By Kerstin Renner, Black Press
The cold wind was blowing snowflakes in Jack Layton’s face as he stepped off the tour bus in Cranbrook, but supporters gathered at the Mission Hills golf club gave the NDP leader a warm welcome. After a breakfast meeting with seniors in January, Layton was back in the Kootenays to host a campaign barbeque.
Layton got to work, assisted by local NDP candidate Mark Shmigelsky, serving hamburgers to the crowd, before delivering a rousing campaign speech to the people packing the clubhouse and crowding on the large patio.
“Ottawa is broken and it’s gonna be up to us to fix it,” Layton exclaimed, his criticism mainly aimed at the current Conservative government under prime minister Stephen Harper. An NDP government, he promised, would put the needs of Canadian families first.
Layton committed to creating a national child care program, training doctors and nurses, so everyone has access to a family doctor, investing in 100,000 new long-term care beds and home care programs as well as focusing on new job creation in the small business sector.
“I’m not gonna stop until that job’s done, just like Tommy Douglas didn’t stop until Medicare was in place,” Layton promised.
The federal leader also confirmed a commitment he announced earlier that day at a campaign stop in Prince George. Should B.C. residents decide to overturn the decision to move to the HST in a referendum this summer, his government would not ask British Columbia to pay back the federal transfer payments.
Layton said that money has been spent on important things such as health care and education and “there’s no way and NDP government would claw back the $1.6 billion from the people of B.C.”
Asked why he chose to spend an entire day campaigning in two B.C. ridings that have a history of being dominated by the Tories, rather than focusing on more contested ridings in the East, Layton stated he believes in the power of optimism in the campaign.
“I remember when I was first elected leader, people told me all kinds of things that weren’t going to happen; virtually all of them have happened,” Layton said. “We’re here because we want to see representation here that speaks for people in the Kootenays.”
“I’ve got a good feeling where this is headed with candidates like Mark,” Layton praised the Kootenay-Columbia NDP candidate and Shmigelksy echoed his leader’s positive outlook.
“I’m a hard-working person like the people in this region,” he said. “they want respect from their government and they’re not getting it from Mr. Harper.”
Shmigelsky admits he had thought of retiring from politics after 15 years on council at the District of Invermere of which he served 9 as mayor. Seeing a government with obvious disrespect for the people of Canada, however, brought him back on the political scene.
Now he is going door-to-door, talking to people and listening to their needs to take them to Ottawa. “We’ve got close to 4,000 kilometres, way too much coffee and we’re working hard,” Smigelsky said of his team.
That contact to the people is what defines the NDP’s goal, Layton stressed,” we believe in operating a wide-open society where everybody has a place and nobody gets a door shut in their face.”