British Columbia continues to have one of Canada’s strongest provincial economies, yet many West Coast voters focus on cost-of-living issues in preparation for the upcoming federal election – even though visions of pipelines, oil tankers and climate change also may dance in their heads.
The high cost of essentials such as housing and gasoline, especially on the Lower Mainland, have some British Columbians wondering how they should vote.
While the election outcome remains uncertain, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau most likely won’t duplicate the strong showing he enjoyed in 2015, when the Liberals took 17 of B.C.’s 42 seats, followed by the usually strong NDP with 13.
Heading into this election, the Conservatives held eight seats at the time of dissolution, the Green Party held two and Jody Wilson-Raybould holds B.C.’s single Independent seat. There’s also one vacancy.
As for Trudeau himself, B.C. holds both promise and peril.
Promise because here he’s considered “almost” a British Columbian. His mother, Margaret, was born and raised on Vancouver’s North Shore. Trudeau went to the University of B.C., then taught high school locally.
Peril because of the scandal involving SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., in which Wilson-Raybould was pushed aside as justice minister and attorney general, then kicked out of the Liberal caucus. This, of course, has raised serious concerns about the PM’s ethics – or lack thereof.
Beyond that, starter home prices have surpassed the point at which many young British Columbian families can afford to live on the Lower Mainland. And the costs of long-distance commuting have been exacerbated by what often are the highest gasoline prices in North America. High living costs are becoming a growing issue upcountry as well.
Would the archrival Conservatives or West Coast-strong NDP offer more pocketbook relief? That’s the question.
Otherwise, while B.C. environmentalists draw lots of attention in their opposition to the planned expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, polls consistently show that the majority of British Columbians favour the project, which would significantly increase flows of heavy oil from Alberta to export markets via oil tankers.
Residents appear to accept the risks in having more oil tankers in coastal waters, especially as this increased pipeline capacity also would allow more Alberta gasoline to be shipped to B.C. – which should help lower the sky-high prices at the pump.
Many B.C. voters also accept the fact that oil’s days are numbered and welcome the advent of electric cars, as B.C. is awash in relatively inexpensive hydroelectricity. To get commuters out of their cars while cleaning the air in the process, more federal dollars dedicated to rapid transit expansions also are being sought during this campaign.