By Roy Ostling
Federal NDP leadership candidate Brian Topp brought his campaign to Nanaimo Thursday, attracting about 60 people to a meet and greet at the MGM restaurant.
The Nanaimo event preceded a visit to Qualicum Beach and drew a mainly older crowd of party supporters. Topp outlined his background as former president of the federal party before answering questions.
Topp said taxation policy is the No. 1 issue for his candidacy.
“The Conservatives running the government of Canada for the past 20 years have been undermining the tax system, letting the wealthiest Canadians off the hook and putting the government into deficit. It’s time to push back and reverse this Robin Hood tax policy.”
He vowed to change the Martin Liberal government’s 50 per cent tax rate on capital gains, saying a “buck is a buck” and no matter how money is earned people should pay the same.
He also promised to reverse the Harper Conservatives corporate tax rate, which he said is “the lowest in the Western world with no evidence it’s created a single job.”
Changing the federal government’s lack of action on climate change is Topp’s next priority, which he said has devastated Canada’s international diplomacy efforts and helped the country lose its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.
Topp used the controversy over transporting Alberta tar sands bitumen through the Keystone XL Pipeline project to the U.S. and the Northern Gateway Pipeline project through B.C. to Asia, to blast the Conservatives management of the economy.
“I would insist on our resources being processed in Canada,” he said.
Questions from floor explored issues ranging from Canada’s position on Palestine and Israel, if the federal NDP will abandon a strong position to attract centrist voters and restoring the confidence of the civil service to electoral reform.
Topp responded by saying he would recognize a Palestinian state, be respectful of the civil service while challenging it to do better, and abolish the Senate and introduce elements of proportional representation.
Two of the younger NDP supporters in attendance were VIU student Amie Gravell and her fiancé Peter Richmond.
Gravell asked if Topp would allow government-employed scientists to speak freely about their research into climate change; Richmond wanted to know how the federal NDP can be made more accessible through the use of social media.
Topp said restricting scientists from speaking directly to the media is another aspect of the Conservatives’ incompetence and their failure to make decisions based on facts. He also noted that improving the federal NDP’s use of social media has to be part of a broader effort to keep communications active between election cycles.
Gravell, who has been an NDP party member for a year, said she was impressed.
“I’ve been reviewing candidates all semester at university. He should be good at answering questions and it’s just blown me out of the water from what I’ve heard so far,” she said.
Eight other candidates are vying in the federal NDP leadership race, which will be decided in Toronto on March 24. Topp’s bid has recently been bolstered by picking up endorsements from six Vancouver Island NDP MLAs, including Nanaimo-North Cowichan’s Doug Routley and Nanaimo-Cowichan NDP MP Jean Crowder.
Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen visited Nanaimo last month, while Peggy Nash is scheduled to be at the MGM Restaurant Tuesday (Dec. 13) at 12:15 p.m. for a meet and greet.