Dana Larsen: A Fresh Vision of Direct Democracy, Regulated Marijuana for B.C.

I am running for the leadership of the B.C. NDP because I offer a fresh vision for my party and our province. My campaign will engage those who feel disenfranchised and cynical about the state of politics in B.C.

I have been a community organizer and activist for all of my adult life. Over my career I have worked as a journalist, editor, and small business owner. For the past two years I have served as director and manager of the Vancouver Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary Society, which serves 2,500 patients across the Lower Mainland from two locations. I am honoured to assist so many suffering patients to access the benefits of this amazing medicinal herb.

My leadership campaign is based on four principles: democracy, sustainability, social justice, and being smart on crime.

In terms of democracy, I believe that the people of B.C. should be able to vote more often on the issues of the day, through referendums and ballot initiatives.

The NDP brought in our current ballot initiative system in 1995, but since then the only item ever to come forward for a vote will be the HST. I believe in direct democracy, and as premier I would lower the threshold to make it easier for a referendum item to be put on the ballot.

A common complaint is that our political process is “bought and paid for” by the wealthy elite. I would change this by banning corporations and unions from making donations to political parties in British Columbia.

As party leader, I would bring more democracy back into the B.C. NDP. I’d empower our membership to get directly involved in policy, using the Internet and other tools to ensure that we remain a truly grassroots party where every member has a real voice.

An example of the bottom-up way I believe the B.C. NDP should be run, I strongly support “Sustainable B.C.” which was passed unanimously at convention but sadly never made it onto our election platform. Sustainability B.C. says that every British Columbian has the right to clean air and water, adequate shelter, quality education, health care, safe surroundings, and active participation in the economy.

I also see sustainability as meaning we should preserve our public institutions for the common good. As premier, I would stop and reverse the corporate giveaways, to ensure that B.C. Ferries, B.C. Hydro, and B.C. Rail are maintained for the benefit of all British Columbians.

Social justice means ensuring that our poorest and most vulnerable citizens are not left behind. I advocate for a $10 minimum wage, indexed to inflation. I also support reforming our welfare system so that everyone is guaranteed an adequate minimum income.

Finally, I call for B.C. to get smart on crime. We need to accept the overwhelming evidence that more prisons and more police does not lead to a safe and civil society. As premier I would implement NDP policy to remove marijuana users from the criminal justice system, so that we could tax and regulate adult use. This would free police resources to focus on dangerous criminals and not pot smokers.

Taxed and regulated marijuana would also be a financial windfall that provided benefits to all British Columbians. This would allow us to pay down the Liberals’ debt and maintain social programs without raising taxes.

Being smart on crime also entails recognizing that prison is not a solution for homelessness, drug addiction, or mental health issues. As premier, I would tell Stephen Harper that enough is enough, and that the people of British Columbia prefer to spend our tax dollars on programs that help keep nonviolent and vulnerable people out of prison. B.C. should not foot the bill for Stephen Harper’s prison spending spree.

If you support the principles of democracy, sustainability, social justice, and being smart on crime, then please join the B.C. NDP and support my leadership bid. You can visit my campaign online at votedana.ca/.

Dana Larsen is a B.C. NDP leadership candidate.

– Article from The Georgia Straight.