B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson announces new infrastructure spending on the Lower Mainland on Monday, flanked by Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows candidate Cheryl Ashlie and Maple Ridge-Mission candidate Chelsa Meadus. (Neil Corbett/Black Press)

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson announces new infrastructure spending on the Lower Mainland on Monday, flanked by Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows candidate Cheryl Ashlie and Maple Ridge-Mission candidate Chelsa Meadus. (Neil Corbett/Black Press)

Wilkinson says plan to rebuild B.C. will work for Vancouver Island

B.C. Liberal leader talks to the News Bulletin about homelessness, forestry, infrastructure

The B.C. Liberals say they’ll be able to find ways to get out the vote this week, as they’ve managed to cope so far with physically distanced campaigning.

“We’ve had some very effective car and truck rallies where people stay in their vehicles…” said Andrew Wilkinson, leader of the B.C. Liberals. “They’re a great laugh and everybody has a great time and you can imagine they’re also very loud.”

Wilkinson spoke to the News Bulletin over the phone Tuesday morning before talking tax policy on the campaign trail in Surrey.

He discussed his party’s approach to homelessness, mental health and addictions and said Nanaimo has had to deal with those issues while at the same time suffering the related effects of street disorder and low-level crime. Wilkinson said the B.C. Liberals would add police officers and psychiatric social workers.

“My medical training is telling me that you treat the causes – and there are many different causes – and prevent the harm,” he said. “What we’ve seen under the NDP is this acceptance of tent cities and their warehousing of people who are suffering from mental health and addictions problems. You don’t treat schizophrenia with a tent and you don’t treat brain injury by putting them into a run-down motel. It’s time to treat these people as human beings.”

Wilkinson thinks forestry will be another issue that will be top-of-mind on Vancouver Island and said his party has ideas to revitalize the industry with stumpage reform and newly defined working forests, and would work to resolve the softwood lumber dispute and look for other ways to reduce costs for forest companies. Wilkinson said the B.C. NDP has chosen friends and enemies and winners and losers in resource development and said his party would do things differently.

“We’re proud of the people who work on the Island in resource industries and we’re proud of the people on the Island who work in all other fields,” he said.

READ ALSO: Pandemic election prompts voter suppression claims by B.C. Liberals

One of the B.C. Liberals’ election promises is a review of ferry schedules with an eye to hourly service on high-frequency routes. Wilkinson suggested emerging from the pandemic and low ridership will make it the right time to look to the future of ferry travel.

“The mid-Island ferries are now a major business and commuter route, more so than ever…” he said. “More and more people are finding that their way of life means that they work sometimes in the Lower Mainland and sometimes on Vancouver Island.”

Nanaimo’s B.C. Liberals candidate Kathleen Jones has promised to advocate for more tertiary services at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and Wilkinson said he’s “very familiar” with the facility. He alluded to the current intensive care unit project underway there and said the hospital “will need further development as time goes by” considering its position as the major regional health services centre for the northern part of the Island. He said his party’s promised $8 billion in infrastructure projects the next three years will be spent on “schools, hospitals, transportation and all the things that keep British Columbia going.”

Wilkinson is anticipating interesting election races on Vancouver Island as he said the B.C. Green Party has positioned itself as a progressive party that isn’t “owned and operated by big labour unions” and will be a big factor.

Wilkinson said his B.C. Liberals have been able to combat the “low-information, low-contact” campaign he said Premier John Horgan had hoped for.

“We’re running a campaign based on the big ideas to re-stimulate the economy once COVID has passed so that we can all get back to work,” he said.

READ ALSO: ‘Buy a boat,’ premier advises anti-maskers on B.C. Ferries


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