General · 31st December 2011
Sisters and Brothers,
BC is known for being an exciting place for politics and 2011 showed once again that was the case: from the leadership races in the spring, through the summer anti-HST referendum, to the fall Legislative session in which the government was on the defensive relying on rhetoric rather than policy.
Our Party and our caucus came out of the leadership race united and eager to prove that we are a government in waiting. Our 50th anniversary convention in December was energising and inspiring. Adrian Dix gave a speech which was powerful, humourous and thought provoking. He is not shy about saying what we will do when we are government and how we will pay for it.
People are already talking about our plan to bring back needs-based student grants and to end interest on student loans: both of these are key to making post secondary education more affordable and more accessible. And to pay for these we will roll back corporate tax rates to 2008 levels and put a tax on financial institutions.
This is just one example, more policy and platform ideas will be coming out through this coming year. With 16 months to the May 2013 election we have time to be thoughtful, to get it right. Party and caucus policy committees have been working together on platform proposals. Individual members and constituency associations will have an opportunity to participate and bring ideas to the table through regional policy conferences in early 2012. I would encourage everyone to get involved. We are a Party of the grassroots and ideas from our rural constituency need to be heard.
As part of the preparation for this I am pleased to see that our North Island constituency association executive is holding a strategic planning session in early February to map out how we can participate fully. The session, suggested by our new president, Andrea Craddock, will also ensure we are prepared politically, logistically and financially for the coming election.
We will be back in the Legislature in February for the spring session, which will run through to June. It will be a tough time for many people in our province. With poverty already at record levels, we expect to see the government introducing further cuts in its March budget, which will inevitably hit those most vulnerable – the dozens of kids in Port Hardy who go to school hungry every day, the moms who are homeless in Campbell River, those families with a developmentally disabled child who cannot get any support. It is for these families and for the many others in our communities and across our province that we have to work together to win the upcoming election.
I intend to get around the constituency and meet with as many people as possible whenever we have a break from legislative business. Of course, I also have commitments from my role as the critic for the Minister of Children and Families, which at times take me away from the constituency. And I will be on the road at times through the spring as part of our four-person caucus Forestry Working Group. We will be visiting forest dependent communities across the province to help further develop our forestry policy.
This spring we also expect two electoral tests – by-elections in Port Moody, where the former mayor, Joe Trasolini, is our candidate and Chilliwack-Hope where the candidate is still to be nominated. Neither of these seats are traditional NDP strongholds so they will prove to be exciting races, reflecting public perception of our approach as well as the current level of support of the BC Liberals. I, along with other MLAs and many other people from across the province, will be working to win these by-elections.
I have been asked by a number of people who I am supporting in the federal leadership race. All the candidates are excellent and bring various qualities to the race. I have had the good fortune to be able to talk with nearly all of them and explore their strengths and reasons for running. I have decided to publicly support Thomas Mulcair. He has the gravitas and the charisma to move into Stornaway as Leader of the Official Opposition and then to Sussex Drive as the first NDP Prime Minister. Tom will be coming to Campbell River in the first week in January. Unfortunately I will not be able to be there but I hope that as many of you as possible will take the opportunity to meet him.
2012 will be another exciting year to be a New Democrat. We have great challenges ahead but we also have the opportunity to make big changes for our neighbours, our communities and our province. I look forward to working with you over the coming months as we get ready to form government after the next election.
My best wishes for a Happy New Year.