NDP leadership candidate defending students and seniors

NDP leadership candidate Adrian Dix considers the Comox Valley a "priority area" for his party, both provincially and federally, which explains his second round of campaigning on the North Island.
During a Tuesday visit to Cumberland and Courtenay after addressing party members Monday in Campbell River, the MLA for Vancouver Kingsway shared his concerns about long-term care fees and about hardships faced by college and university students.

B.C. NDP leadership hopeful Adrian Dix spoke with reporters Wednesday at the Zocalo Café in Courtenay.

NDP leadership candidate Adrian Dix considers the Comox Valley a “priority area” for his party, both provincially and federally, which explains his second round of campaigning on the North Island. During a Tuesday visit to Cumberland and Courtenay after addressing party members Monday in Campbell River, the MLA for Vancouver Kingsway shared his concerns about long-term care fees and about hardships faced by college and university students. He proposes to eliminate fee increases on seniors in residential care and to expand access to post-secondary education.A university graduate who benefited from comparatively lower tuition fees in the mid-1980s, Dix recognizes college and university students have faced difficult times in the past decade.”We’ve seen tuition fees more than doubled, and they’ve (B.C. Liberals) eliminated the grant programs, basically, first in 2002 and again in 2008,” said Dix, who visited the Valley in January shortly after launching his campaign for the provincial NDP leadership. “And on top of that they charged a very significant interest rate on the student loan program.”He hopes to mitigate the situation by re-establishing a student grant program. “We have a series of initiatives to address the student loan question and the grant question,” he said. “Clearly, people need post-secondary education to get jobs. And the business community and the economy need an educated workforce. The question is, how do you pay for these things?”In another proposal, Dix committed to eliminating a government-imposed $54 million rate hike on frail seniors with modest incomes. He notes the province started the year by cutting corporate taxes. To pay for the cut, it increased long-term care fees and MSP premiums, which Dix said leaves elderly patients struggling to meet basic needs. As an example, he said a senior whose before-tax income is $22,000 now needs to pay another $2,000, or 10 per cent of their net income, on long-term care. In some instances, this means the spouse at home either needs to move or live in poverty. “It would be in their financial interest to separate, that’s what the government has encouraged,” Dix said. “What I’ve called for is the rolling back of corporate tax cuts that came in on January 1, 2011, January 1, 2010 and July 1, 2008. That would return corporate tax rates paid by big business to 2008 levels.”He suggests using the money — along with tax cuts given to banks in 2008 — to roll back long-term care fees and to fund programs to help students access post-secondary education. Last year in B.C., he said there was a greater amount paid in tuition fees than in large corporation income taxes.”That’s a sign that things are slightly out of whack,” Dix said, noting the average debt of a B.C. student is $27,000. “Right now we are worst in the country in terms of the percentage of student assistance that’s non-repayable. This would take us towards the best in the country.”reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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