NDP leader drops in for a chat

John Horgan sat down with a handful of Kelowna residents to talk about their concerns Tuesday.

b.C> NDP leader John Horgan talks to people in a Kelonwa coffee shop Tuesday.

b.C> NDP leader John Horgan talks to people in a Kelonwa coffee shop Tuesday.

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan was in Kelowna Tuesday to hear directly from locals about their concerns, particularly what he sees as a need to raise the minimum wage in B.C. to $15 per hour.

According to Horgan, studies show a substantial hike to the minimum wage will not only help those currently making low wages, but would also benefit the entire B.C. ecomony.

But, while it has increased the minimum wage by small increments in the last few years, the Liberal government of Premier Christy Clark has balked at calls for such a substantive increase—one that would push up the current $10.85 per hour minimum wage by $4.15 per hour.

The minimum wage in B.C. went up 40 cents per hour in September and is slated to increase to $11.25  this coming September.

But Horgan says a more substantial hike is needed now in order to help the hundreds of thousands of people, particularly those with families,  struggling to get by on low wages.

Despite Clark’s often-repeated claim that B.C. is leading the country in economic growth and job creation, Horgan said job creation has not occurred in rural B.C.

“If fact, we are seeing people leaving rural B.C. for Vancouver,” he said, claiming most of the good jobs created under the government’s Jobs Plan have been created in the Lower Mainland.

And, he added, there has not been a net increase in jobs in the Kelowna area since 2011.

With a provincial election coming up in May, it’s clear both Clark and Horgan are starting to mark out their territory when it comes to appealing to voters.

In his discussion with six local people at downtown Kelowna coffee shop Tuesday morning, Horgan said he was pleased to hear three young women express optimism for the future, despite what the ND leader said was “evidence to the contrary.”

In the wide-raging discussion with the women and three older men, Horgan heard there is a need here for a collaborative spirit, with less focus on individuals and more on the community as a whole.

“We are one,” said one of the men in response to a call for see more community meetings take place to discuss political issues.

“Don’t call it politics, call it social democracy. Let’s make it happen.”