NDP leadership candidate Adrian Dix has called premier-designate Christy Clark “probably the worst [cabinet] minister we’ve had in 25 years”.
In a wide-ranging interview in the Georgia Straight office, Dix claimed that Clark attacked teachers and others during her tenure as education minister from 2001 to 2004. “There is nobody in the education world who thinks she improved the system,” Dix said.
From there, she was transferred to run the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
“You just need to read the reviews of that period to understand what a failure the government was in that period,” Dix said. “They focused the largest cuts on at-risk children. They used the confidentiality afforded those children to hide the impact of their cuts for a long time. We had to expose that after the fact.”
He added that he is relishing the opportunity to run against Clark in an election, claiming that she’s a candidate of “style”, whereas he brings real substance to the table.
As the Opposition critic for children and family development after the 2005 election, Dix helped push the B.C. Liberal government into appointing the Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who reports to the legislature.
“We made substantive change on the Opposition side on children and families,” Dix said. “[Clark] was minister for eight months. She failed utterly in a critical issue to do with families. Families first, right? That’s her slogan. Well, she was minister of children and families. Then she quit, saying she was leaving politics forever, only to run for mayor of Vancouver—what, was it eight months later? That’s the record. I look forward to that debate of style versus substance. I look forward to it.”
Video: Adrian Dix explains an infamous memo to Straight editor Charlie Smith, criticizes Christy Clark, and describes the impact of diabetes on his career.
When asked if Clark might make mincemeat out of Dix for his decision as former premier Glen Clark’s principal secretary to backdate a memo concerning a casino application, Dix replied, “My response is I made a mistake. I owned up to it”¦.If the B.C. Liberal party attempts again to campaign on the 1990s, they’re going to be defeated in the next election. We’re going to present a program that is going to contrast to their program—[to] their entire discredited government. They have failed on the issues.”
Dix offers his ideas on education
Dix, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway, said that if he becomes premier, he would revoke Bill 33, which was passed by the B.C. Liberal government in 2006 to legislate class-size and class-composition limits. The legislation, known as the Education (Learning Enhancement) Statutes Amendment Act, 2006, has been bitterly opposed by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.
Dix claimed that the NDP government had a better record than the B.C. Liberals when class sizes and class composition were part of the collective agreement. He added that there are 12,000 B.C. classrooms operating outside current class-size and composition limits.
“We should be negotiating more than salary and benefits with teachers,” he said. “Like everyone else, they should be able to negotiate conditions of work.”
Video: Adrian Dix responds to Straight editor Charlie Smith’s questions about education and income tax.
In addition, Dix said that rural schools should be protected, noting that approximately 120 schools closed while Clark was education minister. “The way the Liberals have changed the funding formula makes it virtually impossible to run a school [with] under 90 people,” he mentioned.
He explained that if elementary kids are being transported long distances by bus to other schools, it not only undermines education, it is also a blow to the economic heart of a community.
Inequality is the most important issue, according to Dix
"I'm running for the leader of the NDP because I believe in equality," Dix said.
He maintained that the growth in inequality under the B.C. Liberals is connected to most of society's problems, including mental illness, addiction, and illiteracy.
"I think we need an NDP government to restore balance," Dix continued. "We've also had a Liberal government that has failed us on the economy, and these are the key, central issues in the political debate."
He suggested that the B.C. NDP needs a leader who can present a very different agenda from that of the B.C. Liberals. Dix said this agenda must be "doable" and be something that people will believe in.
In addition to forcing the B.C. Liberals to appoint an independent representative for children and youth, Dix cited his record in bringing insulin pumps to children with Type 1 diabetes and his work on a successful campaign to stop three schools from being closed in Vancouver-Kingsway.
"I don't think there is anyone, any MLA in the legislature, certainly on the Opposition side, who has been able to achieve as much as an Opposition MLA," Dix said. "As premier, I think I would do the same thing [and create] broad coalitions to bring people together and achieve results. That's what matters in politics."
Dix questions the need for a Site C dam
One of the biggest decisions facing the next government is whether or not to proceed with the proposed $5-billion to $6.6-billion Site C dam on the Peace River. According to a 2002 consultant’s report, the 1.1-kilometre earthfill dam—which would include 300 metres of concrete structures—would flood 4,600 hectares of land and another 4,840 hectares of the watercourse.
Dix accused the B.C. Liberal government of contracting far more power, at expensive rates, than the province needed.
“A phony definition of self-sufficiency in B.C. has driven all these private power projects,” he said. “So we’ve now got a surplus of very expensive power, and the consequence of that is massive increases in Hydro rates. That’s one of the consequences. The other is some environmental damage. And I think that is the reality we’re facing, which is that we’re overcommitted now to [an] expensive private supply of energy, so that raises questions about the need for Site C power.”
In addition, Dix stated that the B.C. Liberal government has refused to include the downstream benefits from the Columbia River Treaty in its calculations of energy self-sufficiency.
Under the 1964, agreement between the U.S. and Canada, B.C. was required to build three dams to store 15.5-million acre-feet of water in the Columbia Basin. This increased the opportunity for power generation south of the border. In return, B.C. received one-half of the extra power, which it sold for US$254 million over a 30-year period.
Those sales contracts expired between 1998 and 2003, at which point these supplies of electricity returned to B.C. Most of the power could be received near Blaine, but according to a paper by George Hoberg and Christopher Mallon, B.C. Hydro continues to sell these downstream benefits into the U.S. market.
“We could take them any time we wanted to at Blaine—if we wanted the downstream-power benefit,” Dix said. “They’ve excluded that from consideration when they talk of self-sufficiency. Why? Because they only contract for more power that’s very expensive."
He claimed that the effect of this decision is to shift the benefit of the publicly owned dams over to private contractors, which detracts from the public interest.
Video: Adrian Dix tells Straight editor Charlie Smith that he’s not conceding any votes on the environment.
In the 1990s, Dix sat on the board of B.C. Hydro and was involved in some controversial decisions, including a plan to proceed with a natural-gas pipeline to Vancouver Island, which would fuel gas-fired power plants. When asked about this and other questionable environmental moves during the Glen Clark era—including the removal of the Six Mile Ranch from the Agricultural Land Reserve—Dix responded that the NDP government also created a huge number of parks, improved environmental standards, and enhanced the environmental-assessment process.
In addition, Dix claimed that Christy Clark is further to the right on environmental issues than Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as demonstrated by her desire to try to overturn the federal environmental-appeal process to allow for the development of the Prosperity Mine near Williams Lake.
In contrast, Dix said that he supports allocating carbon-tax revenue to environmental initiatives, "principally transit in the Lower Mainland".
Dix also created some distance between himself and fellow NDP leadership candidate Mike Farnworth, who has refused to promise to roll back the B.C. Liberals' corporate tax cuts.
Dix claimed that the majority of the carbon tax was, in effect, a way for the Campbell government to offset corporate tax cuts. He has promised to reverse corporate tax cuts dating back to 2008.
“You have to rescind some of those corporate tax cuts that were subsidized by the carbon tax,” he noted. “I’ve said I’ll do that. So I think my environmental platform is strong. I’m campaigning on the issue. I’m not conceding any votes on the issue.”
Dix says if he becomes NDP leader, he’ll demand accountability from MLAs
During his interview at the Straight office, Dix sidestepped a question over whether or not he would be a tough boss if he’s elected party leader.
”Will the NDP caucus work harder if I’m leader?” he responded. “You bet, because I work hard. I’m going to set the pace.”
Video: Adrian Dix tells Straight editor Charlie Smith that he would be an “accountable” boss.
He quickly added that former leader Carole James also worked very hard. “I’ll absolutely be demanding accountability of MLAs when they take on projects, and I’ll expect them to hold me accountable,” Dix remarked. “That’s the way successful operations are organized generally, you know. I think if we get behind a project that’s exciting, that promises real change for British Columbia, I don’t think we’ll have any problem with an energized caucus”¦.Will I be a tough boss? I think I will be an accountable boss. That’s what people are looking for.”
See the entire unedited interview with Adrian Dix:
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.