Conservatives Failing British Columbia

British Columbia's New Democratic Party members of parliament are challenging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to start working harder for ordinary British Columbians.

Four Lower Mainland NDP MPs gathered to address issues ranging from the need for more child care spaces, to proportional representation that would make every vote count, and the devastation caused by the mountain pine beetle.

"Stephen Harper claimed he would stand up for B.C. Instead this province is being taken for granted and neglected," said Dawn Black (New Westminster-Coquitlam). "As things have turned out, 'Stand up for B.C.' was not a campaign promise. It was a warning that we all have to fight to hold Mr. Harper accountable."

"The Conservatives' recent budget cut off Canada at the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, completely leaving out B.C.," said Black. "Add in his change in equalization payments and it's clear the further you are from Ontario and Quebec, the less you matter to Harper."

Bill Siksay (Burnaby-Douglas) highlighted the fact that B.C. students carry huge debt loads and face sky-rocketing tuition fees. "The Conservatives continue to push student concerns to the wayside. They are also failing new Canadians and immigrants by not recognizing their foreign credentials. The government must stop treating them as second-class citizens."

"The Harper government has failed to show leadership on the pine beetle crisis and it is another example of B.C.'s needs being ignored," said Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster). "The beetle is destroying vast areas of forests, threatening communities, increasing flood risks, and potentially harming salmon habitat."

Health is another area not properly addressed, despite the growing need for home and long-term care for B.C. seniors. "Despite a multi-billion dollar surplus, Mr. Harper has ignored the need to support seniors so they can live with dignity in their own homes," said Penny Priddy (Surrey North).

Last week NDP Leader Jack Layton held a press conference in Ottawa and outlined five specific promises that Harper has failed to live up to, including medical wait times, veterans and policing.

Child Care Spaces: The Conservatives promised ordinary Canadians 25,000 new spaces each year, 125,000 spaces over five years, at a cost of $250 million a year, yet not a single space has been created. Canadians need more accessible, affordable, high-quality day case spaces for their children.

Environment: For too long, the Conservatives have followed George Bush's head-in-the-sand approach to climate change, ignoring the mounting scientific evidence. His party is more worried about appeasing big polluters than protecting our children's future.

Equalization: In his rush to clear the decks before an election, the Prime Minister has also provoked a stand-off with three provinces: Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan, with his foolish claim that the ongoing equalization fight is over.

Foreign Credentials: To date, Harper's actions to recognize foreign credentials have been nothing but empty rhetoric. As he did last year, Harper has again promised to fund an agency to recognize foreign credentials. Yet no agency has been set up and new Canadians and immigrants are tired of having their education and work experience not being acknowledged. This is a waste of talent and skill - and Canada would only benefit from their contribution to the country.

Forestry and the Pine Beetle: The forest-dependent communities of B.C. were ignored in the last budget despite the deepening crisis and harm caused to working families when the Conservatives caved in to George Bush on the softwood lumber deal. Jobs are being lost as mills are forced to close and Harper continues to do nothing. Similarly, the mountain pine beetle is destroying B.C.'s forests but Harper has failed to provide leadership and failed to work out an agreement with the provincial government. In September, 2006, he cut $11.7 million from the mountain pine beetle mitigation program.

Home Care: Harper continues to fail and neglect seniors who wish to live in dignity in their own homes and failed to invest in long term health care initiatives. More investment in home care and long term health programs would reduce pressure on expensive acute care beds in hospitals.

Police: The Conservative Party platform promised "to put at least 2,500 more police on the beat." Yet Canadian Police Associations all confirm that our cities and communities are still waiting for these police officers to start working. Additionally, when the World Police and Fire Games were held in Quebec in 2005, the federal government contributed $1.6 million to support this major event. However, the Lower Mainland will receive no financial support when they host the games in 2009.

Proportional Representation: More equitable representation in the House of Commons was promised by the Conservatives to recognize B.C.'s growing population. Harper said he would increase the number of B.C. seats from 36 to 40, yet has failed to act on his promise. He is stalling on the NDP's proposal to bring in proportional representation so every British Columbian's vote will count.

Veterans: Stephen Harper pledged that he would immediately extend the veterans' benefits program to their widows. The Prime Minister has failed to live up to this promise and the Conservatives voted against an NDP bill to extend these very same veterans' benefits.

Wait Times: Conservatives promised a comprehensive wait times guarantee. They told Canadians that it wouldn't be delayed any longer. But the money that Harper has announced is far short of what was promised in the 2006 election platform.

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