NDP Leader John Horgan takes a selfie with Callum Wilson, age 4, following a campaign gathering in Vancouver, Tuesday. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

B.C. election starts as unofficial campaign ends

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s Liberal party began its bid for a fifth straight majority government on Tuesday as Christy Clark touted her government’s record on job creation and balanced budgets while warning the opposition parties would risk economic growth with higher taxes and deficits.

The campaign has been underway unofficially for weeks with the Liberals, NDP and Greens releasing platform details for an election that polls suggest will be a tight battle.

Clark has tried to make NDP Leader John Horgan’s judgment an issue, accusing the New Democrats of siding with fringe advocates over the mainstream interests that drive job creation.

The Liberal leader visited the lieutenant-governor to formally start the election and emerged to remind voters that British Columbia has Canada’s fastest-growing economy, which she argued would be at risk by higher taxes and deficits if the NDP is elected.

“B.C. is just getting started,” she added. “We don’t want to throw this all away. The Opposition would replace our tax cuts with tax hikes. They would scrap projects that create thousands of jobs for working people and they would push B.C. families to the brink.”

Horgan has attacked Clark on social policies, arguing too many people have been left behind by a Liberal government that is out-of-touch after 16 years in power as he promotes a daycare program that would cost $10 a day and a significant increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Green Leader Andrew Weaver, the first member of his party to win a seat in a provincial legislature, is asking voters who are tired of the status quo to give his party a chance, promising a revamped economic plan that encourages growth in emerging business sectors while protecting the environment.

Clark was knocked off her message on the campaign’s first day when the sister of a man who took his own life after being fired by the government held a news conference to accuse the premier of cynically handling the issue.

B.C.’s ombudsman has said eight health-care researchers should not have been fired in 2012 over allegations of potential privacy violations and found the workers did nothing wrong.

Clark said her apology to the family of Roderick MacIssac was sincere and she is willing to personally apologize to his sister Linda Kayfish.

“If it would bring Ms. Kayfish some closure, absolutely,” she said.

Clark unveiled her party’s platform on Monday, promising to freeze income taxes, deliver balance budgets and create jobs in the technology and resource sectors.

Horgan has also offered voters a peek at his platform, saying his party will create jobs in every corner of the province by making public investments to attract more private-sector investment.

“Change starts today,” he said at a concert hall in downtown Vancouver where he countered Clark’s rosy economic outlook.

“It’s not working for everybody. It’s not working if it’s all part-time jobs and temporary jobs.”

From the base of his single seat on Vancouver Island, Weaver is pushing for a breakthrough for his party by setting out a Green vision that offers free daycare for children up to the age of three, tougher greenhouse gas emission standards and more money for public education.

Weaver campaigned Tuesday in Vancouver’s Olympic Village on his party’s housing policy that he says aims to cool the overheated real estate market by, among other things, improving the supply of homes through capital spending to build about 4,000 new units a year.

This election comes down to whether voters want change from what the Liberals and NDP have traditionally offered, said Weaver.

“People are ready for politics to be done differently,” he added.

Weaver said voters have produced surprises with the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union as he dismissed the NDP and the Liberals.

“Why do you need more than two NDP MLAs? They all vote the same,” he said.

As for the Liberal platform, Weaver said it’s “so void of ideas, it’s staggering.”

At dissolution, the Liberals held 47 seats in the legislature, the NDP 35, and there were three Independents, which includes Weaver. There are two new ridings this election, bringing the total to 87 seats.

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