Rob Shaw: BC Conservative leader courts Victoria’s business community

Rob Shaw: BC Conservative leader courts Victoria's business community

Surging BC Conservative leader John Rustad met with Victoria’s business community Wednesday to try and pitch himself as the choice to rally behind to defeat the NDP during a centre-right vote split with BC United.

Rustad introduced himself to the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, where more than 80 members gathered to hear his economic policy.

“We’re going to be very aggressive on taxation,” Rustad said during his speech. “We need to be in this province if we want to be able to drive the investment I was talking about in terms of productivity, changes, if we want to be able to make sure people can afford to put food on the table and pay their rent.

“We are going to need to look at the entire tax burden. That includes on the corporate side as well but more importantly on the income side for people.”

Rustad was light on details.

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But he garnered applause for a promise to end the NDP’s short-term rental restrictions. He also reiterated a pledge to scrap drug decriminalization and safe supply, as well as introduce involuntary addictions treatment for people who have repeatedly overdosed.

During a question and answer with chamber CEO Bruce Williams, Rustad said he is open to restarting Vancouver Island rail service. And he also promised to consider small passenger ferries in the BC Ferries’ fleet to transport people between the Gulf Islands.

Williams said Victoria’s business community, which has yet to really meet the Conservative leader, came away intrigued.

“I think we was very clear about what he wanted to say about all the issues,” said Williams. “He didn’t evade anything, and he was straight forward with most of it. So that’s, I think, kind of what people came here to hear today, and they did.”

Rustad was also picking up more momentum outside the event.

He announced he had poached BC United’s candidate for Powell-River Sunshine Coast, Chris Moore, to his team.

Moore said he’s lost confidence BC United could win the next election.

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