As the federal New Democratic Party enjoys a spike in the polls — recent numbers predict an NDP win if the election were held today — local candidate for the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding Larry Koopman is gearing up for the homestretch of the election campaign.
Speaking from his home in Gibsons, Koopman, a small business owner, talked about his party's recent surge in popularity.
"I think Alberta is a factor, but I don't believe that's the real reason," Koopman said, referring to the historic victory of Rachel Notley's Alberta NDP last month.
"I think to our leader Tom Mulcair's credit... he's been working hard to hold the government accountable in the house. He is stellar in his performance as opposition leader."
But more than anything, the surge might be equated to NDP policy, Koopman said.
"I think people are finally hearing our sound, common sense, practical solutions to issues," he said.
Chief among those issues are concerns around the environment and the economy — two interests that are often at odds, but don't necessarily have to be, Koopman said.
"That's the beauty of it. Those can work together," he said.
"We're committing to growing and developing a modern, clean, renewable energy sector. That is the future... this industry is a $50-billion industry and could employ hundreds of thousands of Canadians by mid-2025, in that neighbourhood.
"If we make it a priority, we can be a leader in clean energy."
The NDP is also committed to addressing climate change, Koopman said.
"What action can we take? It's practical things like enforcing the law that polluters pay, (and) bringing back home energy retrofit programs that are going to create thousands of jobs and stimulate the economy," he said.
Much has been made by NDP detractors about the unknowns that could come with electing Canada's first federal New Democrat government — though Koopman said he feels the attitudes of Canadians are changing in that regard.
"I think that Canadians are seeing that the NDP aren't that scary," he said.
"I think that they're looking at us as a real alternative to the governing Conservatives right now, and it's encouraging, because of course I believe in the values of the party and the policies, but now I think it's resonating with Canadians."
One of the common talking points of NDP critics is that the party is not fiscally responsible, something Koopman said simply isn't true.
"One of the reasons I got into politics is because growing up in Saskatchewan under successive New Democratic and CCF governments, I saw governments that were socially progressive and also fiscally responsible," he said.
Since winning the NDP nomination last August, Koopman has been campaigning up and down Canada's West Coast meeting constituents. He expects to be in the Whistler area for a meet and greet in the coming weeks, "just to give folks a better idea of where I stand on my views, my values, where the party stands, and to meet the citizens to find out their concerns," he said.
"I don't want to talk rhetoric. I don't want to talk platitudes about justice and (other things). We need solutions, and that's what this party is proposing."
For more on Koopman and his campaign head to www.larrykoopman.ndp.ca/about.
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