The first BC NDP leadership hopeful to make the trek to West Kootenay says the area will be a key battleground in the party’s race to choose a leader.
“The Kootenay region’s a crucial region. It’s one of the most NDP regions in British Columbia,” Adrian Dix told the Star during a weekend swing through Nelson, Castlegar and Creston.
“I think the people of this region will have a key role in deciding who the next leader of the NDP is, and that’s why I’m here.”
Officially in town to attend local MLA Michelle Mungall’s Keep Jumbo Wild rally on Saturday, the former NDP health services critic and MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway also took shots at the Interior Health Authority, which he says is “centralizing services towards Kelowna.”
Dix says an NDP government would focus on primary care and health care in rural B.C. He also wants more incentives in place to get people training as medical technicians, to deal with staff shortages like those that led to recent reductions in ultrasound services in Nelson and Castlegar.
“While the government has taken some action on doctors and nurses, they haven’t provided the training we need to have the staff we need to provide those services,” he says.
He’s also calling for changes to the province’s education funding formula, which Dix says puts rural schools catering to smaller populations at a disadvantage.
And to pay for changes in health care and education funding, Dix says he’d roll back the Liberal government’s last three rounds of corporate tax cuts, with some of the estimated $300-million in extra revenue also going to “vulnerable seniors.”
This won’t be Dix’s only trek through West Kootenay. He and the other five leadership candidates will converge on the city March 24 during the NDP’s leadership debate tour. He says he’s also planning a second solo trip through the Kootenays to visit Trail and Rossland.
While Dix is the first would-be leader of the NDP to visit Nelson, he’s preceded by four of the candidates in the BC Liberal’s leadership race: Christy Clark, George Abbott, Kevin Falcon and Mike DeJong.
While most of the Liberal contenders have downplayed the region’s NDP roots, Dix thinks the party will have a tough time making inroads here.
“This region and this community is NDP for a reason,” he says. “Our three MLAs in the region are terrific MLAs. You can imagine what they’d be able to do for this region when we get to the government side of the house.”
The NDP’s leadership vote is set for April 17.
MUNGALL STAYING MUM ON LEADERSHIP
Though she’s escorting Adrian Dix through West Kootenay this weekend, Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall says she won’t be declaring support for any of the six BC NDP leadership candidates until more of them have visited the region.
Mungall says she’s asked all the candidates to visit the area, and Dix is simply the first to arrive.
“I do want to make sure people in the Kootenays get every opportunity to meet the leadership candidates,” says Mungall.
“I’ve put the invitation out there, that I haven’t declared for anybody yet. I would like to give them the opportunity to visit Nelson-Creston prior to me making any declaration.”