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Fair taxes part of NDP's plan

A multi-coloured target map of the city is one of many adorning the walls of the Barrie NDP's Bayfield Mall campaign office.

There's also a picture of social democrat and NDP founder Tommy Douglas and signs of current leader Jack Layton.

But the dominant decorating item in the open-concept office are the oversized Myrna Clark signs, with their prominent orange and green perfectly matching the Barrie candidate's attire for the day.

Clark, an elementary teacher and longtime local activist, has hit the campaign trail again, following one she trod during the last federal election after being a longtime party member.

Clark first came to the area 35 years ago and worked in treatment centres, and then stayed home to raise her children. She was active in the peace group Amnesty International and was a La Leche League team leader. She then returned to school to become a teacher. Right now, she's working half time so that she can campaign.

"It's an exciting time for an election," she begins. "For the first time in Canadian history, this government has been found in contempt of Parliament.

"Justifying why we're having an election seems to be on everyone's mind."

Clark will tell you why all the parties, other than the Conservatives pushed for the election.

The NDP wants to introduce what they're calling the fair tax scheme. The current system, they say, isn't fair and puts too much of a burden on individuals, making corporations less accountable, financially. Corporate tax breaks, says Clark, aren't transformed into jobs.

"We have the lowest corporate taxes in the G7," she said.

The NDP is also pushing for a national child care program. Child care was a serious discussion item five years ago, but it fell off the table. The NDP want to re-introduce it, not just as a discussion item but as policy.

"As a teacher, I see not all four-year-olds come into the classroom with the same skills and abilities," she said. "We need to change that."

While universal health care is a service Canadians receive, it continues to be a concern for many. Clark, who sits on the Barrie Community Health Centre board, said a great deal of work still needs to be done.

She said a second stage involving health promotion and disease prevention needs to be fully implemented. And the community health centre model focused on team-approach health care and the use of nurse practitioners working with doctors could be moved from the periphery into the main stream.

"We've been there for the past 20 years. It's one of the best secrets in Barrie, but it shouldn't be a secret," she said.

Clearly, there are no warm feelings for the current government or its local representative.

She is critical of the $1.2 billion spent on the G8 and G20 - money which could have been better spent on health care, housing, infrastructure spending and other more pressing issues.

"It's really hard to be civil when you have the Conservative say that they brought two doctors to town and they are helping the local hospital through a hockey game," said Clark. "It's misleading. It takes away from real discussion of what's needed, which is a federal approach.

"The hockey game raised about three-fifths of the salary of the CEO. It's pretty out of line."

Clark, who has three grown children and two grandchildren says the record of the Conservative government doesn't reflect well on the environment either, and she points to a $30-million investment in Lake Simcoe as a drop in the bucket, compared to its estimated need of $200 million.

Clark and her team are trying to use every approach they can to get their message out, "to give people an opportunity to put their thoughtful votes."

She's attending events at high schools, Georgian College, retirement homes as well as other all-candidates' events.

Then there's good, old-fashioned door knocking.

And she turns to the map on the wall. The areas coloured in orange indicate neighbourhoods that provided the strongest support for Clark during the 2008 election. Green indicates some support and the areas left white are not considered strong. The priority, during the campaign, said Clark, is to maintain the support the party already has and build upon it.

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