MP Alex Atama-nenko stopped in Trail Monday to open his local campaign office and drum up support among area voters.
The incumbent New Democrat is running on his record and looking to win his third election in the last five years.
The NDP platform, announced Sunday, focuses on social programs and health care initiatives, something Atamanenko takes particular pride in.
He was a driving force behind the “Poor No More” series of meetings undertaken in the riding last month. He is a vocal advocate for affordable housing and is determined to get the province on board.
“We have to ensure that there is sufficient funding going to the provinces with strings attached, so that money will be used to improve health care . . . that’s something federally we can do,” said Atamanenko in an interview with the Times.
The 66-year-old Castlegar resident is critical of the province’s consolidation of health care facilities and a move to privatization.
“For every hour a doctor spends in a private clinic, that’s one less hour that operating room may be open . . . We’ve shut down the hospital in Castlegar, we’ve cut back services in the Nelson hospital because of this drive to consolidate.”
Atamanenko, the NDP’s agricultural critic, tabled a bill restricting the use of genetically engineered food. An advocate for organic farmers and supporting local growers, he says regulations should be less stringent at the local level, pointing to problems sellers at a local farmers market had with the new regulations last summer.
“We need to have a separate set of rules for small business. You can’t have the same rules for Maple Leaf Foods as the Rossland Farmers Market.”
The 200 extra food inspectors outlined in the platform would be used for monitoring the safe and secure distribution of imported food as well as food produced by large scale slaughter houses and producers.
“All the food coming into our country isn’t checked and we need to have them there and ensure safety.”
The NDP would also decrease taxes to small business owners by two per cent with added incentives and grants for employers. But more important for Atamanenko is that an NDP government would not only work to create jobs but preserve jobs, especially those in the public sector.
“People who make good wages are generally in the public sector. They are the ones who buy their car from Dan down here, they go to the Colander and the movies; if you cut back on public service jobs which this provincial government and federal government has done, then who takes the hits – our communities.”
Atamanwenko points to the provincial and federal government’s attempt at deregulation and privatization of offices such as those at Canada Post.
While the platform might seem expensive, Atamanenko says the NDP have it all worked out. Rather than cut corporate tax rates as the Conservatives propose, the NDP would raise corporate taxes from 16 to almost 19 per cent.
“The bottom line is that anything we have in this budget is costed out. We have economists working with us, we’re not just throwing figures out and hope that they sound good.”
Money is not a problem says Atamanenko but it is how the government spends it.
“Instead of spending billions on fighter planes and new prisons, we take $5.9 billion in corporate taxes and redirect them – we put $1 billion into small business tax cuts, $1 billion into job creation tax credits, $275 million in to accelerated capital costs and we still have over $3 billion.”
Atamanenko is severely critical of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government,
suggesting the prime minister engineered the election. While polls still have the Conservatives in the lead, Atamanenko is in full support of forming a coalition government with the Liberals should another Conservative minority be elected.
“I think the way we will get policies implemented is having a strong NDP presence . . . my sincere hope is that we can get that combination into government so we can work with them and implement those policies.”