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NDP would strengthen employment standards, Dix tells labour town hall

A New Democratic Party government in British Columbia would strengthen the enforcement of employment standards, end child poverty and respect the union movement, leader Adrian Dix told a BC Federation of Labour telephone town hall meeting.

"There's no question the Liberals... will leave whoever wins the next election in a financial mess," Dix said. "The fiscal situation means we can't do everything, and I think people understand that. But that doesn't mean we can do nothing."

He said the increase in inequality is the top issue facing the province. He listed ending child poverty, helping young people gain skills for the jobs of the future, investing in the land base and funding "basic health care and education" as key ways to support communities.

"These are the priorities for our time, and it means we may not be able to do other things until more resources become available," Dix said. "I think that practical approach is what people want right now."

Karen Tankard, a communications officer with the BC Government and Service Employees' Union, hosted the April 9 town hall, which also included former NDP leader Carole James and BC Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair. During the call Tankard said the town hall included some 2,250 union members.

Callers asked Dix questions about job creation, log exports, temporary foreign workers, film industry tax credits, supports for children with special needs and the decline in the portion of the provincial workforce that is unionized.

Dix said he would treat the union movement with respect, especially compared to how the current BC Liberal government has treated it, and would listen to and engage with everybody.

"We need to do a better job of enforcing basic employment standards," he said. "Some people say it's union members that have got it on the chin from the current government over 10 years, but really it's non-union members, it's non-union workers who've taken repeatedly cuts to their supports and a failure of the current government to support basic employment standards."

The call included three "polls" of listeners. In the first, 79 per cent of participants said it was "very important" for B.C. to see a change in government. Another 11 per cent thought it was "somewhat important," four per cent "not very important" and five per cent "not very important at all."

Asked to push a button if they planned to volunteer on the campaign, 250 said they would.

Sixty per cent said they would definitely vote NDP and 20 per cent said they are leaning that way. Fourteen per cent said they were "completely undecided" and six per cent said they plan to vote for another party.

The BC Fed's Sinclair closed the town hall telling participants a BC Liberal re-election would be "an absolute disaster" for working people in the province.

"No one's going to do this for us as working people," said Sinclair. "This is our moment after 12 years. It would be a shame if we were to lose it, and it would be an absolute positive step for the province if we win it."

He added, "If the NDP are successful, our job won't be over, we'll still have to fight for everything we get. The only difference is we'll have a government that respects us."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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