Former NDP MLA and cabinet minister Harry Lali has announced that he is seeking the NDP nomination in the riding of Fraser-Nicola, currently held by Liberal MLA Jackie Tegart. No nomination date has yet been set for the NDP in the riding, a process which will take a few months.
Lali was narrowly defeated by Tegart in the 2013 provincial election, but says “I never really left provincial politics. I’m president of the Fraser-Nicola Riding Association, and on the provincial executive of the NDP.” He adds that in his travels around the riding, “Many people think I’m still the MLA.” He chalks this up to what he calls the “lack of representation” the Fraser-Nicola riding is getting from Tegart. “She’s invisible in the constituency, missing important events. The public wants to see you.”
The four-time MLA, who also served as Parliamentary Secretary and Minister of Transportation and Highways, says that he has always fought for rural constituents. Tegart, in his view, is little more than a puppet for the Lower Mainland-centric Liberal party, representing urban views at the expense of rural voters.
“Rural B.C. needs a transportation system, but we’ve seen massive transportation projects all going into the Lower Mainland while our rural roads turn into goat tracks. And residents of the Nicola Valley don’t want to see urban waste in our area.” He also decries the Liberals’ track record on education and healthcare. “Since 2001 the Liberals have closed a school every 17 days,” he says, adding that the number of doctors in the region has decreased since the Liberals took power. “Somebody needs to stand up and fight for the constituents here.”
When asked how he would accomplish this, he replies, “I’d fight for every single job in the forestry sector in Fraser-Nicola. I’d fight for more doctors in rural communities, and fight not to have schools close. We need proper funding for schools in rural B.C., which aren’t getting their fair share. And when services like education, healthcare, and public services are pulled from rural communities, why would people move here? We need to attract young people to come to our communities.”
The subject of liquid natural gas (LNG) pipelines comes up, and Lali sighs. “The NDP gets the raw end of the stick regarding resource issues. [NDP leader] John Horgan and the NDP have not come out against LNG pipelines. We support resource development; but we have to respect First Nations and the environment. There’s a process to be followed. We don’t want to mess up the environment, and we need to sit down with Aboriginal people for meaningful consultation.
“The government needs to start supporting resource development. All the red tape makes it hard; it takes years instead of months to swim through it.” He says that there has been a massive giveaway of our natural resources. “The Liberals have consolidated forestry resources into the hands of a few corporations, so that 8 million cubic feet of wood a year are exported to China and the U.S., resulting in dozens of mill closures and the loss of thousands of jobs. The Nicola Valley alone has lost 400 forestry jobs since 2001. Forestry regulations can’t be written in boardrooms on Howe Street. The NDP would end raw log exports and support jobs here, by enabling smaller operators to bid if they are going to manufacture the wood here.”
Lali says that if he is successful, residents of Fraser-Nicola will get a representative who is not afraid to speak up. “I always speak my mind, and my heart. If I don’t agree with something, even in my own party, I’ll come out and say it. The Liberals are pulling the heart out of the heartland of the province. Enough is enough. If I’m elected, I’ll represent my constituents in Victoria, not represent Victoria in my constituency.”