As we begin to say goodbye to 2022 and ring in 2023, it is important to reflect on both the challenges and opportunities we face here in British Columbia. With COVID-19 largely receding, we’ve now become more aware of issues like our crumbling health-care system, rising costs of living, skyrocketing housing prices and a significant lack of public safety impacting people in every corner of our province.
Our health-care system is a major concern, and it is important people recognize that six years of BC NDP mismanagement of the system have got us where we are today. One in five British Columbians have no access to a family doctor. One million British Columbians are on wait lists to see a specialist. Our cancer care, once world-leading, has fallen to the bottom of the pack.
I started off the year as a candidate for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party. I was meeting with people throughout B.C. as I campaigned for the top job, hearing their stories and listening to the issues that affected them. No matter where I went, the same things kept coming up. Life is more unaffordable than ever, we’re facing a health-care crisis, government is failing to help those with mental health and addictions issues and crime severity in B.C. has increased by more than double the national average since 2016. British Columbians are united in their frustrations because keeping people safe, keeping people healthy and alive and keeping life affordable are basic jobs of government, and yet David Eby and the NDP are failing on all fronts.
In the end, it is about holding government to account for results. Not announcements and promises, but real results. Sadly, whichever metric you choose, we are getting spectacularly poor results. We have the highest gas prices in North America. B.C. has the highest housing prices in North America after two terms of NDP government. B.C. has the highest average rents in Canada. Forty-six per cent of British Columbians are now $200 or less away from being able to pay their bills each month. I look at my two young daughters, and I don’t want their generation growing up in a British Columbia without hope, or a British Columbia that has its best days behind it. We have to get serious about tackling these challenges because while the NDP are great at making big promises and announcements, they’re utterly failing on the results.
That’s why this year our BC Liberal team advocated for important measures, such as removing the provincial sales tax on used cars under $20,000, scrapping the NDP government’s cynical and self-serving retroactive pay raise for their own ministers and ensuring NDP pledges made six years ago – like their promised $400 renters’ rebate – come to fruition. We also put forward substantive policy suggestions, such as advocating for the provincial government to help fund in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments, a 30-day action plan to tackle the crisis in primary care and an entire suite of policies that would assist in recruiting more physicians to our province.
I’m incredibly proud of our BC Liberal official Opposition for the powerful work they’ve done over the past year in the legislature and in their home constituencies. Opposition can be tough, but we did see countless victories: Pushing the NDP to back down on their planned billion-dollar boondoggle of a Royal BC Museum vanity project in the middle of an affordability crisis; succeeding in getting the government to approve Trikafta for Cystic Fibrosis patients; getting government to pull Russian spirits from the shelves of BC Liquor Stores after the invasion of Ukraine; and standing side by side with parents of children with autism for the better part of a year and getting the NDP to reverse their planned cuts to individualized funding for their kids.
As we look to a new year, we are committed to continuing to engage with British Columbians to hear about what matters most to you, and to fighting on your behalf. Let’s take an opportunity this December to reflect on those who are struggling across our province, especially those struggling with mental health or addiction issues. We need to eliminate the stigma surrounding these issues and work to ensure we can genuinely provide the kind of care and supports that will focus on treatment and recovery. I remain convinced that we must elect people focused on outcomes and results, and who understand the need to change direction when positive results aren’t being delivered. That’s exactly what I’ll continue to fight for in 2023. ■
Kevin Falcon is leader of the BC Liberal Party