Election hopeful Adrian Dix to visit Castlegar Wednesday
British Columbia's opposition leader, Adrian Dix, said there are a number of reasons for his visit to the Kootenay's this week, including a March 20 fundraiser for Kootenay-West MLA Katrine Conroy.
Dix said he has a full schedule of meetings planned as he travels through the Kootenay region, drumming up support for the NDP as the May 14 general election nears.
"I like being in the region," said Dix by telephone with the Castlegar News on Tuesday, March 19. "There are things there that the NDP has worked on for a long time. Columbia Power and the Columbia Basin Trust are both legacies of the NDP's time in office and so seeing the ongoing work is also exciting."
"There are lots of major healthcare and economic issues," said Dix. "The major employers in the region are facing a skills shortage and that is a key issue facing the economy. I want to talk to people and businesses in the region."
The City of Castlegar has made no secret it would like to see a regional hospital built in the city and Dix said that issue relates to a general centralization of all of the health care authorities in B.C.
Dix said he would be discussing healthcare with people in the community, including doctors and healthcare workers and the discussion of a regional hospital was one of the things to look at.
"I think there are significant regional issues," said Dix. "As we've seen, there has been a relative centralization of care and so Castlegar, Nelson and other communities in the region have felt that over time."
Dix sees chronic disease as a main driver of healthcare costs and a significant issue everywhere in B.C., something that better coordination with doctors and other providers need to address.
"The support nurse-practioners can give is often what is needed for chronic disease," he said. "And we have to continue to push to attract doctors in all parts of the province, but also have to ensure other professions use the full scope of their skills so people get access to the primary care they need. One of our key priorities in healthcare is to ensure people have the means to stay at home as long as possible without entering the care home system."
Dix said nobody wants to be in acute care or a care home.
"It's an important region for us with respect to the election but also an important region generally," he said. "The Kootenay's have had historically, tremendous NDP representation and this period continues that tradition."
Dix labelled the NDP as perpetual underdogs, saying the Liberals are raising a "huge war chest" and running "some of the nastiest advertising we have ever seen in B.C."
"We're responding with a different kind of campaign," he said.
Asked if the Kootenay trip was a pre-scouting endeavour for possible future cabinet posts, Dix said he knew Conroy, Mungall and Macdonald very well and didn't think he could learn too much more about them during his visit.
He was optimistic about the NDP candidates in the region and his party's chances in May.
"I think we have superb MLA's," he said. "Michelle and Katrine have just done a terrific job; Norm Macdonald in Columbia River - Revelstoke — I think he won with 56 per cent of the vote — and in the East Kootenay we're got a terrific candidate there [Norma Blissett of Cranbrook] and we're looking to do very well there, as we are to the West in Boundary-Similkameen."
Dix said they will be nominating the Grand Forks-Oliver seat at the beginning of April.
With skills training and education being a key NDP platform item, the opposition leader also addressed some recent comments from Andy Davidoff, president of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers' Union (KCTU), which were directed to the current B.C. Government.
At the BC Teachers' Federation annual general meeting in Vancouver Monday, Mar. 18, Davidoff said teachers are not getting enough support from the current B.C. Government in maintaining a healthy working environment.
"One of the things that we're hopeful of, over the next ten years, is that we can end some of the fighting in education," said Dix. "It really started in January 2002 when the government brought in bill 27 and 28 and stripped contracts at that time. Since then, we've had this period of instability and it has coincided with a period where education is more important for young people than ever before."
Dix said 80 per cent of the jobs of the future will require post-secondary education and by definition that means excellent K-12 education.
Dix also reiterated statements he has made with respect to the Northern Gateway proposal, saying it is not in the environmental and economic interest of B.C.
"We've been specific about that to the joint review panel, which is not a joint review between Victoria and Ottawa but a joint review between Ottawa ministries," he said. "We disagree with the current [B.C.] government's policy — as you know they have signed an equivalency agreement with Ottawa, that basically says whatever the Prime Minister decides becomes B.C.'s decision. So, in the first week, if we were to win the election we would cancel that equivalency agreement and ensure the decision is made here."
As far as the rest of the NDP platform was concerned, Dix said his party has been more specific about taxes, earlier than anyone else and has talked about skills training for more than two years.
"The province is in difficult financial shape," said Dix. "So we have to review all of our plans. When you're running for government, everything you put in the platform you have to be prepared to implement with public funds; that means you have to get it right."