Housing affordability, transit, key issues in Victoria for new NDP government

Housing affordability, transit, key issues in Victoria for new NDP government

There will be no summer vacation for Carole James and the NDP this year, as they’re getting set to form the province’s new government – the first change of political leadership in 16 years.

“It was an incredibly exciting day, a lot of anticipation and I think when we finally got the news that the lieutenant governor asked John [Horgan] to form government, I think there was both excitement and some responsibility – the weight of responsibility of the task that we have ahead of us,” said James, NDP MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill.

Last Thursday, Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon asked NDP leader John Horgan to form the province’s government, ending 16 years of B.C. Liberal rule. The decision came after the B.C. NDP and Greens defeated the Liberal government and leader Christy Clark in a vote of non-confidence in the B.C. legislature.

Now the real work begins for the NDP. The next steps are building a new government and choosing a new cabinet.

Horgan estimates it could take the rest of the summer to go through government transition documents, meet with deputy ministers and review Crown corporations such as BC Hydro and ICBC. The legislature may not be called for delivery of a new throne speech until after Labour Day, he said.

As for James, she’s happy to serve wherever Horgan chooses. Most recently she served as Opposition spokesperson for finance, and she previously was critic for Children and Family Development. James is also a former leader of the party, having served in that role from 2003 to 2010, when she was replaced by Adrian Dix.

Locally, James has a list of issues she wants to take aim at in government, with one of the more pressing ones being the lack of affordable rental housing in the city. She wants to see more units built, with a tightening up of requirements within the Residential Tenancy Act to protect tenants. The issue of “renovictions” – where landlords evict tenants temporarily or permanently to renovate or construct a new building, then rent out suites at a higher price – has been a problem in neighbourhoods such as Fairfield in recent months.

James also hopes to see an increase to income assistance, including a $100 monthly increase to people with disabilities, plus a $200 hike in their earnings exemption. She’ll also be working on finding opportunities to expand transit.

“I’m looking forward to the hard work ahead,” she said, adding it will be important to move quickly on the party’s agreement with the Greens, including the move to begin consultation on electoral reform and coming up with a related referendum question in a year.

“We’re (NDP and Greens) all close, we’re all Islanders, so we have the opportunity to build those relationships and focus on that agreement.”

– with files from Tom Fletcher,

Ashley Wadhwani

kendra.wong@vicnews.com