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'Standing for the average person': Rustad lays out B.C. Conservative policy

Conservative Party of B.C. Leader John Rustad speaks to the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce
Conservative Party of B.C. John Rustad, Wednesday, June 19, speaks to the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.

Conservative Party of B.C. Leader John Rustad promised a Victoria business audience "common-sense" solutions including far-ranging tax cuts while saving his sharpest criticisms of Premier David Eby's government until the very end.

However, Rustad was largely mum on his rivals on the right — B.C. United under Kevin Falcon. 

Rustad's appearance before the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce Wednesday (June 19) came almost two weeks after Falcon had addressed the same group. While Falcon questioned the quality of Conservative candidates, Rustad never mentioned B.C. United. The only reference to B.C. United came in response to a question about whether the rivals would work with each other in the case of a minority government. Rustad's answer -— like Falcon's — was in the affirmative. 

"We have one objective and one objective only: that is to replace David Eby and his radical government policies," Rustad. "I will certainly be reaching out to (B.C. United) to bring down...the NDP government as early as possible."

Rustad forewent opportunities to brag about the recent run of political figures switching allegiances to his party. He instead offered policy proposals on a range of issues, some detailed, others still to be fleshed out. 

Rustad promised his government would improve B.C.'s productivity and attractiveness to investors by cutting permitting times and corporate taxes.

"We are going to be very aggressive on taxation," he said. 

He also pointed to European mixtures of public and private health care as models worth emulating while comparing B.C.'s system to North Korea's. He also floated the idea of exploring "other options" when it comes to providing passenger-only ferry services for smaller islands, as well as easing vehicular congestion in Metro Vancouver and in Greater Victoria. 

Rustad promised to eliminate legislation banning short-term rentals. He noted the province could mandate public employees to return to their offices. He broadly endorsed plans for rail service on Vancouver Island, noting its current absence wastes a lot of potential. He also drew strong applause when he said he was "extremely disappointed about the level of anti-Semitism" on B.C.'s post-secondary campuses. 

Rustad said lack of childcare is keeping people out of the workforce, but also immediately questioned whether $10-a-day childcare for everybody is realistic.

"So I think you need to be innovative with childcare," he said. "Particularly, we need to empower the private sector. "

He conceded his party's policy still needs to be fleshed out, adding that it will try to be "very innovative." 

Rustad reiterated his promise to end the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers and fire B.C.'s public health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. He said one or two health care workers prohibited from working could make a difference in smaller communities.

He said his government would end both the safe supply and decriminalization programs. He blamed decriminalization for declining public safety across B.C., which has hurt businesses. He also promised additional investments to help individuals dealing with the related addictions and homelessness, but also raised the possibility of "involuntary recovery": stopping individuals dealing with addictions from returning to the streets. 

"They are at risk of harming themselves," he said. "So quite frankly, as a society, we have to make tough choices in terms of trying to make sure that we do what's right for society," he said. 

Rustad acknowledged such a move would invite a constitutional challenge, but said B.C. has to be prepared to invoke the notwithstanding clause.

Rustad also said B.C. should seek the same powers as Quebec when it comes to controlling immigration to help fill labour gaps. He also reiterated his promise to eliminate the carbon tax.

"It's not going to change the weather," he said.

He also repeated familiar calls for B.C. to lessen its dependence on food imports and said British Columbians need to have a "serious" discussion about adding nuclear power to B.C.'s energy mix.

"I can say all of those things, whether it is water, food or energy, dealing with policies, such as addictions, primary health care, all of this is just a reflection of who we are as Conservative Party, which is just about standing for the average, every-day person and making sure that we keep people at the centre of everything," he said. 

Rustad later contrasted this philosophy with Eby's calling him as "socialist" who believes in "big government" in all aspects of life. "He is also an authoritarian, which does not respect democracy." 

Rustad pointed to the Surrey Police transition and government "overriding" municipal government on housing policy. 



Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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