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Federal NDP leader slams prime minister during visit to Parksville

National NDP leader Thomas Mulcair meets and greets residents in Parksville at the Bayside Inn on Wednesday.  - CANDACE WU PHOTO
National NDP leader Thomas Mulcair meets and greets residents in Parksville at the Bayside Inn on Wednesday.
— image credit: CANDACE WU PHOTO

National New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair stopped by Parksville Wednesday morning in an effort to bring the orange wave to the West Coast.

While the next federal election isn't until late 2015, Vancouver Island ridings were redrawn last summer, meaning what has been known as a Conservative stronghold may get a little shaken up next year.

"The map has changed," Mulcair told an enthusiastic crowd of about 60 people at the Bayside Inn. "That's why what we do here is so important."

The new boundary will see Parksville Qualicum Beach become part of a new riding called Courtney-Alberni, which incorporates Courtenay, Baynes Sound, Denman and Hornby Islands, Cumberland, Port Alberni, Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Tofino and Ucluelet.

Mulcair, the leader of Parliament's official opposition, spoke passionately about issues such as national health care, transportation and the environment, but fell short on specifics. He did, however, have an adbundance of things to say about what he perceived to be Prime Minister Stephen Harper's failures in office.

When asked if the NDP would commit more money to A Vancouver Island rail line, Mulcair said: "there's no question the federal government has to play a role working with the provinces and territories on important issues like transportation and transit — we're the only country on the OECD with no national vision on transportation and that's just unacceptable." Mulcair went on to criticize Harper for not attending "a single meeting of the Council of the Federations since becoming prime minister nine years ago."

Additionally, he blamed the Conservative government for the "failure of Fisheries and Oceans Canada" taking in the specific needs of Vancouver Island, which he said is "starting to play havoc."

"Stephen Harper is removing the Canada that we used to be so proud of," said Mulcair. "We used to be leaders on a lot of these issues— we're not anymore."

Mulcair said — if elected prime minister — he will move the age of retirement back to 65.

He also promised "there will be no super tankers on the coast," a statement which drew the loudest applause of the morning. When asked how the NDP stood out amongst the three federal parties who claim to be environmental frontrunners, Mulcair said to look at his track record.

"When I was the Minister of Environment in Quebec I brought in overarching sustainable development and legislation," said Mulcair. "I went so far as to change the Quebec Charter of Rights to include the right to live in a clean environment."

Mulcair spent about 20 minutes answering questions from the audience, where he said he tried to practice "gender equity" and "age equity" before taking off to Nanaimo, continuing his political tour of Vancouver Island.

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