BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon talks affordability and bridge building in speech to Kelowna Chamber of Commerce

Falcon: start bridge planning

BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon admits legislation will be needed to force municipalities to speed up the approval of new housing projects in B.C.

Falcon was the keynote speaker at the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce luncheon Monday.

He focused on affordability, repeatedly pointing out that the John Horgan NDP government has made a lot of promises but hasn’t delivered on commitments to making it easier for British Columbians squeezed by the skyrocketing cost of buying or renting a home.

Falcon suggested incentives are needed to encourage the private sector to build more affordable and rental housing.

He also said municipalities have to stop putting up roadblocks to new construction.

“We’re going to have to do that by legislation, candidly.

“David Eby has actually stolen what I’ve been saying for the last over a year. We’re going to need legislation to ensure that municipalities have a more timely and certain approval process. Otherwise we’ll never get that supply of housing that we need into the marketplace.”

He admits while it’s controversial in some quarters, it’s needed.

“You heard me talking about how it can take up to six years to get a simple tower approved in the City of Vancouver. That is just totally unacceptable.

“We have to have a situation where the municipalities are working shoulder to shoulder with us to get the supply we need, or we will never have affordable anything in the province of British Columbia when it comes to housing,” said Falcon.

As the region continues to grow, the Liberal leader acknowledges that a second bridge crossing Okanagan Lake is needed.

“I know a traffic study is underway right now between the city and the province. I understand it’s going to be ready by the end of the year. I’ll be interested in seeing that because I like to look at the numbers and the evidence. But my very strong suspicion is that we are going to need a second crossing in Kelowna. I don’t think there’s much doubt about that.”

He adds we might as well get planning because Kelowna will continue to grow, likely to 350,000 residents in the next five to ten years.

When it comes to crime, Falcon touched on a letter from big city mayors, including Kelowna’s Colin Basran, that criticized the province’s "catch and release" program for some repeat offenders.

He said lack of enforcement and consequences are part of the problem, but so are drug dependence and mental health. Falcon told the audience that the severely mentally ill should be put into 24/7 long term mandatory care for their own safety and that of the community.

He also told Chamber of Commerce members that he supports $10 a day child care, but the private sector has to be given a bigger role.

When asked about the party changing its name to drop the Liberal moniker, Falcon said that he favours the BC Party, but that name is already taken. He's leaving it up to the membership to make the right decision.

The majority of delegates at the BC Liberal Party convention in Penticton earlier this month voted to start consultations on a new name.

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