Fraser-Nicola NDP nominee Harry Lali.

Fraser-Nicola NDP nominee Harry Lali.

‘Going on all 16 cylinders’ says NDP nominee Harry Lali

The veteran campaigner says the adrenalin has kicked in now that the nomination meeting is less than a week away.

When asked how he is feeling, with a week to go until the NDP nomination meeting in Fraser-Nicola, candidate Harry Lali laughs.

“Adrenalin?” he says finally. “Some people can’t handle it, but it hyper-energizes me, the closer I get to stress. I’m going on all 16 cylinders.”

The meeting is on March 18 from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the Merritt Civic Centre, with advance polls in Merritt, Hope, and Lytton earlier this week. “I tried to get an advance voting date in Ashcroft,” says Lali, “but the party wouldn’t go for it because of staffing.”

Since his nomination papers were signed in late January, Lali says he has been door-knocking with party members, emailing, and talking to people on the phone. “It’s all the stuff that goes with campaigning, except it’s an internal campaign.

“Sixteen years of the B.C. Liberals is far too long,” he continues. “It’s time for a change of government.”

He says that the biggest complaint he has heard throughout the riding is about health care. “That Emergency Room closure sign at the Ashcroft hospital is a slap in the face to the residents of Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and Clinton. It’s the job of the MLA to make sure the resources are available to provide the service.

Highways are another area in the riding where he sees room for improvement. “There have been a record number of closures on the Coquihalla over the last four years. Some money is coming in for highways, but it’s too little, too late.” When asked if this is a reference to the $60 million promised in December 2016 to fix the 10 Mile slide site on Highway 99 north of Lillooet, Lali says that is part of it.

“We’ve been pressuring the government to do something about the slide, but they ignored it until they saw the riding slipping away like the highway is slipping into the river.

“And the Liberals promised to four-lane Highway 97 from Cache Creek to Prince George, but all they have done is cancel projects we had on the books in 2001 [when the Liberals took office], then start to put some of them back on the books, and complete projects I put on the books as Minister of Transportation.”

When asked about Cache Creek’s longstanding request to have Highway 97 north of Cache Creek four-laned up to the bridge at the north end of town, Lali says he supports the idea. “If I’m elected and we form the government, I would work to make sure that was a priority, in consultation with First Nations. [Cache Creek mayor] John Ranta talked to me about this when I was an MLA, and it’s something I would push for.”

He also notes that tourism is important for communities along the Gold Rush Trail, and says that he would work to get funding for local organizations such as Gold Country Communities Society to better promote the region.

The closure of some 150 sawmills around the province under the Liberal government also concerns him. He wants to do more to protect the resource sector jobs that are still here, and work to get more value-added products made here, rather than see raw products shipped away.

Aboriginal issues are another area of concern for him. “There’s a whole lot that can be done there. First Nations people have some of the highest indicators for suicide, teen pregnancy, and sugar diabetes.

“We need to work with First Nations to solve the problems on reserves, and we need to support the Ministry [of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation] and schools to help with education, post-secondary education, and so much else.

“First Nations people say to me they’re looking for a hand up, not a handout.”

When asked to explain, in two or three sentences, why he is the best candidate to take on Tegart in the election, Lali does not hesitate.

“I’m the most prepared, I know policy inside-out, I’m a 30-year NDP member, and I’m prepared to be an MLA from day one.

“I have fundraising abilities that are second-to-none, plus the ability to find and mobilize volunteers. I can put forward an effective message that resonates with rural B.C.”