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BC Conservatives would block land claims, axe carbon tax

KELOWNA – As B.C. Conservative Party leader Wilf Hanni delivered his party’s election platform, he took a swipe at British Columbia's two leading political parties.

“Neither the NDP nor the Liberals is qualified to govern this province,” Hanni said Tuesday at the Conservatives provincial headquarters in Kelowna. “And the only hope B.C. has on May 12th is to hold them both to a minority and to give the B.C. Conservative Party the balance of power.”

The platform Hanni unveiled is meant resonate with conservative-minded voters who have become disillusioned with the Liberals but could never bring themselves to vote NDP.

The B.C. Conservative platform promises to:

– “Allow more competitive delivery options within a publicly funded health care system,” says the platform document. Hanni also said the Conservatives want to see hospitals move from annual block funding, which he said encourages administrators to look for ways to cut costs at the expense of patients. “To them the patient is a liability. They don’t want to see patients, they cost money,” Hanni said. Instead the Conservatives want funding to follow patients and for hospitals to get paid on a fee for service basis similar to doctors.

– Oppose the Liberals attempt to pass a recognition and reconciliation law to deal with aboriginal land claims. Instead, the Conservatives say settling land claims is a federal responsibility under the terms of union B.C. signed when it joined confederation and it is up to the federal government to negotiate settlements and bear all of their costs.

– Eliminate the carbon tax and support the development of new technologies such as tidal power, wind power, geothermal power and biodiesel from waste wood, ethanol and hydrogen. They would also encourage the production of coal, petroleum, natural gas and methane using technology to remove pollutants from those fuels.

– Stimulate the economy by removing regulations and other barriers facing business and expand resource development including new mines and the expansion of the oil and gas industry. Hanni said, “We’ll encourage private industry to create jobs by developing our natural resources and by investing in alternate energy sources."

– Cut taxes by reducing the PST by one per cent in 2009 and gradually reduce it further over time. The Conservatives also want more cuts to personal and business tax rates and to eliminate the property transfer tax. Hanni said, “Ronald Reagan proved that you can stimulate by an economy and then have a strong economy by reducing taxes.”

– Introduce a voucher system for Kindergarten to Grade 12, which would allow parents to choose the school they send their children to, public or private, “and taxpayers will pay the cost of that tuition fee,” said Hanni. As for post-secondary education, the Conservatives are proposing to subsidize tuition fees up to 50 per cent a year for students who pass their courses and who work in B.C. for at least one year for each year they receive the subsidy.

– Spread infrastructure spending more fairly throughout the province. The Conservatives say the Liberals have targeted too much of their spending in the Lower Mainland.

– Put more resources into prosecuting crime, lobby the federal government to increase sentences for those convicted of crimes, put inmates to work, and create programs to help keep young people from turning to crime. The Conservative blame the Liberals for allowing crime to fester by cutting resources to the justice system. “Our B.C. Liberal government has cut back on the costs and number of prosecutors and police personnel,” said Hanni.

– Revamp the Human Rights Tribunal, “so it can no longer be used by special interest groups to muzzle their opponents,” said Hanni. The Conservatives would also rescind the so-called gag law restricting third party advertising in the lead up to and during an election.

– Press for good government. “We’re not getting good government,” Hanni said. “We’re getting what I call ethically challenged government right now.” The Conservatives want free votes in the legislature and to make it easier for voters to recall MLAs.

Adrian Nieoczym reports for the Kelowna Capital News.

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