Provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix toured the East Kootenay this past weekend with Kootenay East candidate Norma Blissett and MLA for Columbia River Revelstoke Norm Macdonald.
Dix met with the Townsman on November 9 prior to two public events at the Prestige Inn. He discussed the issues facing the riding, province and even put in his two cents about last week’s ballot initiative in Washington State that legalized marijuana.
Dix was clear that he does not encourage drug use, but said the recent ballot initiative that legalized marijuana in Washington State will soon turn debate on this side of the border.
“I do not recommend people smoke marijuana. I think that the way we regulate marijuana today is not the best thing but I am not an advocate of that,” he said. “I am not an advocate of drug use, and I think we have to say that clearly.”
He predicts that in the 2015 federal election it will be a campaign issue, because regardless of how B.C. politicians and residents feel, the matter is for the Parliament of Canada.
“The federal parliament has decided that marijuana is illegal under the criminal code – in fact the current government has increased penalties in the most recent crime bill for marijuana. So they’ve gone in the opposite direction to I think what most Canadians think is the right approach and now it appears most Americans think is the wrong approach.”
For now it’s time to wait and watch what happens in the two American states – Colorado and Washington, but Dix said his position has been clear on the issue from day one.
“I’ve always been a supporter of decriminalizing marijuana possession. I’ve always felt that was the right approach,” he said. “I’m even now probably a moderate on the question.”
On the Ktunaxa treaty:
Dix said he will be the first to applaud a successful treaty negotiation when a deal is reached between the provincial governments and the Ktunaxa First Nation.
“I think one of the mistakes that occurred by the present government was not to build on what the previous government had done on First Nations,” he said.
“I’m hopeful they’ll succeed and if they do I’ll even praise the government because we’ve got to make progress, and it’s been too long.”
On Cranbrook and Norma Blissett:
Dix said he was proud of the candidate chosen to fight for the NDP’s seat in the riding of Kootenay East, and said he was confident Norma Blissett was the woman for the job.
“We have a great candidate, Norma’s going to represent this community and the other communities in the riding so well,” he said.
Dix said himself and his fellow candidates in the NDP party were focusing on a positive campaign as they look towards the provincial election in May.
“The Liberal party continues to run negative campaigns against me and we continue to be positive,” he said. “I think people want to see that.”
He believes that Blissett fits in perfectly with his party’s values and will easily connect with the people in the riding.
“The thing I like about Norma and our campaign is this isn’t about us, or me being premier of her being MLA. It’s about the things we want to change and I think that’s in contrast to the Liberal approach,” he said.
the election will boil down to who has the better plan in the end Dix believes, and he said the NDP wants to get back to basics.
“The Liberals have spent a lot of money on convention centres and stadium roofs but we think the basics – health care and education, the productivity of our economy, creating jobs – we think those are the priorities.”
At the end of the day, Dix said Blissett is very important to the NDP strategy heading into May.
“The NDP has never won government without this seat.”
On jobs and skills training:
Dix criticized the Liberal government’s failure to adequately train workers, and said even current apprenticship programs are failing to meet the mark.
“80 per cent of the jobs of the future require skills training and what we’re seeing is that we’re no where near that,” he said.
Dix estimates that the province’s current apprenticeship program has a 37 per cent completion rate, while unions in the province boast 80 per cent completion. While he said the unions may not have all the answers, he believes lessons can be learned from them.
The federal government is now looking into claims that temporary foreign workers were unfairly selected for coal mining jobs in Northern B.C. Dix said immigration is key to a healthy economy, but he wants those workers to be a part of the community instead of coming here temporarily.
“I strongly support immigration. When people come to your country to work here they should have, in my view, the option to stay and contribute and be part of communities,” he said. “They were completely off one of the key issues of our time.”
Dix saved harsh criticism for recent television advertising launched by the Liberal governments that talk about recent contribution for skills training, and wondered if that money could have been better spent providing the very training they promote.
“In the last few weeks the Premier has gone on television on this issue. So they cut actual funding to young people, and they’re spending the money on television ads for the Liberal Party,” he said.
“I don’t think the people of Cranbrook think it’s a good idea to spend scarce public resources promoting the Liberal Party. Anyone who suggests they do it out of touch with the people of Cranbrook.”
Dix said the Liberal government has flip-flopped on the issue of proposed pipelines through the province and Premier Christy Clark is now fighting for a bigger piece of the pie after handing the decision off to the federal government.
“When the polls said that more people favoured the Enbridge Norther Gateway Pipeline than opposed it, we took up a clear position – we told people what it was,” he said.
“When you contrast with the Premier’s position, which is to hand over jurisdiction to the federal government and then make threats that she could not possibly follow through on such as turning off their power – which is something that legally she couldn’t do. I think we should have a more serious approach to these issues and that’s what we’re presenting.”
On municipal infrastructure and taxes:
Dix expressed his concerns on what the Union of B.C. Municipalities has said is an unfair split of tax dollars, where only 8 per cent of every dollar goes to municipalities to be used for infrastructure projects. He said there are improvements that can be made on current grant programs, although that he admitted funding is scarce in the current economy.
“When we do have funding programs, especially for capital, there tends to be constraints on those programs,” he said.
As an example, Dix points to pre-Olympic spending that may not have been the best for every community but directly effected Cranbrook.
“The current government decided before the Olympics that we should spend a lot of money on something called Spirit Squares. I don’t think those are a bad thing, but when you’re dealing with sewer and water and road problems, maybe they’re not the priority.”
Dix said that money gleaned from the provincial carbon tax is not being used where it should be after it was implemented in 2009.
“Not a penny of that carbon tax – not a penny of it – went to environmental initiatives. What they did do is subsidize corporation tax cuts.”
Dix said there has to be a better way to help municipalities that are struggling to come up with their third of the pie to support their grant application.
“Communities that are better off have an advantage in those processes because they can more easily find their third of the spending so I think there’s some changes we can make,” he said.
“I think the way we have given grants in recent times has favoured provincial and federal priorities over real local needs.”