Thomas Mulcair pledged support to firefighters and the national tourism industry at a rally at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre Monday night.
The first federal party leader to visit Penticton in the 2015 federal election had the room awash with orange as Mulcair promised $30-million in funding for tourism and outlined his plan to support disaster relief in an area where wildfires and drought hit close to home.
Mulcair made a pledge to fund Destination Canada over the next three years, a promise he initially revealed in Niagara Falls on Aug. 17.
“Tourism is a vital part of B.C.’s economy, but Stephen Harper’s plan has seen a decade-long decline in tourism,” Mulcair said, adding that the Harper government slashed $21-million from Destination Canada’s budget.
“Businesses and tourism deserve a federal partner that works with them to showcase Canada to international visitors,” Mulcair said.
The first talking point Mulcair brought to the podium was hard-working firefighters and the effects of climate change.
“Across British Columbia and much of Canada we’re facing the worst fire season in memory,” Mulcair said. “Just up the road in Oliver there are 235 men and women fighting a wildfire that would cover almost half the area of downtown Vancouver.”
Mulcair outlined a three-point plan to support training, equipment and disaster relief, promising to restore funding for the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program (JEPP) and reopen the Emergency Preparedness College in Ottawa, shut down by the Conservative government.
Mulcair also promised to sit down with the premiers to strengthen the disaster financial assistance agreements.
“That program has to be strengthened to be able to respond as disasters are becoming more frequent,” Mulcair said.
Mulcair reiterated an announcement made earlier Monday at a campaign stop in Saskatoon to restore a shelter enhancement program that was scrapped by the Conservative government.
“We will provide a coordinated, national approach that seeks an end to violence against women,” Mulcair said to the loudest and lengthiest applause of the night.
His promise to make missing and murdered aboriginal women a priority and engage in nation-to-nation talks with First Nations communities resonated with Penticton Indian Band member Jeannette Armstrong.
“(Nation-to-nation talks) are 200 years in the making, so for him to promise that I think that’s going to go a long way in getting him elected,” Armstrong said. “Also, the murdered and missing aboriginal women because there are some right from here, from Penticton.”
Changing the status quo in Ottawa and “replacing the politics of fear and division with the politics of hope and optimism” were major talking points that Mulcair has towed along the campaign trail, but they managed to receive cheers and applause in the packed ballroom.
Not everyone was completely sold on the divisiveness and constant jabs at both the Prime Minister and federal Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau.
“It seemed like good promises, a lot of it was a bit of the spin and a lot of ‘boo Harper’ which is obvious, I have a good feeling with him, but with a bit of a grain of salt, he’s still a politician,” said Penticton resident Rebecca Carmichael, who attended the rally with her nine-month-old daughter. “I’d vote for him though.”
Mulcair went over prior campaign promises pledging to reinvigorate the manufacturing sector, invest in infrastructure, strengthen the middle class and create a $15-a-day childcare program nationwide. He also revisited some familiar digs at the Conservative incumbent, re-iterating that “Stephen Harper has the worst job creation record since the Second World War, and the worst economic growth record since the Great Depression of the 1920s,” points made during the Maclean’s leaders debate.
Mulcair was joined by Richard Cannings, NDP candidate for South Okanagan-West Kootenay, Central Okanagan-Similkameen Nicola candidate Angelique Wood and others in the Thompson Okanagan.
Cannings warmed up the crowd for Mulcair, touting the need for change in federal politics.
“If there’s one thing I’m hearing over and over again on the doors of Penticton and South Okanagan-West Kootenay, it’s that people want change in Ottawa,” Cannings said.
The ballroom was standing room only towards the beginning of Mulcair’s 30-minute speech.
“This is our biggest rally yet in Penticton, probably the biggest rally ever in Penticton,” Cannings said.
Some voters were undecided prior to the rally, like Elizabeth Van Os.
“I was impressed, I came here to check out what the leader of the NDP party had to say because before I cast my vote I want to hear everybody’s platforms and how everyone feels, but I was very impressed,” Van Os said. “There were quite a few things on the forefront of what really matters to me. The environment, was one of my big things, really more so than the economy right now after spending the last week choking on smoke.”
Mulcair spent Tuesday touring the Okanagan with campaign stops in Kelowna and Kamloops.