Appealing to union workers to back his campaign in the upcoming provincial election, BC NDP leader John Horgan made a series of promises Tuesday — from increasing the minimum wage to defending the province against the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Horgan laid out his party’s plans to improve the lives of middle class families and those under the poverty line during his address to the BC Federation of Labour convention yesterday.
“We need to make sure the balance is brought back to our system,” he said.
A number of the party’s promises align with priorities of the BC Fed, including a $15 per hour minimum wage, putting more resources toward public schools, and revamping provincial labour laws.
Horgan said that the 15 years of Liberal leadership has resulted in higher fees and rates for everything from hydro to tuition, and he intends to reverse policies that have made the province unaffordable for the average family.
“(Premier) Christy Clark cares about two things, and you’re not one of them,” he said, adding that the BC Liberals’ priorities are their wealthy donors and staying in power.
“The people of British Columbia deserve better than that.”
Move to fight asbestos
Focusing on workers’ rights, Horgan announced new plans to create a mandatory contract licensing and certification program for contractors who conduct asbestos removal.
A provincial registry of public buildings known to have asbestos will also be created to better inform workers, he said.
“No one should go to work and put themselves at risk ever,” Horgan told the convention.
According to a news release from the BC Fed, an estimated 145,000 Canadians are exposed to asbestos at their workplace annually and more than 2,000 people are diagnosed with fatal asbestos-related cancers and other diseases.
The BC Fed has been lobbying for similar safety measures pertaining to asbestos removal for a year.
The current government’s failure to act on the issue is symbolic of how the BC Liberals are failing workers, said federation president Irene Lanzinger in the news release.
Horgan’s commitment to impose safety measures was welcomed by the federation, as were his plans to create more jobs “in every corner of the province.”
Horgan blasts Kinder Morgan approval
Following his speech, Horgan told reporters that the federal government’s decision Tuesday to approve Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline is not in the best interest for the community and the province.
While the decision signals job creation, Horgan said there are other ways to create good jobs in the region, such as investing in transit and transportation that would put 43,000 people to work.
The NDP leader blasted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for going against the campaign promises that got him elected.
“He said quite clearly that social license does not come from Ottawa it comes from communities. Clearly he hasn’t been in Burnaby in a little while,” Horgan said.
Horgan also criticized Premier Christy Clark for passing the authority of pipeline approval to the federal government and failing to stand up for the public’s opinion on the issue.
An NDP government would look at every mechanism to defend B.C.’s coast from the pipeline project, Horgan said, while pursing a power plan that would develop more clean energy such as wind and solar.
The BC Federation of Labour will announce its political action plan on Wednesday ahead of the province’s spring election. The convention continues until Friday.