The B.C. NDP is promising to freeze BC Ferries fares from May 2013 to March 2015 while they audit the provincial corporation if they win the May 14 provincial election.

Leader Adrian Dix announced the freeze while campaigning in Liberal Finance Minister Mike de Jong's Abbotsford riding on Wednesday morning.

"We shouldn't forget the essential role BC Ferries plays in communities — that it is an economic lynchpin for many communities," he said. "For many people, of course, it could be essential not just to their weekly lives but to their daily lives."

Dix said the party would set aside cash in the budget to finance the fare freeze.

He also a promised students in financial need a $1,500 non-repayable grant as part of a $140-million job skills training program, and to review the province's liquor laws and prices with the aim of helping B.C. producers.  

 

The promises followed details released last week laying out the party's financial platform, which included hiking income taxes on corporations and high-income earners, raising about $300 million through the increases and program cuts.

New Democrats have already said the party won't produce a balanced budget until the final year of a four-year term if elected.

Later this morning, Dix is expected to join Olivia Chow, the widow of former NDP leader Jack Layton, for an event at the University of the Fraser Valley in Chilliwack before returning to Burnaby for a rally tonight.

Clark heads to Kamloops

Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Christy Clark also hit the road Wednesday, stopping first in Surrey for a pancake breakfast with supporters in Surrey.

Then Clark stopped in Chilliwack with candidate John Martin, who ran for the Conservatives in a byelection last spring but later jumped to the Liberals. The party has used that move to symbolize the importance of uniting the right-wing vote under their red banner.

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Christy Clark stopped off for a pancake breakfast with some supporters in Surrey on Wednesday morning. (Renee Filippone/CBC)

Clark used a play on words when she visited a concrete plant in Chilliwack, saying her party is "laying the foundation" for a strong economy. She touted the Liberal's jobs plan and warned that under the NDP, concrete plants and other businesses suffered red tape and high taxes.

When asked about Dix's promise to freeze ferry fares, she said if re-elected she would help the ferry corporation pay off roughly a billion dollars in debt instead.

This afternoon Clark will travel to Merritt and Kamloops, where she will make an appearance with Liberal candidates Terry Lake and Todd Stone, before ending the day with a flight to Dawson Creek.

Clark says she's ready to pit her Liberal debt reduction platform against what she says is a "tax-and-spend" New Democrat plan that will see at least three years of deficit spending.

Clark has also repeated her call for a one-on-one debate with New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix, saying British Columbians should have a chance to hear all sides.

Dix has refused the head-on meeting with Clark, saying it would be disrespectful to ignore the leaders of the Conservative and Green parties.

Meanwhile, B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins is sticking close to home doing door-to-door campaigning in his Langley riding and Green Party Leader Jane Sterk also campaigning in her home riding of Victoria-Beacon Hill today.

British Columbians head to the polls May 14 to elect the next provincial government.

With files from The Canadian Press