VANCOUVER - NDP Leader Adrian Dix faced some of his most ardent critics Tuesday, delivering his first speech ever to the business crowd at the Vancouver Board of Trade even as one business group released a survey that found the majority of its members fear a New Democrat government.
Dix defended his stance on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and reiterated his plan to increase corporate taxes, reinstate a minimum tax on banks and tackle inequality.
But the priority of a government under his mantle, Dix said, would be education and skills training.
"It's not easy to say that we're going to raise taxes, but I would make one point: since we showed leadership on that question, the minister of finance has said he's going to raise corporate taxes by one point, from 10 to 11 per cent," Dix told a sold-out crowd of about 450 people.
"This is a reality of the times."
Dix said he would not implement a capital tax, but would return corporate taxation to the levels they were in 2008, before the most recent cuts under the Liberal government.
In a room where the smiling face of former premier Gordon Campbell was still in rotation across the giant screens at the front of the room until just before Dix's speech began, there was an awkward moment at the end of his address when those in attendance had to decide whether to join in a standing ovation that began with the union leaders who sponsored the event — another first for the board of trade.
More than half decided they would not.
After listening to Dix, Philip Hochstein, of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C., predicted personal income taxes will go up and regulatory burden will increase under an NDP government.
"It's going to be harder to do business and create jobs in British Columbia if he gets elected," Hochstein said.
Dix tried to make light of the divide, but winning business votes will be a hurdle for the NDP in the election scheduled for May 14, 2013.
The Coalition of BC Business released a survey of more than 600 small business that found 68 per cent believed a New Democrat government would increase challenges and barriers to doing business.
Mark von Schellwitz, chairman of the coalition, said three-quarters of the businesses surveyed are concerned about their ability to hire and invest if the NDP wins the election.
"I think Mr. Dix is a great speaker off the cuff and I think he gave a great handle on some broad perspectives on what he's looking to do and some of his priorities," von Schellwitz said. "However, in light of our release ... I don't really think he answered any of those questions."
Von Schellwitz said he hopes an NDP government wouldn't scrap all of the labour code changes brought in by the Liberals since the last NDP government was in power, and Dix himself suggested he's not interested in turning back the labour clock.
But Dix said the coalition has a particular view that includes lifting the ban on the use of replacement workers during a labour dispute.
"You're not going to convince everybody, every day. This is a democracy, people are going to disagree," he told reporters after his speech.
But the MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway, to the chagrin of some of his audience, didn't completely distance himself from the last NDP government, either.
"I think one of the fundamental mistakes that the NDP government did in the 1990s, for example, was not that they didn't do an extraordinary number of good things, but that they often did too many things and the quality of the implementation suffered as a result," Dix told the business audience.
"Regardless of the quality of those bills... the capacity of government and the capacity of business and the community to sustain that change and to withstand all of the implications of that change made the changes less effective than they should be."
Hours before Dix addressed the business crowd, the B.C. Liberals launched a political attack on the website "Same Dix Same Tricks."
The campaign-style attack website — the latest in a series that take aim at Dix — compares Dix's promises to promises made by the NDP in 1990 and 1996, when they were last in power. As the site points out, from 1992 to 1999, Dix was a top aide to former premier Glen Clark, who was forced to step down over a casino licensing scandal involving a friend.
Dix responded Tuesday with a warning that provincial voters are losing out because of the toxic turn the political debate has taken in the province.
Also on HuffPost:
Little-Known Mulcair Facts
Here are some facts you may not have known about NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. (CP)
10. He Used To Be A Liberal
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Mulcair" target="_hplink">Mulcair was Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks</a> in Jean Charest's Liberal government in Quebec. He served in the role from 2003-2006. (CP)
8. He's French (Kind Of)
Mulcair married Catherine Pinhas in 1976. She was born in France to a Turkish family of Sephardic Jewish descent. <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1158289--thomas-mulcair-s-wife-catherine-a-psychologist-and-political-confidante?bn=1" target="_hplink">Mulcair has French citizenship through his marriage</a>, as do the couple's two sons. (KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
7. They Used To Be Friends
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Mulcair" target="_hplink">Mulcair left Charest's Liberal government in Quebec </a>after he was offered the position of Minister of Government Services in 2006, an apparent demotion from Minister of the Environment. Mulcair has said his ouster was related to his opposition to a government plan to transfer land in the Mont Orford provincial park to condo developers. (CP)
6. Ancestor Was Premier Of Quebec
Mulcair's great-great-grandfather on his mother's side was <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honor%C3%A9_Mercier" target="_hplink">Honoré Mercier, the ninth premier of Quebec</a>. (Public Domain/Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec)
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Mulcair" target="_hplink">Mulcair was the first New Democrat to win a riding in Quebec during a federal election</a>. He held the riding of Outremont during the 2008 election after first winning the seat in a 2007 by-election. Phil Edmonston was the first New Democrat to win a seat in Quebec, but his win came in a 1990 by-election. Robert Toupin was the very first to bring a Quebec seat to the NDP, but he did it in 1986 by crossing the floor. (Alamy)
4. He's Half Irish.
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Mulcair" target="_hplink">Mulcair's father Harry Donnelly Mulcair was Irish-Canadian</a> and his mother Jeanne French-Canadian. His father spoke to him in English and his mother in French -- explaining his fluency in both official languages. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
3. He Votes In France
Muclair has voted in past French elections, but after becoming leader of the Official Opposition <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1157191" target="_hplink">he said he would not cast a ballot in the French presidential vote</a>. (Thinkstock)
2. Young Love At First Sight
<a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1158289--thomas-mulcair-s-wife-catherine-a-psychologist-and-political-confidante?bn=1" target="_hplink">Mulcair met his future wife at a wedding when they were both teenagers</a>. Catherine was visiting from France. They married two years later when they were both 21. (CP)
1. Mr. Angry
<a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/03/16/thomas-mulcair-is-mr-angry/" target="_hplink">Mulcair was given the moniker in a Maclean's headline</a>, but the new leader of the NDP has long been known for his short fuse. In 2005, he was fined $95,000 for defamatory comments he made about former PQ minister Yves Duhaime on TV. The comments included French vulgarity and an accusation that alleged influence peddling would land Duhaime in prison.
UP NEXT: Canadian Politicians Who Have Tried Marijuana
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he has had his <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/28/rob-ford-marijuana-wynne_n_3831389.html" target="_blank">fair share of marijuana</a>. "Oh, yeah. I've smoked a lot of it."
The federal Liberal leader opened up to HuffPost about his experience with marijuana in August. "Sometimes, I guess, I have gotten a buzz, but other times no. I’m not really crazy about it.”
The Opposition leader's office told HuffPost this summer that Mulcair <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/22/justin-trudeau-marijuana-peter-mackay_n_3797481.html" target="_blank">has smoked in the past</a> but not since he was elected to office. Mulcair was elected to the National Assembly of Quebec in 1994.
Said the <a href="http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v02/n506/a09.html" target="_blank">Tory finance minister</a>: "Yeah, in my teenage years... a couple of times, I have to admit: I didn’t like it."
The Liberal MP and Canada's first astronaut said he tried marijuana as a <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Politics/Power+%26+Politics/ID/2402495133/" target="_blank">student in the 1970s in England. </a> "It's not my thing. I stopped because it wasn't doing anything for me."
The premier of Ontario said she <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/28/kathleen-wynne-marijuana-pot_n_3830736.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics" target="_blank">smoked pot decades ago</a>. "I have smoked marijuana but not for the last 35 years."
Said the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/29/darrell-dexter-marijuana-pot_n_3837009.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics" target="_blank">premier of Nova Scotia</a>: "Like every other person I knew back in the '70s when I went to university, some of whom are actually in this room, I would have tried it, the same as other people at that time."
Said the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/01/christy-clark-marijuana-use-pot_n_1469321.html" target="_blank">premier of British Columbia</a>: "I graduated from Burnaby South Senior Secondary in 1983 and there was a lot of that going on when I was in high school and I didn't avoid it all together."
The leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario admitted he's <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2011/08/18/hudak_admits_to_smoking_pot.html" target="_blank">puffed in the past.</a> "I was a normal kid, I had a normal upbringing, a normal life in university. I experimented from time to time with marijuana. It’s a long time ago in the past and in the grand scheme of things."
The former prime minister of Canada <a href="http://www.ctvnews.ca/" target="_blank">told CTV News</a>: "The answer is: I never smoked. I never smoked anything, but there was an earlier time, years ago, when (my wife) made some brownies and they did have a strange taste."
The former prime minister admitted while running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives that <a href="http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/08/22/chris-selley-trudeau-pot-revelation-underscores-one-of-his-few-actual-policy-positions/" target="_blank">she tried weed.</a> "And I inhaled the smoke."
Said the former NDP leader: "Yes, and some might say I never exhaled."
The former premier of Ontario said he <a href="http://www.cfdp.ca/cita99.htm" target="_blank">experimented in his teens</a>, but only twice.
The premier of Saskatchewan said he was an <a href="http://www.canada.com/topics/news/politics/story.html?id=f23471e8-be96-46cf-9c1f-b43d5c497cdd" target="_blank">"infrequent" user back in university.</a> "It didn't really do anything for me, luckily, because for some, it does lead to other things."