"There was a report not long ago that showed the increase in emissions from the oil sands is larger than our level of emissions ... There is a challenge in terms of making our economy more efficient when Canada is facing those challenges, but we have an obligation to do so, to face these emission questions."
Tyee: Would you keep the targets? Lots of people have already said it looks impossible to meet them.
Dix: "We're going to try and meet them, yeah. I think if we continue down the path the current government is on it would be very difficult, that's why we have to make some changes like the one I just proposed."
Tyee: It has been noted that Christy Clark is unpopular with female voters, but there's been less attention paid to the fact you're polling better with men than past NDP leaders did.
Dix: "It depends which poll you're looking at. The Angus Reid poll has the NDP with a very significant lead among male voters. There's obviously two ways to look at the gender gap. People talk about what women voters want, men voters do, and those are the two elements of it. I think, in general, the voters like in these times our approach. Which I think is to be much more serious, much more positive, than the government's approach.
"Ironically we've behaved like you'd expect a good government to behave and the Liberals are increasingly narrow in their range of discussion to those that vote Liberal. You see this in their attacks on groups in society. Last week I met with the Council of Forest Industry, in detail, and the mining association, in detail, talking about platform and changes in policies in detail, as I do with the BC Federation of Labour. Presumably the government also meets with COFI, also meets with the mining association, but they seem to believe that labour should have no voice in the debate, so they attack them all the time. I think people are tired of that. I think we need to expand who we listen to."
Tyee: In your leadership campaign you talked a lot about income inequality and using education to reduce inequality. Are there other things you would also do?
Dix: "It's a very significant question, not just for society and all the reasons we want to reduce inequality, but it's also important for our economy as well. If you look across countries, inequality in access to education ... has a negative impact on economic growth. Some of the reasons for that are obvious. If 80 per cent of the jobs of the future require a post-secondary education ... and we increasingly are going to go outside the jurisdiction to meet the needs of our labour force, which appears to be the government's policy ... We have to ensure people have the means to succeed in an age when control over technology through education is important in terms of a reduction of inequality."
Tyee: And ways to reduce inequality beyond that?
Dix: "If one's ability as an adult to earn a family-supporting income depends on access to education and we're denying people access to education, because they don't have enough money in the short term when they are 18 or 19 or 20, then that is not just profoundly unfair it's profoundly unwise for the economy.
"Equally, we have to, and we have, committed to a poverty reduction strategy. I think to be ninth or tenth in Canada in terms of child poverty or having the highest child poverty rates in the country in absolute terms for almost a decade now is something we have to address. I think there's ways we can address it. Those are both elements of it, but the principal one in this day and age is to ensure people have the means both in the economy and personally to, if you will, predistribute wealth, to get access to jobs that will allow them to well. There are profound limitations to what you can do on the redistribution side. That's why it's so important in my mind to ensure young people have access to education, and those transitioning into the workforce as well."
Tyee: Lots of your MLAs will say welfare rates are too low, but they stop short of calling for higher rates.
Dix: "I think what we're seeing, if you look at the level of inequality in the province, the bottom 20 percent of income earners, in a broad sense in the economy represent 800,000 people out of four million ... take home about 4.5 percent of the after tax income, that's after the tax system has had its impact. That's a way broader inequality question than the much smaller fraction of that who are on income assistance. When we have such expensive communities to live in, you've got to have policies within what you can do in provincial jurisdiction that address that broader question as well."
Tyee: So you wouldn't just redistribute wealth to people through the income assistance system...?
Dix: "I think there's a limit because again what we're seeing is the eligibility for that system has been less and less. In the long term, and we need governments to start acting more in the long term certainly than this one where the long term appears to be two weeks, we have to address that by ensuring people have more power in the economy and that will come with having a higher level of skills."
Tyee: Last two elections the NDP platform promised to return BC Ferries to being a Crown corporation. Is that likely to be in the platform this time?
Dix: "We're going to address BC Ferries in the platform. We're not going to announce it today in The Tyee."
Tyee: What changes would you make to how the gambling industry operates?
Dix: "We've clearly seen a dramatic increase in gaming over the last decade. One of the things I'm concerned about, especially on the lottery grant side, is how short-term they are. Sometimes grants get approved in September and you've got to spend them by March ... I'd like to lengthen the terms so non-profits could deliver on what they apply for under gaming grants."
Tyee: But not necessarily doing anything to cap the industry or slow its expansion?
Dix: "But that's pretty significant. That's news there, Andrew ... The government's become increasingly dependent on lottery funds, so making that transition in a short period of time is going to be hard."
Tyee: You've talked a lot about managing expectations, you've used the word "modest" for your agenda. How do you do that and at the same time keep your base engaged?
Dix: "I think the base of the NDP really loves that. I think we have to do very significant things, but not too many of them. We've got to make some choices. I think saying the things you believe in and are going to do right away, that are the highest priority, is an important part of that. I think people respect being talked to like adults and that's what we're trying to do on our side. That means also saying there are some things out there that we may not be able to afford to do right away ... Otherwise if you promise things that can't realistically be delivered upon, than inevitably people are going to be disappointed and it undermines the faith they have in the government.
"When I said what I said about taxes in the early part of 2011, I was pretty aggressively attacked in a lot of quarters. And the fact is, in the last budget, Mr. Falcon said their plan for 2013-14 includes a tax increase for big business. I think what you need to do is speak frankly to people and change how people view the political debate. Now views that I took that were subject to attack are very much in the centre of political debate. I like that. It's what I try to do all the time."
Tyee: In 2001, when the BC Liberal government came in with Gordon Campbell leading, they had their New Era document with 80 or 100 promises, and they crossed things off as they went. You're talking about working on a few priorities.
Dix: "Interestingly we have four year terms now, so if you're going to have impact on an issue like skills training, you've got to get going on it right away, and that would be our plan. Clearly the Liberal government had a very broad agenda. Obviously things like breaking contracts, Bill 29, 27, 28, were broken promises in part of that agenda. The privatization of BC Rail was a broken promise in that agenda. But what you saw in that first term of government as well was a very aggressive government ... that didn't do a very good job managing its agenda in spite of the fact they had 77 seats. Witness BC Rail, which was a major public scandal around the privatization of the province's railway contrary to what the government said it would do. I want to do significant things and do them well. That contrasts a little bit probably with the NDP government of the '90s and the Liberal government of the past decade."