The BC NDP leadership race made a stop in Port Alberni on Friday.
More than 25 people gathered at Solda’s Restaurant to listen as Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix made his leadership pitch to them.
“You see it in Oliver and Nelson and here in Port Alberni – small towns have been abandoned by the Liberals,” Dix said.
“There’s an overwhelming feeling by people in the province that they’re been left out there on their own.”
Dix is competing against Mike Farnworth, Nicholas Simons John Horgan, and Dana Larson for the NDP leadership, which will be decided on April 17.
Guests at the Solda’s morning gathering included city councilor Jack McLeman, school board chair Larry Ransom, and former MLA Gerrard Janssen.
Dix came from Nanaimo, where he spoke on Thursday, and he was going to Qualicum on Friday afternoon.
Dix didn’t duck a question about his back-dating a memo in the then-premier Glen Clark casino-gate affair 10 years ago.
He made a mistake, which he accepted responsibility for and apologized, he said.
Since then he’s been re-elected, appointed health critic, and spearheaded health and education issues.
The NDP has done too much apologizing for its past, something that has to change, Dix said.
“The record I’m campaigning on is the record I’ve established now,” Dix said.
On local issues, raw log exports have sapped forest towns like Port Alberni of their economic vibrancy, something Dix vowed to examine.
“There were some raw log exports that took place in the 90’s but they’re more a part of the industry now,” he said.
“I’d take steps to examine the raw log export process here.”
Dix is no stranger to Port Alberni, having worked on children and family, as well as health care issues here during his tenure as an MLA.
The last time he was here was in 2009, he said.
Re-invigorating the B.C. treaty process is among his priorities.
“We made some progress with the Nisga’a treaty,” Dix, who was involved in that process, said.
“The Liberals ground the process to a halt with court action then a referendum.”
The Nuu-chah-nulth buy local goods and services and have contributed significantly to the local economy, he said.
Defibrillating the flatlined treaty process is “…going to take a significant amount of time and resources,” Dix said.
“But they are essential for BC’s long-term economic growth.”
Healthcare was an issue that resonated with the largely group of seniors who were gathered.
Some $518-million was cut from the healthcare budget, MSP premiums have risen and long term care costs have increased.
Simultaneously, corporate taxes have been cut for the third time in three years and were subsidized by the moves in healthcare.
“I’d rescind the last three years worth of corporate tax cut and restore them to the 2008 levels,” he said.
Responding to a question about local agriculture, procurement by local provincial agencies is one measure that could be used to support local farms, he said.
The issue of Catalyst’s industrial taxes didn’t come up.
The matter of shipping coal out of Port Alberni was only touched on, as was the issue of the community forest.
But Dix answered questions about the issues in an interview after the meeting.
He was aware that the province rebuked the city’s request for bridge funding to aid in the Catalyst tax issue and didn’t agree with the response.
There is a role for the provincial government to provide help, he said.
“I think that we’ve got to be much more supportive of municipal governments under those conditions,” Dix said.
It’s not enough just to lecture municipalities. “They need to support municipalities under circumstances such as these.”
Regarding the coal port, people from Nanaimo to Port Alberni have expressed concern about the development of the coal Port in Alberni to Dix during his campaign stops.
A comprehensive evaluation with a high benchmark is in order, Dix said.
“I think that such a development would require a detailed social-environmental-and economic assessment to ensure that it is in the public interest,” he said.
“Such a development would require meeting a pretty high test.”
Coun. Jack McLeman called on Dix to support expanding Port Alberni’s community forest, something Dix was amenable to discussing further.
“I’m very interested in that and am going to continue to stay in touch with him and follow up on that issue,” Dix said.
“On the face of it the proposal seems like a good idea, but I want to research that a little more.”
Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser is supporting the bid of candidate John Horgan.