By Kevin Forsyth and Tyler Hay
There are five candidates on the ballot for Parksville-Qualicum — our guide will help you to get to know them, their parties and what they stand for.
Advanced voting began yesterday for the B.C. provincial election and runs until Oct. 21. Official election day is on Oct. 24. For more information on how to cast your ballot in the pandemic election, see our story here.
Michelle Stilwell, BC Liberal Party
Michelle Stilwell was first elected MLA for Parksville-Qualicum in 2013 and again in 2017. She served as the official opposition critic for tourism, arts and culture before the election was called and the legislature dissolved.
Stilwell wants to see changes in how the government supports a tourism sector hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she has heard a lot from small businesses and tourism operators who are unhappy with the government’s response.
“What they’ve been really calling for was some support in both taxes and liquidity,” she said. “We announced, as part of our platform, that we will deliver emergency financing for those businesses that are hardest hit through a loan guarantee program.”
The Liberal platform includes working with the tourism industry and municipal partners to support the growth and development of regional tourism hubs across the province. The party also committed to eliminating the two per cent tax on small businesses.
Stilwell criticized the NDP’s response to a lack of housing availability and affordability. She said the Liberals would eliminate the speculation tax put in place by the NDP, which she said was ineffective at lowering housing costs. The speculation and vacancy tax places a two per cent tax on the property’s value while it remains empty. The policy brought in $115 million in revenue, according to the NDP.
“We need to focus on condo flipping, so when these homes are being still in the purchasing stage, the building stage,” she said. The BC Liberals have proposed a policy which would tax home sales of unfinished buildings — referred to as “condo flipping” in the party’s platform.
The Liberals platform includes working with municipalities to review the current property tax structure to incentivize affordable housing development and use municipal and provincial land for affordable housing.
“We’ve seen in the last three years that the housing plan under the NDP has not come to fruition. They promised over 100,000 homes and we haven’t seen those come into play,” said Stilwell.
The Liberal Party has also promised to implement higher property taxes for non-residents of Canada in an effort to combat housing speculation and lower home prices.
“We actually have — when it comes to our natural resource sector — the toughest rules and regulations in North America. Those policies have been in place to ensure that we protect the environment,” Stilwell said, referring to policies enacted by previous provincial Liberal governments.
The Liberal platform calls for modernizing land-use regulation “by ensuring more timely approvals from the Environmental Assessment Office, while ensuring a high level of environmental protection.”
When it comes to tackling the opioid overdose crisis, the Liberal platform includes addiction treatment and recovery programs, but also an end to the “funding discrimination that continues to disqualify abstinence-based treatment programs.”
“We realize that there is a small percentage of people who unfortunately will not break free from addiction and those people are going to require harm reduction
— ongoing,” said Stilwell.
Adam Walker, BC NDP
Adam Walker served on Qualicum Beach town council before taking a leave of absence to run as the BC NDP candidate in Parksville-Qualicum. He said he hopes to use his experience in municipal politics to better serve his community as an MLA. He is focused on issues such as affordable living; improvements to schools; quality healthcare and action on climate change.
Walker said the NDP has already seen success in the riding when it comes to healthcare. The party platform promises better health care closer to home by building new hospitals and hiring new front-line healthcare workers. Walker said the party has committed $4.6 million a year to invest in primary care networks.
“What that will mean is that 12,000 patients in our community will all of a sudden have a primary care provider, so all these people who don’t have a family doctor or who are driving an hour to get to their family doctor will all of a sudden have primary care provider in your community,” he said.
The NDP platform also includes making care more accessible for cancer patients in rural communities by investing in new equipment, systems and procedures. It also includes new measures to combat the opioid crisis. The NDP said it will focus on safe prescription alternatives and fast tracking decriminalization.
Walker said he is passionate about pushing alternate forms of transportation, such as walking and biking in Parksville-Qualicum.
“The recovery plan that is already in place through a grant opportunity is really encouraging alternate forms of transportation, so connecting our communities to each other and then within our communities so the we can bike, walk and enjoy our backyard as we get place to place — not in a car,” he said.
The NDP’s party platform includes making e-bikes more affordable by eliminating PST on them and making electric vehicles more affordable and practical with “right-to-charge legislature”, which will improve charging infrastructure. The party also said it will create income-tested incentives to make purchasing an electric vehicle easier.
The NDP also said in its platform it will work on banning single-use plastic, create new parks and trails and it will implement the Old Growth Strategic Review recommendations.
The NDP platform includes expanding on its mental health in school strategy, which was announced in September. The platform also calls for investments into additional COVID-19 safety measures in school, such as more plexiglass shields, new ventilation and additional cleaning stations. The NDP will also focus on improvements to online and remote learning.
The NDP platform includes a one-time recovery benefit of $1,000 direct deposited for all families whose yearly household income is less than $125,000 and a $500 benefit to single adults, whose income is less than $62,000. The party also promises a freeze on rent increases until 2021.
Rob Lyon, BC Green Party
Businessman and retired naval officer Rob Lyon is undertaking his first political campaign with the BC Green Party this election. He said he decided to get involved in politics after the BC NDP called an election during a global pandemic.
The Green Party platform includes a “housing first approach” and increasing investment in affordable, supportive and social housing.
“We’ll provide the infrastructure [and] the regulatory structure [which] will allow us to work with municipalities and get the shelters and the homes constructed so that it’s affordable for everyone,” said Lyon.
Lyon said he wants to see the B.C. Energy Step Code be implemented in a shorter timeframe. He said it is moving in the right direction, but the steps are too gradual. The building code aims for new homes to incrementally move towards being net zero energy ready in 12 years.
“I would be pushing as an advocate to upgrade our building code. One — so that it doesn’t take until 2032 to go into effect and two — so that it meets a higher standard than what we’re asking for,” he said.
The party, if elected, plans to create a new grant for people unable to afford rent, end privatized long-term senior care homes and implement principles of basic income into the social safety net, according to its platform.
“It will be means tested [and] it will be applied with compassion, but also it won’t be wasteful money giveaways,” said Lyon.
The Green Party platform calls for a “made in B.C. environmental charter” that would provide “procedural rights that allow everyone to participate in decisions that affect the environment.” The party also pledged measures such as moving away from fossil fuels entirely, with a goal of reaching carbon neutral status by 2045, ending government support for the fossil fuel industry and putting a moratorium on fracking.
Old-growth forests on Vancouver Island and across B.C. have not been protected adequately by previous provincial governments, according to Lyon. He said other parties make statements about protecting the environment, but fail to follow through with legislation to protect threatened ecosystems.
“They’re the last of a species so to speak. We can’t get them back for 400 years,” said Lyon, regarding old-growth forests.
The Green Party platform includes an immediate end to the logging of old-growth forests in high-risk ecosystems across the province.
The Greens’ platform includes changing the provincial COVID-19 recovery grant program to focus on supporting small tourism operators and accelerate the timeline to ensure grant money can start to flow immediately.
Also included is a plan to work with the federal government to establish a repayable loan program for the hospitality and tourism businesses too large to meet the criteria for the small tourism operator grant program.
The Green Party will decriminalize possession of small amounts of street drugs by “de-prioritizing policing of simple possession through implementing Dr. Bonnie Henry’s recommended amendments to the Police Act,” according to its platform.
Lyon said he is in favour of making naloxone kits available to everyone, in an effort to reduce overdose deaths in B.C.
“We need to get over the stigma that’s associated with these people. They are our children,” he said.
Donald Purdey, BC Conservative Party
Donald Purdey grew up in Maple Ridge and is now retired in Nanaimo with his wife. He serves on the advisory planning group for Newcastle Island Park for the City of Nanaimo and said he never planned to run as the a candidate for Parksville-Qualicum, but he did not want to leave voters without a conservative option.
“I think people that want a left-leaning position — you allow yourself to become dependant on the state. Someday you will wake up and you will have lost your liberty — I take pride at being independent,” he said.
The BC Conservative party platform includes allocating up to one per cent of Crown Land to developments that will promote affordable housing in B.C. The party also said it will increase the threshold to qualify for property tax transfer exemption for first-time home buyers. Purdey said he does not like seeing rental properties built in Parksville-Qualicum and he would prefer to see families become homeowners.
“It has cost me way less than if I had continued to rent and when I get too old to be able to maintain or live in my own home, my assets here will take care of us the rest of our lives — where people that are living in pigeon holes and paying rent, they’re going to have to depend on the state to take care of them,” he said.
Purdey is focused on seniors’ care in Parksville-Qualicum. He said he would like to see government offer more support for seniors’ to help them stay in their homes longer, rather than living in care facilities.
“Your home keeps going up in value and when you need to get people to cut your lawn or clean your gutters and clean the chimney and do some maintenance around the house, — we should be able to subsidize or help people stay in their own home,” he said. “It’s way cheaper to have people stay in their own home than put them in a care facility.”
The Conservative platform also includes reviewing all aspects of provincial health care policies to examine opportunities for increased efficiency and ensuring all British Columbians have access to quality care, regardless of their ability to pay for it.
The Conservative Party wants to balance economic development with environmental protection. Its platform promises to carry out all decisions based on the best available scientific evidence.
“We are probably the most regulated area in the whole world. It didn’t come too soon, but compared to the way things used to be done, we take care of our forest pretty good,” said Purdey.
Its platform also includes supporting construction of and upgrades to pipelines and working with the federal government to establish Via Rail passenger service on the former BC Rail line.
Part of the Conservatives platform on education is giving British Columbian students priority for admission to post-secondary institutions. The party also wants to give parents increased opportunities to access affordable educational programs by “ensuring the taxpayer’s dollars follow the student to provincially approved educational options.”
Purdey said he believes children are missing an important piece of their education.
“They could introduce what I’d call family finance or home economics and blend it in with math in the lower grades in school, but teach people the seriousness of building a house of cards based on credit,” he said.
John St. John, Independent
Local business owner John St. John is entering politics for the first time as an independent candidate. The owner of the British Bobby Restaurant in Parksville said his frustration with government corruption is what brought him to the race.
“They have no respect for the public whatsoever and to be very candid,” said St. John. “They rip the Canadian public off every single day to the tunes of millions of dollars.”
He said he is frustrated with social distancing requirements, which have had a significant impact on his business.
“It’s destroyed us — we’re closing down in February. My summer is when I make my money and we don’t make a lot. It’s basically a family business,” said St. John.
He attended a rally against COVID-19 prevention measures in Vancouver several weeks ago and St. John said he does not consider the virus dangerous. He claims the death rate is lower than seasonal influenza.
“[The rally organizers] put a call out for people to run as independents, so I took up the call,” he said.
He said he believes masks cause people health problems and are ineffective at preventing viral transmission.
“We’re mammals — we need to breathe oxygen. They say, ‘you’re not wearing a mask, you’re risking my health.’ Well, number one — if masks work I’m not risking your health, I’m risking mine,” said St. John.
He said COVID-19 testing is useless because it detects fragmented coronavirus from years ago.
St. John said he does consider himself left or right politically and he turned down an offer to run as a Conservative this year and as a Green several elections ago.
He said he is in favour of all candidates receiving an equal election campaign budget and media exposure to level the playing field for parties and independents.