New Democrat leader Adrian Dix was in Cranbrook and Kimberley where he was meeting with different groups including a stop at the College of the Rockies Campus in Cranbrook.
Dix stressed the importance of helping students who wish to earn a post secondary education. Dix explained the B.C. government should proceed now with a needs-based grant program for post-secondary students.
“Ensuring access to advanced education must be a cornerstone of any economic growth and jobs plan for the province. Ten years of tuition increases and the elimination of grants by the Liberals have made pursuing higher education increasingly difficult, especially for students from low and middle-income households and workers needing to upgrade their skills,” Dix said. “Restoring grants is key to improving accessibility, supporting British Columbians and building a more prosperous economic future,” said Dix.
A grants program one of its priorities for the New Democrats if they were elected, but the official opposition urges Premier Christy Clark, to adopt this proposal now under a revamped Jobs Plan for the province.
Dix went on to explain the need for students with a variety of skills only helps B.C. move forward.
“I have met with business leaders from many sectors over the past months, including forestry, construction, high-tech. All rank a growing skills shortage as one of their top concerns. I also have met with young British Columbians and displaced workers who are worried that they cannot get the education and training they need because of the rising cost of post-secondary education. Grants would help many people overcome financial barriers to fulfill their aspirations, and the B.C. economy to secure the skilled labour force it needs,” said Dix.
Dix explained that the non-repayable grant program – eliminated by the Liberals in the 2004-05 fiscal year – should be financed through reinstating a minimum tax on financial institutions
The B.C. New Democrat leader was joined by local educators, students, and Kootenay area MLAs Norm MacDonald and Michelle Mungall.
“We need a strong post-secondary system, one that is affordable and accessible. Unfortunately, due to the Liberals, tuition has doubled during the past decade. As a result, average student debt has spiralled to a staggering $27,000,” Macdonald said.
“Many occupations require graduate studies or professional certification, in addition to a bachelor’s degree. However, many potential students don’t even start post-secondary education because of the prospect of debt, and they can be forced to stop mid-course because of the debt accumulated during their first years of study. There is clear inverse relationship between a student’s debt level and their likelihood of completing post-secondary education,” explained Mungall, the official opposition’s post secondary critic.
Another topic that Dix was going to be speaking on during his time in Cranbrook is what he described as “the significant gap” in services for people who have suffered brain injuries. Dix felt it was important for the government to help people who struggle to get local service in B.C.
During a phone interview with Dix he also spoke of issues such as jobs and the economy.
He commended Macdonald for the work he has done as critic of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations. Dix said Macdonald has been working hard to keep forestry jobs in B.C. and stressed the importance of continuing to fight to keep more forestry jobs in the province in the future.
Dix cited the amount of raw logs which are being sent out of province to be processed as one area where the local industry could be supported to help create jobs.
He went on to explain that in the future the province must plan to use resources here, have more qualified people working in the field while also looking after the health of the forest.