Dick Cannings is looking towards Green Party supporters as he launches the NDP campaign against the B.C. Liberals in the next provincial election.
Cannings, a renowned B.C. naturalist and author, outpolled David Finnis on Sunday to win the New Democrat nomination for the Penticton riding in next May’s provincial election. He will be taking on Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton in which has been Liberal-held territory under retiring MLA Bill Barisoff since 1996.
Cannings told about 200 party members at the Shatford Centre that the NDP can win in Penticton. He pointed to the last provincial election when the New Democrats finished 11 per cent behind the Liberals, while 16 per cent of the popular vote went to the Greens.
“We shouldn’t tell Green voters: ‘Vote NDP, you can’t vote Green,’” he said. “We have to give them a reason to – we have to show them that the NDP shares their concerns and their values.”
Cannings pointed to his own strong profile in the environmental community. He is a co-founder of the Meadowlark Festival and has been involved in many conservation efforts over the years.
He urged party supporters to bring in voters from all sides of the political spectrum, including disgruntled Liberals and those who didn’t vote in 2009.
“We have to get rid of that tired old myth – because that’s what it is, a myth – that an NDP government would be bad for the economy.”
Commenting afterwards, Cannings said the NDP can pull off an upset in Penticton.
“The Liberals have a strong base here, but I think we have a lot of things going for us,” he said. “The polls are very much in the NDP’s favour provincially.”
He said NDP leader Adrian Dix has come up with some viable alternatives to what the Liberals have been doing.
“I think that’s going to be the whole gist of the campaign – people comparing what they’ve experienced over the last few years, both with Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark, and what Adrian is putting forward.”
Cannings said the province needs to invest in B.C.’s young people through improved training and education, rather than bring in workers from outside the country.
“Something is wrong when a province has high unemployment, yet there’s thousands of jobs that can’t be filled out there,” he said.
Finnis, who twice previously ran federally for the NDP, said he fully supports Cannings as the party candidate.
“I think Dick will be a formidable force for us. He’s obviously very knowledgeable,” he said. “I look forward to campaigning on his behalf to elect him.”
Former New Democrat MLA Jim Beattie (1992-96), who officially introduced Finnis at the nomination meeting, said he also believes the New Democrats can take the riding. He said the Liberals have become a very unpopular, opportunistic government.
Marji Basso, the NDP candidate in Boundary-Similkameen, said she looks forward to working with Cannings on issues of mutual concern in the two neighbouring ridings during the upcoming election campaign.
The Green Party has yet to announce a nomination meeting for the Penticton riding.