|Federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair speaks to party faithful at O-Lake Cafe in Kelowna Thursday. Mulcair made stops in Vernon, West Kelowna, Penticton and Kelowna.|
Nicole Richard was a little star-struck as she sat across the table from Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair in her own house.
The West Kelowna mom agreed to host the federal NDP leader and four party supporters Thursday morning during a coffee-klatch tour that's winding across the country. She paid to see Prime Minister Stephen Harper speak last summer during a stop at a local winery, but this conversation was free.
"For some reason, I have Tom Mulcair at my breakfast table, and the accessibility means a lot to me. I think it will mean a lot to Canadians," she said. "It's brilliant."
Mulcair is touring the Okanagan for the first time since he took over from the late Jack Layton in 2012.
He's connecting with people on a theme that resonates with most Canadians - how to stay ahead financially.
He contends six of every 10 families are living paycheque to paycheque, in part because banks and gas companies are gouging their household budgets.
"Remove some things that are costing families needlessly, like the ATM fees and the sky-high credit-card rates," he said.
"They're being charged 24 per cent interest rates on their credit card . . . (and) three or four bucks to have access to their own money with an ATM fee. They're being told they have to pay an extra two bucks if they want a copy of their own bill."
Mulcair takes aim at the apparent collusion of competing gas companies that simultaneously raise their pump prices, usually just before a long weekend. If true, the practice is illegal and the Competition Bureau should investigate them more thoroughly.
"There's been no clear political will to go after the gas companies," he said. "When you have an oligopoly like you have with oil and gas companies, you have an obligation to be very careful that they're not colluding. So yes, investigate because it is an offence."
The Opposition plans to tout affordable daycare as a major platform in the 2015 election, Mulcair said. If elected, he vows to meet with the premiers to streamline what's essentially a provincial enterprise.
"We will make it possible for every province and territory to have a universally accessible, very low-cost daycare," he said.
"Studies show (universal daycare) puts more back into the economy than what it costs. But you have to want to get it done," said Mulcair.
He took a few questions from reporters after the kitchen meeting.
On issues affecting the Southern Interior:
"We've seen the whole middle class lose ground
. . . We'd make it a priority to move people back to a standard of living that they deserve. As the economy as a whole grows, everyone else's salary should go up, not just the top tier."
On the Senate:
"It costs $100 million a year for nothing. It adds nothing. It's a vestige of our British colonial past. We don't need a House of Lords; we're a democracy. So let's have elected people making our laws. Let's get rid of the unelected, the unresponsive and undemocratic, and finally under-indictment Senate.
"Once it's gone, we stop wasting money on that."
On the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta Oilsands to Nebraska:
"You should try to add the transformation, upgrading and refining jobs in your own country instead of shipping raw . . . The NDP says add the jobs in Canada.
"Move our product from west to east . . . You could do the refining here. You get a better price for producers, better royalties for the producing province and you get the jobs created here. (Finance Minister) Jim Flaherty admits that Keystone XL represents the export of 40,000 Canadian jobs."
Mulcair's next stop after Kelowna is Fort McMurray, Alta.