Issues plaguing North and West Vancouver are caused by an NDP government that’s too slow to act, says B.C.’s leader of the opposition.
Kevin Falcon, Vancouver-Quilchena MLA and head of the BC Liberal Party, took questions from reporters on Wednesday at a roundtable discussion hosted by Kirk LaPointe, columnist and vice-president of editorial at Glacier Media.
Answers provided by Falcon, who lives in North Van and previously worked for developer Anthem Properties, were often characterized by criticism of Premier David Eby and the BC NDP for its inability to push projects ahead, and the need to remove excessive red tape from the private sector.
When asked how to solve congestion related to the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing, Falcon said the issue is going to require a new bridge, “no question about it.”
“That crossing is now over 60 years old – it literally is starting to fall apart,” he said. “I was just going over about a week ago, when a chunk of the bridge literally fell through and created a hole.”
“What the current government is doing is time wasting: They do studies and then they’ll do more studies and study the studies,” Falcon continued.
As minister of transportation from 2004-2009, Falcon said he prioritized urgent issues like the Sea to Sky highway upgrade and the Canada Line.
“We’ve gotten those things done. The Evergreen Line got done, and now they’re starting to do the corridor through Vancouver. That’s great, but we now have to look at the North Shore. It’s a huge priority for me,” he said.
Housing will only be affordable after market 'flooded' with supply
Falcon was also asked about how to address housing affordability in our local municipalities, especially when some are slower to approve new projects than others.
The politician said the current government doesn’t understand the marketplace. Falcon said the combination of ambitious federal immigration goals and a domestic population looking for places to live has created enormous demand with very limited supply.
“Only recently has David Eby, who, by the way, was the minister responsible for housing. This was his file, and only within the last year, has he suddenly woken up and realized, ‘Gee, I wonder if supply might have something to do with it,’” Falcon said.
He added that municipalities are a big part of the problem, and that a BC Liberal government led by him would establish targets for new housing, and swift penalties for local governments that don’t measure up.
In his opinion, the City of North Vancouver has done an outstanding job in delivering all kinds of market rental, affordable rental, condos and townhomes.
“West Vancouver and North Vancouver district have to do their bit,” Falcon said.
At the same time, he said developers shouldn’t be demonized and that overly restrictive rent controls disincentivize capital investment in the rental market.
When the market is flooded with lots of supply, “only then will you start to break the back of affordability that you see,” Falcon said.
Among the questions asked by other local journalists, Falcon said that scrapping the plan for the Massey Bridge was a “terrible capital decision,” as $100 million was lost in preliminary construction. He also said the BC NDP should stop wasting taxpayer money on trying to stop oil and gas projects.
Underscoring the importance of local news, Falcon promised to get rid of fees for freedom of information requests within his first 90 days of office, with minor provisions to control “abuse” of the system.