Voters in British Columbia don’t need to wait for October 24 to cast their ballot in this year’s provincial election.
Advance voting starts on October 15, and runs through October 21.
Voters can check on the website of Elections B.C. to find out where they can cast an advance ballot.
“You don’t need a special reason to vote at advance voting – it’s an option for all voters,” Elections B.C. states online.
General voting day is days away, and it will be on a Saturday, October 24.
Voters can also do a mail-in ballot.
Elections B.C. recommends that voters request a vote-by-mail package by October 17.
After 8 p.m. on October 17, voters will not be able to request a vote-by-mail package online or through Elections B.C.’s contact centre.
“If a voter is unable to vote in person, they will still be able to request a vote-by-mail package from a district electoral office, which they can complete and drop off at any voting place, district electoral office or a participating Service BC office…,” the election agency advises.
Last October 13, the leaders of the three major polical parties held their only televised debate.
B.C. NDP leader John Horgan, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, and Green leader Sonia Furstenau faced off and offered their visions for the province.
CTV News listed six key moments in the debate that was largely civil.
One was care home staffing.
Horgan blamed B.C. Liberal policies dating back to the early 2000s for staffing shortages in care homes that caused chaos in the early months in the pandemic.
“When we came to government, nine in 10 care homes in British Columbia did not have the staff to meet the basic minimum standards that the former government had set for care,” Horgan said.
“You fired 10,000 people – largely women – to give a tax break to the wealthiest people in B.C.”
Wilkinson defended the Liberals’ record on health care, pointing to 14 hospitals built during the 16 years the party was previously in power, and accused the NDP leader of divisive politics.
“We have to work together through this pandemic and calling names and talking about things that happened 17 years ago will not help us get into the future,” Wilkinson said.
The second key moment identified by CTV News was about pipelines.
Furstenau said that the fossil industry’s contribution to climate change only means more crises in the future.
“We were choking on the smoke from the fires in the western United States for weeks on end. There is no doubt that we are in a climate emergency right now,” she said.
“We can invest into a clean energy future that will create jobs and opportunities in every part of this province.”
Furstenau also mentioned her Green party’s ambitious commitment to a carbon-neutral economy by 2045.
The third moment listed by CTV News was Wilkinson’s vision for private auto-insurance.
“What we’re talking about is competition,” Wilkinson said. “Keep the ICBC no-fault model, and allow other insurers to offer their products in competition. They do it in Saskatchewan, it works in different places across Canada in different forms.”
Wilkinson said that premiums for some young drivers have increased from $1,500 to as much as $7,000, and argued that competition could lead to lower prices.
“Let’s have competition and see what the choices are and let people make up their own minds,” Wilkinson said. “You don’t just have to live with this old dinosaur of ICBC.”
The fourth moment was on childcare.
Horgan defended the lack of progress on his party’s earlier promise for a $10-a-day childcare.
That was a signature NDP promise in the 2017 election.
Horgan argued that his minority government’s lack of seats in the legislature left their hands tied, but promised to deliver if given a bigger mandate.
“We wanted to go with $10-a-day, all in. We didn’t have that support. That’s why we’re putting it in front of British Columbia’s again this campaign,” he said. “We believe that $10-a-day is achievable, and it’s something that we need to strive for and we can get it done in the next seven years.”
The fifth moment was Furstenau challenging B.C. Liberals on their promise to cut the PST or provincial sales tax.
The proposal has been criticized for threatening to take nearly $7 billion out of provincial coffers during the pandemic.
“You can’t really identify outcomes that would come from that PST cut,” Furstenau said. “What economists are telling us right now is that we need to invest in services, we need to invest in infrastructure, we need to build the economy that we want.”
She argued the government’s ability to do that work would be undermined by the loss of PST revenue, and that the Liberal platform already comes with a “pretty massive deficit attached to it.”
Wilkinson defended the proposal, pointing to a grim economic survey indicating one-quarter of B.C. businesses fear they won’t survive the next year.
“We’ve said it’s time to turbocharge the B.C. economy,” Wilkinson added. “If we drop the PST to zero for a year, businesses will reinvest, things will go on sale, people will buy equipment and they will go shopping and they will enjoy their lives.”
The last and sixth moment identified by CTV News was Wilkinson calling the NDP’s homeless strategy as a failure.
Wilkinson drew attention to homeless encampments in some B.C. cities
Horgan argued the problem preceded his government, and that what’s needed from political leaders is “our compassion, not our contempt.”
“I believe that the homelessness crisis grew by 30 per cent between 2014 and 2017, and it’s been growing steadily about one per cent a year since then,” Horgan said. “We’ve been purchasing hotels, moving people into them and making sure that they have services while they’re there.”
However, Wilkinson said the current policies are nothing more than a Band-Aid solution, and that the problems run much deeper than just providing shelter.
“I have said let’s treat the causes and prevent the harm,” he said. “Why aren’t we treating these mental illnesses? Brain injuries don’t get treated with a tent or a rundown motel.”
Wilkinson accused the NDP of chasing a failed strategy, and called on Horgan to “stop pursuing a dead end.”