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James hints at platform in weekend speech

B.C. New Democratic Leader Carole James presented what could form the spine of her party's platform in front of a packed room at the Empireland hotel Saturday morning.

James explained in a 30-minute speech that an NDP government in B.C. would push for minimum wage increases, green jobs and a stimulated economy.

She said the NDP will help average families -- particularly in rural B.C. -- through these rough economic times by supporting the forest industry and forest communities.

“In good times and bad, New Democrats will always stand up for forest workers and their families.” James said. "We will help rural B.C. get through, we will invest in community infrastructure, tourism marketing and forest health. We will support communities and workers in transition. We will demand B.C.’s fair share from Ottawa and help struggling industry.”

James also said the NDP will restrict the export of raw logs to create value and jobs in rural areas. She added that the New Democrats would provide B.C. with, “safe, dynamic and ethical investment,” through the green bond James announced in February.

The NDP plans to protect the province's natural resources by making sure BC hydro remains public so that “forests, rivers and streams are never sold off to the highest bidder.”

James said the green bond would put billions into sustainable energy infrastructure.

Also discussed were the NDP’s plans to index and raise the minimum wage to ten dollars an hour to ensure, “B.C.’s lowest paid workers never fall so far behind,” James said.

The leader said her party will let the provincial deficit grow if needed to ensure public safety. “We know our province will be in a deficit—that’s the reality. We also know the deficit will be larger than the Liberals are telling us, that’s also reality—the difference is unlike this government I’m not willing to sacrifice public safety to be able to keep the deficit at the place the government says it’s at. I am not willing to cut prosecutors at a time when we have gang warfare going on.”

James criticized the Liberal government on a number of issues including the choice to spend money on BC place rather than address the homelessness problem in Vancouver.

“This government would rather spend 365 million dollars on a new roof instead of housing for the homeless,” James said.

The NDP leader suggested she has her work cut out for her in a scrum after the speech.

“There is no question its going to be a tough campaign. It's clear it's a very competitive election…I am going to continue as I have always done to run against this government's record, I don’t need to look very far to find a lot of things to put forward that I don’t like about this government.”

Morgan J. Modjeski is a staff reporter for The Hook.

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