Langley won’t be ignored by the NDP if Adrian Dix becomes the party’s new leader.
Dix made that pledge as he spoke to about 35 NDP supporters at The Mocha Room in Langley City Monday night. He said it is essential, if the NDP wants to form government, that it have a more visible and ongoing presence in Fraser Valley and Okanagan ridings which the party has often simply ceded to the Liberals.
“You don’t ever want to be non-competitive in areas that are the fastest-growing,” he said. “As leader, you must come, and come often, to this region.”
He pointed to the 36 per cent of the vote that NDP candidate Kathleen Stephany obtained in the 2009 provincial election in the Langley riding against Mary Polak. In Vernon, which Liberal Eric Foster won by four per cent over the NDP, 36 per cent of the vote was enough to win the seat.
Dix, whose expertise in political calculations was honed while he served as former premier Glen Clark’s chief of staff, said that the NDP essentially wrote off seats like Langley and Vernon in the last election. It can’t afford to do so.
“We have to be visible in these communities,” he said.
Dix has already been visible here. He has been at Langley Memorial Hospital on numerous occasions, as the NDP health critic. He was at numerous meetings when Langley Seniors Centre had funding for its outreach program cut in 2009, and “Mary Polak was most unhappy to see me.” He also spoke at a fundraiser for Stephany early in 2009, and she is backing his campaign for leader.
In his speech and response to questions from the audience, Dix showed that he is up-to-date on many Langley issues. He spoke about the shortage of transit services, the challenges facing LMH and other Fraser Health Authority hospitals, class size and composition issues in Langley schools and the tragedy at a south Langley mushroom farm that left three men dead and two permanently injured.
Dix said the Liberals boast about their economic record, but statistics paint a different picture. He said the province has had two per cent annual growth in the Liberals’ 10 years in office, as compared to three per cent under the NDP in the 1990s and 3.8 per cent under the Social Credit governments of Bill Bennett and Bill Vander Zalm.
“You have to go back to the great depression to see a government that has performed more poorly on the economy,” he said.
“The gap between the rich and poor has grown dramatically,” with B.C. having the lowest minimum wage in the country and a $6 per hour training wage, 25 per cent below the minimum wage, he said.
He noted that the Liberals eliminated corporate capital tax on banks in 2007, one that was instituted by Social Credit and raised $95 million annually. The government has also given another $180 million in tax cuts to corporations on Jan. 1, 2010 and Jan. 1, 2011, while at the same time boosting MSP premiums for working people and increasing the long-term care fees paid by seniors.
“We should have had the big corporations come down and get their cheques directly from the people paying more (in fees),” he said.
Dix also said that people living in the FHA, the fastest-growing part of B.C., have lost more medical services than any other region in the province.
“The population goes up, and services go down,” he said.”FHA has the lowest acute care bed ratio in the country.”
Susan Fonseca, president of Langley Teachers Association, told Dix that the Langley school system has one in three classrooms with classes of more than 30 students, or three or more special needs children, and it is partly due to the district “hoarding money” to pay back its $13 million debt to Victoria.
‘”This speaks to why we need an NDP MLA in this region,” Dix replied. “Rich Coleman and Mary Polak paint themselves as two of the most powerful people in provincial politics, and objectively they are. Where is that power on behalf of the school system?”