NDP leadership candidate Farnworth wants to restore trust

PROVINCIAL NDP leadership candidate Mike Farnworth spoke with members of the public Thursday at Zocalo Café in Courtenay. - Scott Stanfield
PROVINCIAL NDP leadership candidate Mike Farnworth spoke with members of the public Thursday at Zocalo Café in Courtenay.
— image credit: Scott Stanfield

Restoring trust in government is a key aspect of Mike Farnworth's campaign for the BC New Democrat Party leadership.

To do so, the longtime Port Coquitlam MLA suggests getting away from a "top-down approach" in the premier's office and back to working with communities to solve the problems and challenges they face.

"There's all kinds of great ideas, whether it's local economic development, whether it's health care or forestry," said Farnworth, who spoke with members of the public Thursday at Zocalo Café in Courtenay. "But what it requires is if government is willing to sit down and work with people, and that's very much what I want to do. And that's particularly acute in the rural areas of British Columbia."

Following her first cabinet meeting last week, new premier Christy Clark announced B.C.'s minimum wage will jump from $8 an hour to $8.75 on May 1. By the same time next year, it will be $10.25.

Farnworth, however, said the rate will still be the lowest in Canada.

"It's a bit of smoke and mirrors that's designed, I think, more to get it off the political agenda ... so it's not an issue during an election campaign," said Farnworth, who thinks Clark will not remain in the legislature long enough for the public to determine whether or not she is a good premier.

He said the harmonized sales tax is still a major issue to be resolved by way of a June 24 referendum on the tax.

"There's an awful lot of angry people out there who don't like it and don't like the way it was done," he said. "Seven hundred thousand people signed that petition, and a lot of them were in Comox."

Another issue is an aging population, especially in the Comox Valley and other parts of Vancouver Island, that "shows the need for dealing with seniors care a lot better than we have been doing in this province," said Farnworth, noting the lack of care facilities and cuts to grant programs.

"And that's gotta stop."

His platform also includes plans to launch a provincial commission on education, and to hold a public inquiry into the sale of BC Rail.

Farnworth is the opposition house leader and NDP public safety critic. He has previously served as minister of health, and of social development and economic security, among other cabinet positions. From 2001 to 2004, he worked in Bulgaria, the Balkans and most recently Iraq, where he helped develop democratic governance programs in former one-party states.

The NDP leadership campaign ends April 17 when the party votes in a new leader to replace Carole James.

Farnworth's competition includes Vancouver Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix, Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan, Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons and former B.C. Marijuana Party leader Dana Larsen.

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