OPINION: Christy Clark didn’t just ignore B.C.’s affordability crisis – she made it worse

BC NDP leader John Horgan lays the blame for B.C.'s lack of affordability at the feet of Premier Christy Clark.

BC NDP leader John Horgan

Imagine your neighbour left an old mattress, a musty couch and a pile of compost in your front yard – then complained that your lawn is facing “a real garbage crisis.”

Christy Clark’s comments this week were just as baffling.

“There’s a real affordability crisis, particularly in the Lower Mainland,” she told reporters this week.

Well, no kidding.

It was her B.C. Liberal government that not only ignored this crisis but actively made it worse. And it was her government that has failed time and again to do anything to fix it.

For years, Christy Clark ignored the affordability crisis facing this province, and even outright mocked those who tried to raise the alarm about ballooning housing costs. Meanwhile, her government hiked hydro rates, ICBC insurance and healthcare costs, downloaded classroom expenses on to parents, and allowed childcare costs and tuition fees to steadily increase.

Since 2001, the B.C. Liberals have chipped away at family budgets, and their failures have made whole regions of our province unaffordable to average British Columbians.

Now, Christy Clark wants us to believe she is suddenly concerned about affordability. The truth is, with an election looming, the premier just wants to get rid of her bad headlines, and distract from a shameful record of putting British Columbians last again and again.

Unfortunately for the people of this province, the affordability crisis isn’t just something the premier discovered this week. People in this province have been struggling to make ends meet, facing rising costs and flat wage growth, for years.

Today, as a survey released last week by the Canadian Payroll Association found, many working people in this province are stuck in debt, unable to save, and living paycheque to paycheque.

A full 48 per cent of the working British Columbians surveyed said they were overwhelmed by debt. At the same time, 53 per cent said they would find it difficult to meet their financial obligations if their paycheque was delayed by even a single week, while 27 per cent said they probably could not come up with $2,000 if an emergency arose within the next month.

That’s what life looks like in Christy Clark’s B.C. That’s the reality that the premier has tried her best to ignore.

Not only have the B.C. Liberals failed to act to address this crisis – Premier Clark’s fees, taxes, and underfunding have taken directly from the pockets of B.C. families.

Another report that also came out this week from the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of British Columbia found that the B.C. Liberals have let per-student post-secondary funding in this province decline by more than 20 per cent since 2001. The cost of that underfunding, the report found, is getting passed on to students, who have faced years of hikes to tuition and fees.

Christy Clark has done nothing but accelerate the affordability crisis in this province. Now, as people across the province struggle to get by, she’s trying to pretend she had nothing to do with it.

Keeping the heat on and putting food on the table are struggles that are happening every day, all the time, across this province. That’s why we need a government that understands that affordability matters all the time, not just in election years.

John Horgan is the MLA for Juan de Fuca and leader of the B.C. New Democrats.