VANCOUVER — The New Democrats started the last full week of British Columbia's election campaign by pushing a climate-change agenda while the Liberals put jobs at the top of their campaign bid to win votes.
NDP Leader John Horgan attended a town hall meeting Monday with members of a climate leadership team the Liberal government had tasked in 2015 to advise them on climate-change recommendations.
Prominent environmentalist Tzeporah Berman, who was a member of the climate-action team, said Monday she is endorsing the NDP because as premier, Liberal Leader Christy Clark didn't follow the panel's recommendations after hailing its work at a climate-change conference in Paris.
Horgan said he would re-establish the team within the first 100 days in office if he wins the election on May 9 and would work to implement 32 recommendations that include an increase in the carbon tax to fight climate change.
He said the NDP would introduce a federally mandated carbon price of $50 a tonne by 2022, but do it over three years, starting in 2020.
"It's going to be a gradual implementation and we're going to make sure that almost 80 per cent of British Columbians will get some form of a rebate so they can have less money out of their pocket than before," he said.
The plan calls for low- and middle-income families to get a rebate cheque intended to mitigate increases in the carbon tax.
Berman said Green party Leader Andrew Weaver's climate-action plan is also strong but that the NDP's agenda is more robust, with initiatives to create jobs in the mining, agriculture and forestry sectors.
"Under Christy Clark, the B.C. Liberals have focused on trying to increase fracked gas and LNG. Now our greenhouse gas emissions are going up."
Berman said she met with Clark after the task force was convened in June 2015 and the Liberal leader seemed serious about implementing climate-change initiatives that would take into account affordability and a strong economy.
However, the plan the party introduced last August will allow climate pollution to increase for the next 10 to 14 years, Berman said.
The carbon tax was launched in 2008 by then-premier Gordon Campbell but Clark froze it when she took office three years later.
The tax sits at $30 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions though Berman's team had called for a $10 increase starting in 2018.
Clark told a crowd at a Vancouver biotech firm on Monday that the biggest threat facing the province is U.S. President Donald Trump and his anti-trade rhetoric.
When asked by reporters about Berman's claims, Clark said the Liberals accepted many of the panel's recommendations.
"We did not, though, accept the key recommendation in the minds of some of the folks from the environmental movement, which is that we double the carbon tax," she said.
"Is now the time to double the carbon tax, to hike business taxes, to hike personal income taxes, when we are facing a rising tide of protectionism and a tax-cutting government down south of the border? I think it would be disastrous for jobs in our province."
Clark said British Columbia remains a leader on climate change.
"Nobody else in North America is paying a $30-a-tonne carbon tax, nobody," she said. "And we should be very proud of our leadership position. As other people catch up we'll be in a position to rethink that policy. But we are going to freeze it."
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Camille Bains, The Canadian Press