These are difficult times in B.C. and if the NDP is elected to lead this province, leader Adrian Dix believes they are inheriting “a financial mess” from the BC Liberals.
That’s what Dix told a sparse crowd of about 30 who gathered to hear him speak on Monday at the second in the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce leadership luncheon series at Newlands. Premier Christy Clark is set to speak on Monday, March 25. Conservative leader John Cummins spoke on Friday. The only Langley municipal politician to attend the luncheon was City councillor Teri James.
“If elected there will be things we would like to do but we can’t, and things we just won’t be able to do, but we will lay all of that out long before the election in May,” promised Dix.
Dix did offer a glimpse into his position on TransLink’s funding woes, economy drivers, taxes and gas projects.
Dix recognized that transportation is a key issue for Langley and wants to see carbon tax revenue dedicated to TransLink.
“People in Langley pay more than anywhere else,” Dix said. “I’m from Vancouver so I can take SkyTrain everywhere.”
He then jokingly referenced to the time he was caught not paying for SkyTrain. He wants to return power to the TransLink Mayors’ Council, given it is local governments that take on all the funding burden to pay for transit and transportation infrastructure across Metro Vancouver, he said.
“Transit is absolutely necessary. It’s a key priority for livability and for climate change,” he said.
He does support Liquid Natural Gas projects but doesn’t believe the province should throw all its eggs into just that basket.
“There is a law in B.C. about capped emissions. If you want LNG and if we plan on those emissions, we have to cap emissions somewhere else.”
He said there are many other areas of economic growth potential to consider, including in the film industry.
“In Langley, 700 people work full time in the film industry. Those are people buying and shopping locally, supporting small business.”
The NDP doesn’t support the Northern Gateway oil project and he said if elected he would toss out the agreement the BC Liberals made with the federal government, which gives Ottawa final decision making power over the pipeline.
He said the NDP will increase corporate tax to 12 per cent, from 11, but will leave small business tax the same. He didn’t address whether he would increase income tax or not.
Dix believes that for small businesses to thrive and grow, there needs to be a culture of stability.
“The HST was incompetently managed and everyone was damaged by it — the restaurant industry and everywhere,” Dix said. He was vocal against the HST and was part of the campaign that led to a referendum.
Dix spent a lot of time speaking about the NDP’s focus on post-secondary education coupled with skills and trades training. The NDP believe this is key to boosting B.C.’s labour productivity.
He said the NDP’s priority is to increase skills training even for areas like forestry and mining, which has potential job growth as many are set to retire. He wants to address completion rates in apprenticeship programs, which right now are set at 35 per cent completing training. To that end he would like to see counsellors hired to help students navigate that system.
He believes there is a lack of trades training up north. He agrees with the premier that the equipment students are learning on is outdated and investment needs to happen there. He believes young people are denied access to post secondary education because of its cost.
“When I went to UBC in the 1980s, it cost $800 for tuition,” said Dix who received a bachelor of arts.
“Today, it would cost $27,000 on average.”
To that end, he wants to reinstate non-refundable grants for post-secondary education.
“There are 800,000 people living in relative poverty in B.C. and we are losing our middle class,” said Dix about what his government wants to focus on.
“The last 10 years we have had the lowest economic growth,” he said. Investing in young people’s education is key to change, he said.