NDP leader talks with The Tyee about ads, agendas, working with BC Liberals, and more.
Dix links jobs to training: 'Inequality in access to education has a negative impact on economic growth.' Photo by Justin Langille.
It was during the holidays nearly a year ago, recalls New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix, that he had the odd experience of being in a neighbourhood bar watching football when ads came on calling him "Risky Dix" and attacking his party's record in government during the 1990s.
With just over five months until the scheduled May 14, 2013 provincial election, Dix said he's expecting more of the same from Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberals, whom he has been well ahead of in the polls.
"I think they're going to run negative ads," he said. "That appears to be their plan. They want to pretend after 11 years in office that they're the opposition party, and given their recent record I understand their wanting to do that."
The Tyee recently discussed with Dix the NDP's response to Liberal ads, opportunities for co-operation between the parties and several things an NDP government would try to do differently.
The Tyee: I sometimes hear from NDP members, as I'm sure you do, who think you should respond to negative ads in kind.
Adrian Dix: "I think we can hold them accountable, I just don't want us to be personal in the way we deal with things."
Tyee: You've also been critical of the ads the government's been running about its record.
Dix: "People are outraged by the jobs plan advertising ... To be advertising incessantly in a week where you missed your budget targets by $500 million that you believe in balanced budgets, even by the standard people sometimes hold political advertising in, that's a big stretch. Then to have the public pay for these Liberal Party ads I think is a little much."
Tyee: How is the fixed election date affecting things?
Dix: "It's a long run in. At its core the current government's problem is they've been campaigning in this election since the current premier was elected leader of the Liberal party by a Liberal party vote. They've been campaigning relentlessly. At a certain point in a democracy I believe it's a good thing to campaign and to try and earn people's votes, but the Liberal government's constant campaigning over 18 months, which is close to half their mandate, it's a third of their mandate anyway, hasn't been positive for them.
"I've tried to contrast that with a different approach. We've focussed on what I think are significant achievements as an opposition party, where we've succeeded at forcing the government to back down on the HST. We forced them to make some changes, not sufficient but some changes, on the critical community living file. Just a month ago, after some years of campaigning, we succeeded in convincing them to go forward with a colorectal screening program. These are significant victories for us as an opposition."
Tyee: So if you were the government and they were the opposition, would you find ways to involve them?
Dix: "Absolutely. I don't think the current government has done that sufficiently."
Tyee: So what would you do differently?
Dix: "I think there are significant issues facing people that will require use of parliamentary committees. I think we're going to have spring and fall sessions and I think that what we're going to try to do with respect to legislation is give the opposition more of a role."
Tyee: What would be some examples of issues that would be ripe for bipartisan or multipartisan approaches?
Dix: "I think any issues respecting our democracy. Issues related to for example rules of election campaigns, I think those are good issues for both sides to work on together. When you're talking about the rules of democracy, if they get imposed by one side in a discussion, then there's always going to be concern about that.
"I think there are broad public policy issues facing us, like the growing incidence of diabetes in society and others, that I think require not just good policy decisions but increased public understanding that comes from people working together on an issue."
Tyee: The premier came into office talking about co-operation too, and put forward the pesticide bylaw as something the parties could work on together. That never made it into law.
Dix: "The premier has repeatedly and specifically said she's in favour of a ban on cosmetic pesticides. She specifically promised that in her by-election campaign, the government promised in a throne speech, I think it was 2010, to proceed, then again in a subsequent throne speech, and they haven't taken any action."
Tyee: Clark struck a committee and the committee recommended against a bylaw.
Dix: "The majority on the committee put forward a very different position than the premier. The premier's commitment before she got back into politics, when she got back into politics, during the leadership campaign and during the by-election campaign, has now not gone forward. It's one of the issues we could have debated this fall."
Tyee: Would an NDP government bring that in?
Tyee: What about the carbon tax, how would you change or fix that? Someone pointed out to me that two-thirds of what gets raised by the carbon tax goes to cut corporate taxes.
Dix: "I was specific in February 2011 and then subsequent to that that we were going to return corporate tax rates to 2008 levels. We'd roll back those tax cuts related to the carbon tax ... Obviously the carbon tax would cease to be revenue neutral in that sense. It's very problematic for both people's understanding and support for the carbon tax that all of the money raised from the carbon tax goes to offset tax cuts, most of them corporate tax cuts.
"If you're someone who can't afford to live near where they work, doesn't have adequate access to transit, which is the case for many, many, many, many people in British Columbia, then you're paying more carbon tax effectively and you're not seeing any improvements. Trying to reconnect the taxes we pay to the services we get is I think an important part of the change we're going to try and bring."
Tyee: What would you do about greenhouse gas emissions? It sounds like you would keep the carbon tax, but change the revenue neutrality part of it.
Dix: "Yes, and use that to help us meet some of our goals. It's going to be very challenging, but we have to do that on the construction side, the building side and on the transportation side, and make real progress. This is one way to make that progress. Clearly what we see is people's willingness to take public transit when it's available, but for many people it's not available.