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BC NDP targets Liberal social development minister

New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix is set to make a major policy announcement today in a Vancouver riding currently held by a Liberal cabinet minister.

Dix is scheduled to make the announcement in a community centre in Social Development Minister Moira Stilwell's Vancouver-Langara riding.

If the pattern set in the early days of British Columbia's four-day-old election campaign holds, Dix's announcement will focus on the NDP's social development plans if the party wins the May 14 election.

Dix chose to announce the NDP's student grant and skills training programs in Finance Minister Mike de Jong's Abbotsford riding. On Thursday, Dix was in Courtenay on Vancouver Island to announce a $372 million plan to hire up to 1,000 new teachers and teaching assistants.

Dix's education plans, which also included reducing the monthly fees parents pay for infant and toddler child care, were announced in Education Minister Don McRae's riding.

McRae ended up crashing Dix's announcement, saying the NDP is spending wildly during the campaign.

Stilwell's social development ministry is responsible for several social welfare programs that were the targets of consistent NDP attacks highlighting mistreatment of vulnerable adults and their families.

The Liberals increased funding to the Crown agency Community Living B.C. after consistent NDP attacks over group home closures and poor treatment of adults with disabilities.

Stilwell's ministry is also responsible for welfare payments.

Dix is also taking his campaign to Surrey in suburban Metro Vancouver on Thursday, including a town hall event at the Surrey Arts Centre with nine NDP candidates.

Premier Christy Clark takes her campaign to Terrace, Port Edward and Prince Rupert today on the final day of a whirlwind northern tour.

In Prince George on Thursday night, Clark repeated her daily challenge to Dix for a one-on-one debate.

"Bring it on," she said to cheers from the crowd of at least a few hundred at the campaign office of Attorney General and Justice Minister Shirley Bond.

Dix was in Sidney, near Victoria on Vancouver Island Thursday night.

Dix had his supporters laughing, by the self-deprecating tone he used to describe the NDP's campaign slogan: change for the better, one practical step at a time.

"There's something about that slogan, it's so catchy," he said.

Dirk Meissner reports for the Canadian Press.

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