Opinion

What ails the NDP? Plenty

After 34 NDP MLAs were sworn in to continue a stretch of opposition that will reach at least 16 years, leader Adrian Dix took a few questions about his future.

The party’s provincial council will meet June 21 to set the terms of reference for a review of the party’s dismal election performance, Dix told reporters. He repeated that his performance won’t be spared, and ticked off some conventional wisdom about the NDP campaign.

Dix mentioned the alleged lack of “negative” ads, the local campaigns (read candidates), the decreasing reliability of polls and, when pressed, his surprise decision to come out against the proposed twinning of the TransMountain oil pipeline.

Like last week’s hysteria over a tiny leak in that pipeline, these are great sound bites but they don’t explain much.

This all-powerful NDP provincial council is a case in point. A glimpse into its inner workings was provided by a summary of an NDP policy development workshop that was leaked by the B.C. Liberals in the final days of the campaign.

The workshop took place in November 2010, coincidentally at the same provincial council meeting where the revolt against former leader Carole James tumbled into the open. While 13 caucus members were knifing their leader for reasons they still can’t or won’t articulate in public – the backroom policy brainstorm revealed a deeper malaise.

Among the “dream tree” notions put forward in the workshop was “free” post-secondary tuition and public transit, along with raising wages and lowering fees for daycare. This isn’t a dream tree, it’s a money tree.

Remember, this is the NDP’s ruling body, not a high school “social justice” class or an Occupy Vancouver squat.

Showing a glimmer of adult supervision, the workshop table on “equitable tax policy” even identified the problem. Its first recommendation: “Increase our economic and financial literacy to gain credibility.”

The “public ownership” table really got radical. Scrap public-private partnerships, the basis of most government construction today. “Nationalize” independent power projects, in the Venezuelan style of state seizure of private assets. And perhaps most incredibly, tear up the trade agreement between Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. that harmonizes transport truck regulations and so forth.

Why would the NDP be against that? This harkens back to a supposed golden age in Canada, Inter-provincial trade was strictly forbidden. This was how governments tried to “create jobs.”  It’s a bygone era to which many core NDP supporters stubbornly cling. Which brings us to the proverbial root cause of the B.C. NDP’s woes. Its largest financial donor is the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, which donated $1.4 million to the party in the past eight years. Former HEU and BCGEU presidents now sit in the NDP caucus, critics for health and “green” jobs respectively.

 

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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