BY BILL PHILLIPS
About 40 people showed up Sunday for the opening of Prince George-Valemount NDP candidate Natalie Fletcher’s campaign office.
The rookie politician has a big job ahead of her … trying to unseat Liberal incumbent Shirley Bond who is seeking her fifth term in office.
“I’ve met Shirley, she seems like a lovely woman,” Fletcher said in an interview. “It’s her politics, it’s her government.”
For Fletcher, who works at the University Hospital of Northern B.C. as a sterile processing technician and is a member of the Hospital Employees Union, health care is a big focus for her heading into the campaign, but not her only one.
“Health care, education, reducing costs and putting more money in peoples’ pockets,” she said. “And, of course the jobs. Job creation is big and I’m talking about jobs that are family-friendly and here in the community.”
Many of those family-friendly, local jobs can, and should be in the forest industry, she said.
“No logs should leave our province unless we don’t need them in our communities,” she said. “This government has ramped up raw log exports to an all-time high, 30,000 jobs have been lost (in the forest industry) and 100 mills have been closed.”
There has been an entire generation of children who have gone through schools that have been chronically over-crowded, she said, adding that only changed with a Supreme Court of Canada ruling … “which is really shameful.”
In terms of health care, Fletcher said there are long wait times and, here in the North, some services simply aren’t available.
“People have to travel a long distance, sometimes, to get the health care that they need,” she said.
She also quoted the Senior’s Advocate report which stated that none of the care homes in their region meet the government’s minimum standards.
“It’s really shameful when you talk to the care aides and what they’re dealing with,” she said.
So what will an NDP government do?
“John Horgan and the NDP are working for the 98 per cent,” she said. “The top two per cent of people have had a premier over the last four years, the 98 per cent have not. This is where it has to change.”
She said an NDP government will eliminate Medical Services Premiums, which the Liberals have announced they will also do. The NDP will also put more funds into education and health care, Fletcher said. The money to pay for it isn’t hard to find, she said.
“How are we going to pay for it?” she said. “We’re going to stop billion-dollar tax credits to millionaires. That’s how we’re going to pay for it.”
The NDP are also committed, she said, to having a $15 per hour minimum wage by the end of their first term.
Fletcher has been in Prince George for 30 years and raised her two children here and has always been active in the community.
“I’ve been an advocate my entire life,” she said. “It started even as a child. I would bring home kids who were struggling, or fighting with their parents. Thankfully my parents were supportive of me wanting a better life for people.”
British Columbians go to the polls May 9.