Public Affairs Update Header
January 11, 2016
In This Issue
The Public Affairs Update is your weekly insight, perspective and analysis on politics in British Columbia and Canada.  This newsletter is brought to you by the largest and most broadly-based business organization in the province, the BC Chamber of Commerce – the Voice of Business in B.C.

Provincial by-elections called in Vancouver, Coquitlam
B.C. Premier Christy Clark has called by-elections in two Lower Mainland ridings. Voters in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain will go to the polls to elect new MLAs on February 2.

Vancouver-Mount Pleasant is considered a safe NDP seat. The NDP won the riding in the 2013 general election with 65 per cent of the vote and a 10,000-vote plurality over the second-place BC Liberal candidate, and their by-election candidate Melanie Mark is the early favourite. Ms. Mark, who worked for eight years with B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond, is Nisga’a, Gitxsan, Cree and Ojibwa, and would become the first ever First Nations woman to serve in the B.C. Legislature if she wins. The BC Liberal candidate is Gavin Dew, a business development and community planning consultant, who says voters should elect an MLA who can get things done. The Green Party candidate is community activist Pete Fry, the son of Vancouver Liberal MP Hedy Fry. The riding became vacant after BC NDP MLA Jenny Kwan resigned to run in the federal election.

Coquitlam-Burke Mountain is a more heated race. The riding has been represented by BC Liberal Doug Horne since its creation in 2009, but it’s considered up for grabs this time around. Trying to hold the seat for the BC Liberals is Joan Isaacs, a businesswoman with three decades’ experience in the financial services industry. She is running on the government’s economic record, and hopes voters will endorse Premier Clark’s performance to date on job creation, economic growth and community safety. The BC NDP hopes those who voted to elect a BC Liberal government in the general election will be more willing to vote for the BC NDP in this by-election to send a message to the government without having to change the government. The BC NDP candidate is Jodie Wickens, the head of a local autism advocacy group. Punk rocker Joe Keithley from the band D.O.A. has switched allegiances from the BC NDP and is running for the Greens.

Rising property assessments prompt provincial action
The B.C. Government is expanding property tax relief for homeowners after the most recent round of property assessments added 15 per-cent to the average value of detached properties in the Lower Mainland. The tax measure has been extended to homeowners with properties worth up to $1.2 million, up $100,000 from the previous threshold of $1.1 million. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is demanding provincial action on housing affordability. B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said next month’s provincial budget may contain additional measures to address affordability, including potential changes to B.C.’s property transfer tax.

Should flat rate MSP premiums be abolished in B.C.?
A petition put forward by a Ucluelet resident is calling on B.C. Premier Christy Clark to eliminate the Province’s flat-rate Medical Service Plan (MSP) premiums. The petition says B.C. is the only province in Canada to charge a flat-rate premium when they should follow standard taxation criteria, tying premium amounts to income. The petition notes that MSP premiums have doubled in the last 15 years and suggests replacing the current system with a more “equitable approach to funding our healthcare system.”