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General News · 11th March 2011
Claire Trevena
For people who love politics, we are witnessing a vibrant time. A new premier designate has been elected in BC; the Official Opposition is heading toward the final month in our leadership race; and there are rumours that there may be a federal election this spring.

I frankly don’t hold out much hope from our newly elected Premier designate Clark. While she says she provides a fresh start, in reality she was in cabinet at the beginning of the Campbell government -- and close enough to the former Premier to be his second in command. In fact she co-authored the New Era document which bought the first round of massive cuts a decade ago. Further, her campaign team – Patrick Kinsella, Larry Bell, Mike McDonald and Jessica McDonald – is the same team that has worked closely with Gordon Campbell.

If she is serious about change, about providing a new vision for the province, she could start by calling the Legislature back into session and finally get on with the real business of government and be answerable to the opposition. As a former education minister she could right the wrongs in education by addressing the funding formula and downloading of costs which starves our school system. As a person who claims to be committed to the concept of families she could ensure that there is an anti-poverty plan which includes raising the minimum wage. As a person who purports to care about the future of BC, she could take on and develop what her predecessor dabbled in and start seriously addressing climate change and the environment.

These are among the issues which candidates for the Opposition leadership are considering. They are travelling around the province meeting with groups large and small, talking about ideas which are important to individuals and to communities. And the five who are in the race are not only talking to NDP members: they are out talking with businesses, community organisations, teachers and students. They are inclusive and exciting discussions which are shaping the future policy direction for our province.

At the start of the race I raised a range of issues I hoped to be addressed during this debate and I am pleased that they are largely being considered by the candidates. A fundamental question for me is always: how will the public purse pays for the wide variety of services we expect a government to provide – from roads and bridges to schools and welfare. Two candidates (John Horgan and Nicholas Simons) say they will look at all sources of revenue available to a government – individual and corporate taxes, resource rents and leases, licenses and premiums – and work out, through a fair tax commission how to ensure that there is a viable government income based on fairness. The others have specific ideas on specific taxes and fees.

The only candidates who responded in writing to the questions I posed in January, at the start of the race, were Dana Larsen and Nicholas Simons. John Horgan went through the list point by point in person while Adrian Dix and Mike Farnworth talked individually with me in a broader context about their ideas and policy direction. Some of the issues that I broached also have been raised in individual policy blueprints; others have been answered in questionnaires to third party organisations (such as Organising for Change, the environmental lobby group).

All the candidates recognise the glaring and growing inequalities in the province and each is evolving a variation of a poverty reduction plan and as part of that, recognise the need to build social housing.

Healthcare and education are priorities for all the candidates. Preventative care was emphasised as a long term answer for people across the province and home care was emphasized to ensure people can stay in their homes for as long as possible. Likewise all said that they agreed that we need to establish a comprehensive early learning and child care plan and rework the funding formula for our schools. They each agreed to examine ways of providing post secondary education through grants and forgivable loans but there was caution from all about providing it for free.

The candidates each expressed variations on how they would approach the environment. Some have put forward comprehensive policies (Horgan, Farnworth and Simons). All agree that carbon tax revenues should be used to fund public transportation.

Likewise candidates said that they want to see public resources in public hands for the public good. When asked specifically about privately owned, industrial scale independent power projects there were degrees to which candidates said they would go with regard to putting them under public control. Horgan seemed to me the strongest in stating there would be a review of the contracts with a view to taking them back under public control if they had not been negotiated for the public good.

Running a campaign within a political party is always difficult: essentially you agree with your opponents about political philosophy, so you distinguish yourself with nuances. You lean more heavily towards some issues and some ideas than to others. But at the end of it, there will be a healthy discussion and the evolution of new ways of thinking and of acting.

Many people have been asking whom I will be supporting and that has been a difficult decision. I have worked with four of the five candidates and know they would each bring unique attributes to the role of leader of the official opposition and potentially the next Premier: a sense of humour, driven to hard work, a team outlook, unique understanding of the Legislature, political smarts.

In the end I have decided that I will be voting for John Horgan. He brings together those attributes and, I believe more than any other candidate, really understands the way that all of BC works, not just the lower mainland. He realises both the contribution and the needs of our rural and resource based communities. He’s not afraid to say that we need logging – but that old growth is more valuable left standing than on the back of a truck. He’s forthright in emphasizing the need for public power and public control of public resources. He sees what our communities need and will champion those needs. Horgan is a bright, extremely likable person, who is never afraid of bringing his own ideas to the table yet is willing to listen to and consider the views or others.

If you have questions about this, or any other concerns, you can always reach me at Claire.trevena.mlaleg.bc.ca or in my Campbell River office on 250 287 5100 and in Port Hardy at 250 902 0325, toll free at 1 866 387 5100.

Best regards
Claire