan said, “She went to Eagleridge and found herself on a gurney in the lounge for 36 hours, staring up at the wall at a plaque that said, ‘Thank you Jean Donaldson for your contribution to this hospital.’

“When Jean needed that hospital it wasn’t there for her because of the choices BC Liberals have made. We’re going to restore hospitals to what they were.”

On the topic of forestry, Horgan said an NDP government would require all public buildings that use wood to use wood made in B.C.

“I’ve made a commitment that all public buildings should have a priority to be built with B.C. wood products that will create value-added opportunities in our forest sector.”

The 28-day provincial election period is now officially in effect. Voters go to the polls on May 9.