B.C. politicians detail wish list for Trudeau

B.C. premier, Vancouver mayor outline local priorities for Trudeau government

  • Oct. 20, 2015 4:00 p.m.

By Tamsyn Burgmann and Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – The wish list for Justin Trudeau’s new government has grown as B.C. Premier Christy Clark pushes for action on climate change and softwood lumber, while mayors put their hands out for much-needed infrastructure money.

Clark joined politicians Tuesday as they made bids for attention to their issues one day after Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were ousted from a decade-long grip on power.

Clark said the federal government’s “wisest” move on climate would be following the lead already set by the provinces — in particular, B.C.’s carbon-pricing policies.

The federal government should simply be taking the role of co-ordinator and not “start to fiddle with real success that we’ve seen,” she told reporters.

Clark has long had her flight booked for the upcoming United Nations climate change summit in Paris next month, she said, adding it will be Trudeau who must ultimately represent all the provincial leaders on the international stage.

British Columbia’s premier also said Trudeau must jump-start renegotiation of the softwood lumber agreement with the United States, which hasn’t been responsive to restarting talks.

Although the deal made in 2006 expired last week, it remains in effect for another year and precludes the U.S. from bringing trade action against Canadian softwood lumber producers.

“It is absolutely urgent,” Clark said. “My approach? What do we all do when you make a phone call and you can’t get through the first time? You keep calling.”

While Trudeau has said he plans to run deficit budgets to rebuild Canada’s infrastructure, B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said he expects the province to keep a tight rein on spending as it continues to produce balanced budgets.

“We have been very clear from the outset what our approach to fiscal management is,” he said.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was buoyant as he hailed the election results as a “resounding win” for Canada’s big cities.

“The cities need to be treated as constructive partners and we’re eager to reset that relationship,” he said. “Frankly, the past decade has been a lost opportunity for cities with the Conservative government.”

He said voters clearly recognized that the Conservatives didn’t have a credible plan for affordable housing or transit, and voted accordingly.

In early September, Trudeau promised that a Liberal government would work with Vancouver and the province to build rapid transit along Broadway, a major east-west artery in Vancouver. The province has committed to its share of the capital cost.

Asked whether he trusted the B.C. government to match federal funds for other projects, Robertson said it had been a problem in the past.

“In this situation, hopefully the B.C. government recognizes the importance of these investments and matches the federal dollars,” he said.

Robertson has also long chastised the federal government for its restrictive drug laws, arguing they created a grey area that allowed illegal pot shops to flourish in Vancouver.

The city has spent months reviewing and debating new regulations for dispensaries, and staff are currently working through 176 applications for licences. That work could be undone when Trudeau legalizes marijuana, if the new federal framework doesn’t line up with the city’s policies.

Robertson said Vancouver will forge ahead with its plans while it waits to see what approach Trudeau takes with marijuana.

“Our drug policy reform position is clear here. The current system is broken and basically serves to enrich organized crime,” he said.

Clark said she had never stated that she opposed legalizing marijuana, but that her government will work with the federal government “in whatever moves they make on this front.”

“If and when they make changes, we’ll work with them to make sure the changes can be effective in B.C.”

The federal Liberals won 17 seats in the province and many of those newly minted MPs may soon join their municipal counterparts in courting cash from Ottawa.

“I expect Mr. Trudeau will work much better with cities than Mr. Harper did,” said David Moscrop, a PhD candidate in the political science department at the University of B.C.

“I mean, he’d almost have to.”

— With files from Dirk Meissner and Gemma Karstens-Smith

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