VICTORIA — Here are excerpts from my year-end interview with B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix:
TF: There was a lot of cheering at your convention Dec. 10 when federal NDP leader Nycole Turmel said that B.C. shouldn’t have to pay Ottawa back the $1.6 billion HST transition payment. That hasn’t been your position. Isn’t this a mixed message for the public?
AD: No. In the federal election campaign, the NDP advocated for that position, and they said that if they were elected, and of course it was the late Jack Layton who put forward the argument that B.C. would not have to return the money, would we have voted at that time to get rid of the HST. Obviously, while the NDP did extremely well in that election, we didn’t win. Mr. Harper won. He says we have to pay the $1.6 billion back and the Liberal Party of B.C., Ms. Clark and Mr. Campbell’s party, signed a very bad deal for B.C. that we’re stuck with.
TF: You replaced Carole James this year. At the root of that situation was a complaint about a policy vacuum in the B.C. NDP. I put it to you that that vacuum still exists …
AD: [laughs] I guess I can’t count on your support.
TF: I’m making a list here. Increase corporate taxes to 2008 levels. Bring back a corporate capital tax and use that to fund student grants. Have I missed anything?
AD: In January and February, many people criticized those proposals, especially the one returning corporate taxes to 2008 levels. And then the government adopted, briefly, those proposals in May. So I’m delighted that I’m moving the political debate in a positive direction.
I defy you to name any opposition leader in any jurisdiction in Canada who has been as specific on taxation as I have 18 months before an election. You’re going to see our detailed program in advance of the election.
At the NDP convention I spoke at length about the key issues of our time, about the things that I’m campaigning for right now, including improving skills training in our province, addressing issues of inequality, addressing the fact that raw log exports are out of control in the province.
I get criticized on some days for being too specific and too policy-oriented, so I’m delighted to hear your criticism that I’m not specific enough.
TF: The B.C. Liberals leapt on your recent statement about potentially increasing income taxes for high earners. This sounds like [federal NDP leadership candidate] Brian Topp’s suggestion of a new top tax bracket. Is that what you were saying?
AD: On personal income taxes, I think because the B.C. Liberal Party has continually increased costs on middle class people, for example, shifting the hydro burden onto residential customers, and subsidizing industrial customers. They’re raising MSP premiums, raising ferry fares, raising long-term care fees, they have specifically gone after the middle class. I don’t think there’s really personal tax room there for middle-income people. That’s my view and my position.
TF: So does that mean increasing taxes for higher income people?
AD: No. I think what you have to do is first of all look at the fiscal situation closer to the election and be clear about that.
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The interview also touched on the NDP teaming up with Bill Vander Zalm, and the future of socialism. You can find the full text on this newspaper’s website by pointing to the Opinion tab and clicking on B.C. Opinions.