B.C. NDP leader Adrian DIx greets supporters in downtown Kelowna Wednesday morning.

NDP vows to help co-op students

NDP leaderAdrian dix says his party would spend $13 million over two years to expand co-op positions for B.C. students.

B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix wants to increase co-op education spaces to support local businesses, expand skills training opportunities and promote job creation.

And, speaking in downtown Kelowna Wednesday, he said an NDP government would spend $13 million over two years to do it.

“A B.C. NDP government will invest $13 million to expand co-op positions for B.C. students,” said Dix. “Over two years, this will help provide an estimated 6,500 young people with the skills necessary for the jobs of tomorrow and address the growing skills shortage in our economy.

Critical of the Liberal government for what he called a “misleading” $17-million advertising campaign that said it was investing in skills training while actually cutting funding for both training and post-secondary education, Dix said his plan will expand the B.C. training tax credit to target small- and medium-sized businesses and include a new wage-subsidy program for B.C. non-profits that hire co-op students, similar to the federal Canada Summer Jobs program.

“Over the past two years, hundreds of business people have told me they cannot find the skilled workers they need to take advantage of opportunities to grow and prosper,” said Dix standing at the corner of Bernard Avenue and Pandosy Street. The announcement came during the modern day equivalent of a whistle-stop appearance here while on his way by bus to Vernon from Summerland.

“We have to address this challenge or we will end up with jobs without people and people without jobs, increasing the already unacceptable levels of inequality in B.C.”

The NDP says students at UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College, along with 16 other colleges, universities and institutes with co-op education programs, will be eligible to participate in the program.

Last year, more than 10,000 students completed paid, four-month co-op terms as part of their post-secondary education.

Dix said co-ops are an effective way to give students practical on-the-job experience that will improve their chances of finding work after graduation when compared to those without co-op experience. Co-op programs also benefit employers by providing access to talent and a reliable way to meet short-term staffing needs.

The NDP program would begin in the summer of 2014, with expenditures of $5 million in 2014/15 and $8 million in 2015/16.

While speaking here, Dix repeatedly accused the Liberals of misleading the public on a host of issues, including a plan to woo ethnic voters, the B.C. Rail deal, the HST, balancing the provincial budget, reducing government spending and even healthcare, an area where this region has received close to $1 billion in capital funding in recent years.

But ,he said, unlike him, the Liberals refuse to take responsibility and are “brazen” in their denials they have done anything wrong.

“I take responsibility,” he said in reference to the controversy that has dogged him since 1999 when, as former NDP premier Glen Clark’s  chief of staff, Dix was fired for back-dating a memo to protect his boss from conflict-of-interest charges.

Dix’s actions in 1999 have become a cornerstone of attack ads by the Liberals.

But he called those ads misleading because he has taken responsibility for what he did and has said it was wrong.

The NDP leader blasted the Liberals for the “continuing smear campaign” against him in Liberal television, radio and internet advertisements.

“So I have a suggestion for voters,” said Dix. “Every time you see the premier (Liberal leader Christy Clark) or the Liberal Party put out another misleading smear on TV, say ‘not this time.'”

It was a phrase he used over and over again in his address to pump up the small crowd of supporters and media that gathered around him on the sidewalk.

While he complained about the negative advertising, Dix, however, could not resist a dig of his own at Clark and her recent driving troubles.

“(The Liberals) have driven through every four-way stop to mislead,” he said, alluding to Clark recently running a red light in Vancouver with her 11-year-old son and a Vancouver Sun reporter in the car in the early hours of the morning while taking her son to hockey practice.

Clark has publicly said what she did was wrong.

Despite that, Dix’s reference drew a cheer from the crowd.