As the first of the NDP leadership candidates to visit the people of the northwest, Mike Farnworth says there is a definite gap between the Greater Vancouver area and the rest of the province, a divide that needs to be repaired.
Farnworth, according to an Ipsos Reid survey, is “well ahead” of the other five NDP runners when it comes to public impressions, who with a 40 per cent positive rating scored a plus 28 rating. In fact, Farnworth’s public following view him more positively than the Liberals’ top ranking contender Christy Clark, who was scored at plus 11 with a 40 per cent positive rating.
Along with stops in Terrace and Hazelton, Farnworth met with the people of Smithers in the meeting room at the Aspen last Wednesday, which was standing room only due to the number of people attending.
A member of the BC NDP since 1991, Farnworth now serves as both Opposition Critic for Public Safety and Solicitor General, as well as the Opposition House Leader.
“I am running because I believe that we as a party need to move beyond just being an opposition party to being a governing party,” Farnworth said.
With that is the need for the NDP to look beyond social issues, and to start talking about the economy more if they want to see those social goals come to fruition, Farnworth said.
“Economic success and social success are not separate, they are linked and we need to recognize that and they need to be built on a strong environmental foundation,” Farnworth said. “That means that as a government, we need to get away from the top down approach that we’ve seen and be … working with communities, working with people, and working with the different regions that exist in the province of British Columbia.”
There may be people with differing opinions, some of which he may agree with, others he may not, but there’s a validity to those other opinions that they need to listen to, Farnworth said. This way, they can worth through issues for the Bulkley Valley, or for the Caribou region.
“Solutions from one area don’t have to be the same as solutions from another area,” he said.
That said, the disconnect he’s seen in the province, where communities outside of the Lower Mainland may feel neglected from the policies made in Vancouver/Victoria, needs to change, he said.
“The resource sector that built this province is important, and will continue to be so,” he said. “Governments have to work with people, with the communities.”
As to the disconnect within the NDP party, he says this leadership campaign is already addressing those concerns, bringing their party together. If he’s not the chosen leader, he will wholly unite with the new leader, he said, to get things done.
A question from a member of the public regarding his position on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project encompasses a much broader concern that elected officials of B.C. need to be considering, Farnworth said, and that’s our need to take responsibility for those projects that affect B.C.
“We need to take on that responsibility,” Farnworth said. “We also need to be more active on the national front [generally], in a way that befits the third largest province.”
In closing, he said the two strongest attributes that he would bring to the leadership role of the NDP: optimism, and having an open mind.
“I believe sitting down and talking with people,” Farnworth said. “I don’t like playing games, just how do we make this work?”