VICTORIA -- Local government leaders were courted for their votes Thursday morning as B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix addressed a standing-room only crowd at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
Dix was quick to take aim at Premier Christy Clark's decision not to have a fall sitting of the legislature but drew the line at making personal attacks.
"It serves no purpose to tear down those good people," he said, noting the toxic political environment was turning people away from the democratic process.
"It comes down to division without difference. We have differences on issues but sometimes the approach is more like comparing Coke to Pepsi."
The culture of contradiction would not serve to benefit communities dealing with infrastructure needs, the NDP leader said.
"To address that issue will require federal governments, provincial governments, local governments, business, labour, the whole community and surely the taxpayer," he said. "And the more toxic and the more divisive our politics about things that we should not be divided, the more difficult it is to resolve those problems."
Dix called for more respect between levels of government and said the province can't simply do away with a local government's authority.
"I think local governments should decide, not by a dictate from Victoria, whether they use [public-private partnerships] on projects in their communities," said Dix, adding he also supported having local representatives sit on the board of BC Transit.
Current legislation does not allow elected officials to sit on the public transit agencies board of directors. The transportation minister has agreed to allow local governments to make recommendations on board appointees.
The Opposition leader also expressed his desire to see a return to local governments having a say in the creation of mountain resorts, the reinstatement of non-refundable student grants as well as the return of a provincial apprenticeship program.
"We need a politician that brings us together in difficult times to make the best possible choices," said Dix.
Provincial Green Party leader Jane Sterk also made her pitch to convention delegates, calling for a change in thinking.
"Many solutions will be found at the local level," Sterk said, adding, "silence and group think are not healthy for our democracy."
Prince George Coun. Brian Skakun said hearing from other parties at the convention is important.
"Some of these people could be our future leaders," he said and getting their ear on issues now could lead to potential benefits, "in particular how their government might be able to help us with infrastructure debts."