Dix shares thoughts about pipeline, economy, ferries, education
During the two-day NDP caucus gathering in the Comox Valley BC NDP leader Adrian Dix shared his views on a variety of provincial issues important to the Valley.
After Premier Christy Clark announced the five requirements for the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project on Monday — which includes receiving a "fair share" of the economic benefits — Dix said his stance on the matter has not changed.
"We think that the Northern Gateway Pipeline isn't in our economic or environmental interest and so we're opposed to the project," said Dix, adding he doesn't consider the Liberal position on the issue to be a serious position. "Even though they concluded in their report that it wasn't in our environmental or economic interest to let the pipeline proceed, that 'We'll, let it proceed if we get a fistful of dollars,' well I don't think that's a very serious position."
When pressed about the possible financial gains of the proposed project — especially in light of the recently announced $1.84 billion deficit for 2011/2012 — Dix said the money isn't guaranteed and having one fiscal year's deficit impact his stance would be short-sighted.
"The pipeline's economic and environmental impact to B.C. would take place over decades, so I don't think that it's correct to make that decision based on one fiscal year," he said. "Putting our economy and our environment up for short-term auction — I don't think that will in fact be sustaining.
"For example, the coastal First Nations want economic development on their part of the coast and what they're saying is that the Enbridge pipeline will hurt that economic development. They have interests in fisheries, in forestry and tourism and so on."
Earlier this week, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon noted the $1.6-billion HST repayment was partly to blame for the deficit, and Dix had campaigned to get rid of the HST.
But, Dix said the increase in contractual obligations by the Province this year are more worrying than the deficit itself.
"Essentially, it (contractual obligations) increased by $16 billion this year. That means all of the P3 (public/private partnership) proposals and mostly the energy contracts that the government signed, many of which are uneconomic, are coming home to roost for the government, so absolutely that's disconcerting," he said.
Further, he's very critical of the P3 model planned for the new Comox Valley hospital.
"One of the problems in signing decades-long agreements in health care is that health care's going to change over the next few decades," he said. "Having P3 contracts that give you very little flexibility, management flexibility, is a real problem."
However, he noted even if elected, once a contract is signed it must be respected.
When asked if he would consider moving BC Ferries fully back under government control, he responded that there needs to be "better accountability."
"Clearly there's a problem, there's a business problem when fewer and fewer people are able to take the ferries, that's hurting revenue on the one hand and indicating a reduction of service on the one hand, and on the other hand, senior officials still getting bonuses — there's a disconnect there that we'll have to address," he said.
When pressed about if he thinks the service should come fully back under government control, he said: "Yes, I think we have to, we have to look at ways to increase accountability absolutely."
Dix also said education will be a central feature of the NDP's platform, and he said it's not just a social issue, but an economic issue as well. He said post-secondary education is a priority, and investing in advanced education is a way to deal with a skills shortage in the province.
Class size and composition for kindergarten to Grade 12 classes is also a priority of the NDP's, as well as strengthening relations between government and school system employees.
"I think also what we need to do, and we need to try and do, is reduce the level of confrontation both between the government and teachers, and the government and school boards, and work together better," Dix said when asked his thoughts on the firing of the Cowichan Valley School trustees.
"It doesn't make the problems easier, it doesn't make them easier, but we've got to find ways to work together better in the interests of the education system."