Three months out, the spring election was bursting from the bud in Kamloops on Friday.
Flanked by educators and local candidates, NDP Leader Adrian Dix attacked the Liberal government for eliminating a touring science education program, but the Liberals tried to outflank the opposition leader.
Liberal nominee Todd Stone called media outlets before the NDP news conference, questioning why Dix hasn’t divulged more substantive aspects of his platform.
“I find it outrageous — yet another visit to Kamloops by Adrian Dix for a minor announcement, yet he has nothing to say about jobs or the economy of the region,” Stone said.
Dix chose the TRU House of Learning as a backdrop to promise that an NDP government would restore funding for the B.C. Program for Awareness and Learning of Science.
Started in 2009 by the Gordon Campbell Liberals, the outreach program toured through 170 communities a year, including Kamloops, Barriere and Clearwater, and reached 190,000 children, parents and teachers annually.
“The value of the program was to bring Science World, situated in Vancouver, around the province,” Dix said. “By every standard, it was immensely successful and this past year the government cancelled the program.”
New Democrat nominees Kathy Kendall and Tom Friedman said the program would be a smart investment with economic growth linked to science literacy. Fields related to natural and applied sciences and technology are expected to generate 147,000 new jobs in B.C.
Carol Rees, a TRU science researcher and educator, and Eric Wiebe, a retired district physics teacher, backed the NDP’s contention that the program is worthwhile restoring.
“This kind of program brings hands-on science to people who wouldn’t otherwise have it,” Rees said.
The program had a relatively small $1-million budget, Dix noted while taking another poke at the government for spending $16.4 million on partisan advertising out of the taxpayer-funded contingency budget.
“Why are they spending? It’s clear — they want to close their own credibility gap. I think that’s a terrible way to spend public money.”
The NDP would enact a law requiring all government ads to be vetted first by the auditor-general, he reiterated, “saving money so that we have resources to support science programs for children and youth.”
Given that he hasn’t disclosed his platform in greater detail, Dix was asked when he planned to do so, but he was noncommittal.
“I think it’s just that kind of partisan rhetoric that people are tired of,” he said of Stone’s comments. He said he’s waiting for next Tuesday’s budget delivery before fully laying out his platform. In 2001, the Campbell Liberals didn’t reveal their platform until well into the election campaign, he argued.
“Nobody with any common sense would do what Mr. Stone proposes. You wouldn’t behave that way in business. It’s all coming very soon.”
Dix hasn’t put the planks in his platform, “other than to say we’re not Liberals,” Stone said earlier.
“Every time he comes to Kamloops, he fails to talk about issues important to the people of Kamloops,” he said. “It actually gets me a bit worked up. He has failed to reveal any of the substantive aspects of his platform.”
Stone said it was arrogant of Dix to announce his choice of deputy minister earlier in the week in presumptive fashion. At the same time, he’s not talking straight about what an NDP government would to create and sustain jobs, Stone said.
Sensing that Stone was knocking a program that should be above partisan politics, Freidman fired back on Friday afternoon.
“Mr. Stone was clearly confused,” he said in a follow-up news release. “He didn’t think the announcement had anything to do with Kamloops. If he had studied the issue before he started tweeting and speaking to the media, he would have known how important this program is to Kamloops.”