BYELECTION12: Joe Trasolini — B.C. NDP

Joe Trasolini seems to have everything going for him in the countdown toward the April 19 byelection, in which he’s hoping to claim the MLA post for the NDP.

He has name recognition as Port Moody’s longest-serving mayor, relatively positive press and good polling numbers for the New Democrats and leader Adrian Dix.

But Trasolini says he has learned from experience not to take anything for granted. Prying the Port Moody-Coquitlam riding away from the BC Liberals will be a difficult job, he said, noting, “You can’t under estimate [Liberals’] hold on the riding.”

Is he an underdog? Trasolini says yes.

But true to form, he appears happy to be in the position, championing his pet causes, such as the long-planned Murray-Clark Connector, and trying to avoid the stinging barbs from Premier Christy Clark, his former friend and political associate.

The question for many voters is this: Is Trasolini a true New Democrat or did he change horses mid-stream?

Trasolini himself says he chose the NDP because they reflected his core values and he takes issue with those who say a free enterpriser like him can’t also be an NDPer.

“I believe I bring something very strong to the NDP table,” said Trasolini, who says he’s pro-business and ran his own contracting firm for 27 years but was trained and worked as an environmental technologist.

A strong economy can co-exist with a healthy environment, he said. “That’s the definition of sustainability.”

It’s true Trasolini previously supported the BC Liberals. But that was in the mid-1990s, before the party got into power and began its “march to the right,” he said. He said he let his membership lapse when he got elected to council. Now, he says he feels comfortable with the NDP’s reputation as the voice of the marginalized and downtrodden, saying his social conscience was bred into him as the son of Italian immigrants.

He believes he’s always been a “middle-of-the-road” politician and cites Port Moody’s accomplishments as a fiscally responsible, liveable and sustainable city, and its dozens of awards, as reflective of the kind of balanced viewpoint he would bring to the job of MLA.

If Trasolini has one hurdle, it is convincing Port Moody-Coquitlam voters that the NDP is not what the BC Liberals and BC Conservatives characterize as a “tax-and-spend” party.

In the meantime, the NDP has two policies it is not ashamed to hide:

• It promises to rescind carbon tax rebates for corporations with over $500,000 profit and use the money for public transit or other greenhouse gas-reduction programs.

• And it will reinstate a minimum corporate tax on banks to fund education grants for post-secondary students.

If he were to advise the education minister, Trasolini said he would put class size and composition back on the bargaining table, which he said the BC Supreme Court advised the government to do last April when it found the province interfered with the right to collective bargaining on these issues.

And while he was mum on teachers’ wage demands, he said Bill 22 is inflammatory and the government-appointed mediator doesn’t have teachers’ full support and is only mediating concessions.

“How can we get into a room and look for opportunities for further dialogue if there’s no trust?” he asked.

On transportation, Trasolini, dismissed critics — notably, Premier Christy Clark — who said he got “in the way” of the Evergreen Line but said the Murray-Clark Connector should be back on TransLink’s priority list because it’s a twin project. He disagrees with TransLink’s business case for not building the $60-million connector, arguing that traffic gridlock hurts business productivity and families.

“If you have provincial and federal money at the table, then the business case has different numbers,” he said, arguing that TransLink backed off of supporting the connector because of concerns about increased debt on its credit rating not because it wasn’t a good idea.

If the province kicked in a sum, he said, it would be back on TransLink’s list of infrastructure projects in a heartbeat.

“Bingo,” he said, “and I’ve got the paper to prove it.”

If there is one thing this self-proclaimed underdog seems to relish, it’s a challenge.

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