It’s the most shopworn cliché of the B.C. Liberal government, one that for years has induced eye-rolling in the legislature press gallery.
The dark decade, the dismal decade, the decade of destruction, cabinet ministers have chanted since 2001. The 1990s, when investment, jobs and people packed up and headed for the B.C. border in response to the NDP governments of Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark.
As the NDP leadership candidates near the end of their marathon run of debates, the front-runners are fighting to turn that around.
Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix makes a statistical case with his usual intensity: B.C.’s economic growth averaged around three per cent per year during the 1990s, and only two per cent during the supposedly prosperous decade of Gordon Campbell.
This mainly demonstrates what former premier Bill Bennett observed: B.C. is a small resource economy whose prosperity is largely at the mercy of world markets. All a B.C. government can do is create conditions that help or hinder economic growth. And there is little doubt that NDP governments of the 1990s hindered it, with taxes that caused miners to flee, choking forest regulations to appease urban environmentalists, and tantrums aimed at both the Canadian and U.S. governments.
Today’s NDP has no coherent energy policy, and has recanted opposition to the carbon tax and has said all power projects are evil unless they’re shackled to a unionized government monopoly.
The NDP candidates’ recent health care debate featured promises to roll back the contracted-out health care support jobs, and reconstructing the small portion of the unionized health monopoly broken up by the Campbell government.
NDP front-runner Mike Farnworth also scorned the “rethermed” hospital food that is part of the effort to rein in health care costs. Candidates mused about bringing in fresh local food for hospital patients, which sounds nice but can only add costs.
The health care crisis is bad and getting worse. If all the NDP can do is whine about “Tim Hortons medicine” and wave an organic carrot, I suspect Tommy Douglas wouldn’t be impressed.
Now the NDP strains to look ahead, but sees only the past.