The Communist Party of BC is urging voters in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain to reject Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals in by-elections to be held on Feb. 2. The premier delayed calling these votes for nearly six months, reflecting her political history of contempt for the people of British Columbia and for the right to effective representation in the Legislature.
“These by-elections will be an important occasion for working class and poor people to reject the right-wing, pro-corporate agenda of the BC Liberals,” says George Gidora, leader of the Communist Party of BC.
While the CPBC has decided not to nominate candidates in these by-elections, it will be on the ballot in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant and several other ridings in the provincial general election set for May 2017. The party has spoken out strongly against the anti-people policies of the BC Liberals ever since Gordon Campbell became premier in 2001. Communist candidates have been on the ballot in every election, and the CPBC has taken part in fightback struggles by trade unions, anti-poverty groups, environmentalists, First Nations, public education supporters and many other progressive movements over the past fifteen years.
During the Feb. 2 by-elections, the CPBC will distribute materials raising a number of key demands for progressive change in British Columbia:
- An immediate 50 percent increase in social assistance and disability rates, which were below poverty levels during the NDP of the 1990s and have been frozen for many years under the Liberals.
- Emergency action to build tens of thousands of low-income and social housing units, to help reduce the skyrocketing housing costs faced by residents of Metro Vancouver and other regions of the province.
- Increase the minimum wage immediately to the $15/hour demanded by the labour movement, and to $20/hour within two years.
- Expand transit services for the Lower Mainland including a massive increase in the bus fleet.
- Roll back and eliminate tuition fees for post-secondary students.
- Reverse the cuts to provincial funding for public schools and the health care system, and block the growing privatization of public services.
- Reverse the huge tax cuts for corporations and top income earners, which have cost the provincial treasury over $2 billion annually since 2001.
- Launch a comprehensive plan to shift from reliance on export of resources, towards an economy based on job creation through environmentally sustainable processing of raw materials.
- Full recognition of inherent indigenous rights, including measures to help implement all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and to end the legacy of centuries of violence against indigenous peoples.
The NDP candidate in the Vancouver-Mount Pleasant by-election is Melanie Mark, a former president of the Urban Native Youth Association, who hopes to become B.C.’s first female indigenous MLA. For several years, Mark worked in the office of BC’s representative for children and youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who has been scathing in her criticisms of the government’s abysmal failure to protect the interests of young people. Mark has a stronger record as a social activist than Green candidate Pete Fry. The Liberal candidate is Gavin Dew, a communications consultant who has worked for the deeply unpopular Trans Mountain pipeline expansion proposed by Texas-based energy giant Kinder Morgan. For these reasons, the Mount Pleasant campaign will be a referendum on the right-wing policies of the Campbell and Clark governments, and the CPBC is urging a vote for Melanie Mark.
Coquitlam-Burke Mountain was formerly represented by B.C. Liberal Doug Horne, who was defeated last October as a federal Conservative candidate. Running for the NDP in this by-election is Jodie Wickens, the executive director of the Autism Support Network, but the candidate with the strongest record of progressive social activism is musician Joe Keithley for the Greens.
“The Communist Party of BC will use these by-elections to speak about the real issues facing our province, and to urge the defeat of the Liberals,” says George Gidora. “The demands we raise will be the focus of our May 2017 provincial election platform to call for people’s needs, not corporate greed.”
Gidora stresses that “the only sure way to drive the Liberals out of office next year is to build a powerful mass fightback around these and other progressive demands, uniting the labour movement, indigenous peoples, environmentalists, students, seniors, poor people, and everyone suffering from the impact of the capitalist economic crisis and the Liberal attacks on social programs and education. If the NDP runs yet another campaign based on accepting so-called `balanced budgets’ and other neoliberal policies, the Liberals will likely win a fifth consecutive majority. That would be a disaster for the working class of British Columbia.”