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Raising debate

NDP Leader Adrian Dix visits Parksville and says he wants to take the high road in this campaign
NDP Leader Adrian Dix

New Democrat leader Adrian Dix doesn't want to undo everything the Liberal government has done over their tenure and he doesn't want to destroy the Liberal party.

He wants what's best for them, he told a crowd of 300 at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre Saturday. It's just that what he sees as being best for them is a term or two on the opposition side of the legislature.

The event, held as a fundraiser for Parksville-Qualicum NDP candidate Barry Avis, saw Dix give a broad outline of his party's stance prior to the upcoming provincial election and then answer questions from the crowd.

The key message he brought to Parksville was that he intends to take the high road in regards to the Liberals, avoiding negative ads and personal attacks.

"We have to raise the level of debate, especially at a time when issues are so challenging," Dix said. "I've known Premier Clark for 16 years — not well, I know her and I know John Cummins. He represented things in Ottawa that I don't agree with, but he did so with passion. Jane Sterk, the leader of the Greens, won 147,000 votes across B.C. with very little expenditure of money. These are all good people and I think attempting to win elections by disparaging them is the wrong thing to do — and we're not going to do it."

To this end, Dix said he has no intention, if elected, of overturning everything the Liberal government has done."The Liberals have done a number of good things, such as all-day Kindergarten and the Tsawwassen Treaty," he said. "The idea is not to come in and destroy everything they did, but rather to build on their successes and change where they did not perform well."

Dix said he sees three fundamental challenges to the province at this time.

"First, we are not as productive as we need to be," he said. "In past decades we hid that with a lower dollar, but that's not the case anymore and so we are exposed to really tough competition. We don't make things in B.C. anymore. Our tendency is to export raw resources and so we get less value in the economy than we need to see."

Second, he said, there is more income inequality in B.C. than there needs to be.

"I'm not talking poverty on the margins, I'm talking about a huge number of people having dramatically less opportunity than they should have, and the middle class is considerably squeezed."

The third challenge, he said, involves sustainability.

"I was in Prince George last week where 90 per cent of the trees are dead," he said. "That's about climate change. To say the environment is disconnected from the economy is not true."

"One of the key factors to addressing at least some of the challenges facing the province is to invest in the training of young people," he said.

"We have to give people the means to succeed," he said. "That means the best skills training and education. Since 80 per cent of jobs need higher education, we need our children to get access."

Dix stressed that government has to divide ideas into three categories, those that must be funded, those that can be funded when the government has the money available and those that aren't currently feasible, considering the economic situation in B.C.

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