B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, who was widely criticized Thursday for saying that struggling to pay rent is challenging but also “fun” and “a rite of passage,” has taken to Twitter to rephrase his comments.
Wilkinson made the controversial statement in the legislature Wednesday, during a discussion on upcoming changes to the B.C. Residential Tenancy Act. He said, “I rented for over 15 years, I lived in a dozen different rentals. It was challenging at times, but it was fun. It was part of growing up and getting better. We’ve all done it. It’s kind of a wacky time of life, but it can be really enjoyable.”
The Liberal leader added that, by imposing rent caps and stricter rules on tenant protections, the current NDP government is making it harder for landlords, which ultimately reduces rental supply.
NDP housing minister Selina Robinson was quick to criticize the comments, saying that Wilkinson’s comments “demonstrate how the B.C. Liberals are out of touch.” The Twitterverse also jumped on Wilkinson’s statements with an array of responses, largely slamming the Liberal leader’s position.
When young families can’t afford to buy a home because an out-of-control housing market was ignored for years by the @bcliberals just how out of touch do you need to be to say that the solution is to stop protecting renters, because after all it’s just a ‘wacky’ phase of life— Selina Robinson (@selinarobinson) February 28, 2019
My favourite part of growing up is when you wake up one morning and suddenly have $150K for a down payment and a salary high enough to comfortably pay a $4,000 mortgage every month. #vanre https://t.co/MXfjatuN7P— Bethany Lindsay (@bethanylindsay) February 28, 2019
Struggling to locate or maintain a roof for one's family is not "fun". Moving from place to place against one's wishes is not fun. Losing sleep over fears of how one will pay rent that eats the majority of one's monthly income is not "fun". #wackytime #bcpoli https://t.co/M7ICIUWfK3— Jagrup Brar (@JagrupBrar1) March 1, 2019
Wilkinson responded on Twitter with a long message in four parts in an attempt to reposition his commentary.
I was a renter for 15 years. I had a low paying job and student loans. I know what it feels like to worry about making ends meet each month. I know what it feels like to dream of a better situation, more choice and freedom in life. 1/4 #bcpoli— Andrew Wilkinson (@Wilkinson4BC) February 28, 2019
The government’s job is to make achieving your dream possible. If you dream of a better job, a better home, a higher income – those are all opportunities that are crushed when this NDP government closes the door to investment and smothers job creation with taxes. 2/4 #bcpoli— Andrew Wilkinson (@Wilkinson4BC) February 28, 2019
Looking back on my time as a renter, I remember working hard. Living with roommates in tight apartments and planning my future. 3/4 #bcpoli— Andrew Wilkinson (@Wilkinson4BC) February 28, 2019
Some people find themselves renters by choice, others not. They are all helped when we support the rental market with co-op housing and ensure there is ample supply. 4/4 #bcpoli— Andrew Wilkinson (@Wilkinson4BC) February 28, 2019
The debate comes in the week that the City of Vancouver implemented new rental guidelines that have been criticized over the rent prices that the City describes as "affordable."
Also this week, an online campaign in support of renters called Stand Up For Renters was launched, calling in B.C. NDP Premier John Horgan to implement the changes recommended by the party’s Rental Housing Task Force.