VICTORIA — British Columbia's New Democrat government will focus on building more affordable homes and fighting climate change in the run-up to next year's provincial election, Premier David Eby said Saturday, noting efforts to meet environmental goals will involve keeping a provincial carbon pricing program.
Eby told more than 700 cheering delegates at the B.C. NDP convention that he will leave no stone unturned on the housing front, while recent experiences with wildfires, floods and landslides mean the fight against climate change must continue.
New Democrats are in Victoria this weekend to debate policy and strategy at the party's convention ahead of next year's provincial election.
"Everybody here knows the foundation of building a good life is being able to afford a decent home, but this is just not the case for too many people in our province," Eby said during a speech. "I'll tell you this, I wake up every morning thinking about what we can do, what steps we can take to tackle the housing crisis."
He said the NDP has recently introduced legislation and regulations to restrict short-term rental accommodations, fast-track building approvals and build more housing at transit locations.
Eby said more rental properties have already started showing up on the market due to the government's short-term rentals legislation, but noted it will take more time for the housing crisis to be resolved.
"Homes are not for real estate speculators and wealthy investors," he said. "Homes are for people."
The premier strongly signalled the NDP government will continue to apply B.C.'s carbon tax, establishing a position on an issue that's sure to be dominant when an election is called next fall. The Opposition BC United Party has already pledged to drop the tax of about 16 cents per litre of fuel if the federal Conservatives form the next national government.
The federal Liberal government's recent decision to drop the carbon tax on home heating oil to help people facing rising fuel costs, primarily in Atlantic Canada, has prompted B.C. and other provinces to call the decision unfair.
Many homes in Atlantic Canada are heated with oil, but natural gas, which is subject to the carbon tax, is the energy source for many homes in other provinces.
"We don't want to do what the federal government did, which is protect certain kinds of heating," said Eby. "We think there should be a price on carbon pollution."
The premier told party delegates that B.C. will continue to lead Canada in the fight against climate change, noting the province has already endured the ravages of wildfires, floods and slides.
"The cost of inaction is our homes, our communities and the path of forest fires," he said. "It's our crops, our farms at risk of flooding. It's our children who stand to lose the nature that surrounds us. They will pay the price and this place will never be the same."
The issue of children surfaced in an unexpectedly personal way at the convention when Eby's wife, Cailey Lynch, announced the couple is expecting their third child while introducing the premier before his speech. Eby referenced his own fatherhood as he told delegates "we cannot afford to fail" in efforts to curb climate change.
Eby has secured strong support among party delegates, who gave him a 93.1 per cent approval rating in a leadership review held on Saturday.
But not all residents feel his government has done enough to tackle climate change. Outside the convention hall, about 250 protesters carrying placards and chanting slogans called on the NDP to end fracking, a process used to extract natural gas from rock. Demonstrators argued the emissions from B.C.'s oil and gas industry expansions will fuel more climate disasters like wildfires and floods.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2023.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press