Eight long weeks remain before British Columbians head to the polls to elect a new provincial government, but that hasn’t stopped incumbent Nanaimo-North Cowichan NDP MLA Doug Routley from rolling up his sleeves and jumping into the fray.
Routley shifted his campaign into gear Saturday, March 16 with an open house at his downtown Ladysmith constituency office, vowing to put an end to what he described as the Liberal’s brand of “government by surprise” should he be re-elected to represent the riding.
NDP strategies for reducing poverty, improving environmental oversight and investing in apprenticeships and education were topics Routley discussed with his supporters.
“We’re talking about running a campaign that’s based on a redistribution of wealth to some extent,” Routley said, referring specifically to the province’s high rate of child poverty. “No one has ever run and won in B.C. by saying ‘We’re going to raise taxes,’ but we are going to do that. We’re going to raise corporate taxes and we’re going to raise some of the higher income brackets’ [taxes] so that we can have the resources to address some of these problems.”
“We need a poverty reduction plan,” Routley added. “We’re one of the only provinces that doesn’t have a poverty reduction plan, and we have the highest levels of poverty. Our plan isn’t simply addressing income issues. It’s addressing housing issues; it’s addressing opportunities and training; it’s addressing income security, as well as food security. So there are a number of approaches that need to be taken all at once.”
Routley said the NDP would restore the provincial bank tax to fund both a reduction in interest rates on student loans and a $200-million training and apprenticeship program.
In addition, an NDP government would “remove corporate and union donations for political parties,” Routley said, and “restore a legitimate environmental assessment process” to compensate for the loss of meaningful provincial oversight following the implementation of a single federal process Routley described as “diluted.”
While on the subject of the environment, Routley discussed Enbridge’s controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline, confirming his party’s opposition to both a crude oil pipeline transecting central British Columbia and any increase in tanker traffic the pipeline would produce.
“We’ve had a moratorium [on tanker traffic] in place for over 30 years,” Routley said. “There’s been a constant effort to undermine that moratorium. People challenge that it even exists, but, in fact, it does. I think we reflect the views of a majority of British Columbians when we say we do not want to see more tankers on the coast of B.C.”
Regarding the management of B.C.’s natural resources, Routley pledged his support for the inclusion of First Nations groups in the decision-making process.
“I think we owe it to our First Nations friends and neighbours to more meaningfully include them in that discussion,” Routley added.
Individually, Routley said he plans to promote his party’s plan to improve cycling infrastructure in the province.
As an avid cycling enthusiast and racer, Routley said “there’s a huge economic benefit that could be derived by increasing cycle tourism in the province.”
Following Alberta’s lead, Routley said they’re also looking into the possibilities of creating a world-class series of bicycle races as a means of tapping into the “huge potential” created by Vancouver Island’s topography.
“Alberta just created an [international]-level Tour of Alberta which is going to bring all the top professional teams to Alberta for a one-week tour,” Routley said. “We’re looking at what we can do to support similar development here.”