The closer he gets to the provincial election, the more Adrian Dix is downplaying expectations he’d sweep into the premier’s office with an agenda of massive reform.
The Opposition leader, who polls say is the front-runner to become premier in the May election, continues to stress that he is not preparing to dismantle a decade of B.C. Liberal programs and policies.
Instead, he said, he’s preparing an election platform of long-term goals for the province that, should he win office, present more of a focused change than a sweeping reform.
“What we don’t want to do is overturn previous decisions just because they weren’t our ideas,” he said in a year-end interview with the Times Colonist.
“We have to take what we inherit and make it better from now.”
Dix said he supports Liberal accomplishments like all-day kindergarten, coverage of insulin pumps for children and the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty, and isn’t interested in overhauling successful government programs just to add an NDP stamp to policy.
“What that argues for is my approach, which is very disciplined, not over-promising, focusing on important initiatives but not as many initiatives as you’d expect from an opposition party coming into government,” he said.
“That’s different from [the Mike Harcourt NDP government in] 1991, and I would argue different from [the Gordon Campbell B.C. Liberal government] in 2001, when you have two extraordinarily activist governments on a range of issues coming in.
“We don’t have the luxury to be that broad. We have to focus on key priorities.”
The Liberals have accused Dix of hiding most of those key priorities from the public. The NDP’s election platform has yet to be released, but Dix has spoken about raising business and bank taxes to pay for post-secondary grants, skills training and expanded public transit.
NDP MLAs have repeatedly said they need to see the provincial budget in February before divulging a fully costed platform.
But Dix is already signaling his distrust of those February figures, saying Liberal claims of balanced books will be built upon the one-time sale of government property, as well as questionable profits from Crown corporations like B.C. Hydro, which have pushed looming costs into deferral accounts for future years.
“You look in the dictionary under structural deficit and you see their picture,” Dix said of the Liberals.
“It’s going to be a budget they say is balanced, that isn’t balanced. It’s going to be a huge mess.”
The Liberals are slashing hundreds of millions in spending to try to eliminate the deficit by February. Dix said the NDP believes in running deficits in times of unexpected revenue loss, rather than cutting government programs.
He said the key is to remain disciplined in spending during surplus years, to balance out the budget over the long term.
The so-called “serious” tone Dix adopted after winning the NDP leadership in April 2011 — he said he has tried not to launch personal attacks against the premier — has been successful, he said.
Meanwhile, Dix said he thinks the Liberal government is alienating people by running in perpetual campaign mode, rather than offering genuine leadership.
“I think a lot of people like the approach I’m taking, a lot of people outside the NDP structure,” he said.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to vote for me. The problem with politics these days isn’t just winning the election, it’s what happens afterward.”
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