Flaws Seen in B.C. NDP’s Election Campaign
By John Twigg
One of the stranger questions in the B.C. election campaign so far has been “Where is John Horgan and what is his NDP party up to?”
Horgan did pop up last week in Merritt for a candidate nomination vote, which his favoured candidate lost to former MLA Harry Lali, and then he moved on to the media hub of Kamloops and announced a plan to “revitalize” B.C.’s forest industry. The details were so light (recommend the use of more wood in public projects) that they didn’t make much news in any major media.
The latest leader of the B.C. NDP did make some waves with his accusation that Premier Christy Clark has done too little too late to negotiate a new Softwood Lumber Agreement with the American foresters lobby. Horgan, not too helpfully, suggested this should have been done when former President Barack Obama was still in power. But that perhaps willfully ignores that the U.S. lumber lobby was in no mood for a negotiated compromise after years of B.C. lumber exports perceivably undercutting their own log prices, even if Obama had the time, will and ability to do so, which he showed no sign of having.
So that was kind of a cheap shot by Horgan. By the way, did you hear him loudly raising this issue during the recent sitting of the Legislature? No, you didn’t because he didn’t. Yes, Horgan and some of his colleagues did occasionally question that elephant sitting in the MLAs’ debating room. But the NDP did not make any stink at any time about the B.C. Liberals’ obvious mismanagement of yet another major file, on which they belatedly appointed well-known David Emerson as a special envoy on the file.
In fact, Horgan and his colleagues have been more or less silent on all manner of issues in recent months. Ostensibly because they plan to release major new policy statements during the campaign (which began on April 11th and ends on May 9th). More likely, it’s because the New Democrats are planning to run yet another stealth campaign in which they’ll lay relatively low, not rock many boats and hope to get gifted with a majority from an electorate that is increasingly fed up with the widely seen as corrupt, B.C. Liberal Party regime of Premier Christy Clark.
This will be the third consecutive NDP leader to try that ploy, after the tragically weak Carole James and then the bright, but misguided, Adrian Dix, who got caught on a weather vane about whether or not to support a pipeline expansion to Vancouver to enable more oil tanker movements out of its harbour. Amazingly, Horgan has already repeated Dix’s fatal mistake by also flip-flopping on that very same issue, which the over-funded Liberals happily turned into yet another TV ad exposing Horgan’s duplicity.
Supply Bill let through
The relative silence from the Horgan New Democrats, before and early in the campaign, has been apparent on quite a number of other major issues, too. Perhaps worst of all, in the recent sitting of the Legislature, when they let the Liberal government’s $60-billion Interim Supply Bill (half of operating and more of capital) get passed with less than 60 minutes of questioning by former finance critic Bruce Ralston substituting for an unaccountably absent critic Carole James. It should be noted that Green Party leader, Andrew Weaver, also said and did nothing to derail what was obviously some kind of deal struck between the Liberals and New Democrats – a deal that so far no one else has reported on.
Granting that massive interim supply without proper debate could be seen as a gentlemanly act of Parliamentary process by the Horgan New Democrats, it stands in marked contrast to former Social Credit Opposition Leader Bill Bennett’s “Not a dime without debate” line in 1975, that still echoes through the Chamber because it helped him win the 1975 election and become Premier.
So what might have been the deal they made? Probably that if the Liberals didn’t proceed with the electoral and campaign reforms they were intending, which would have hurt the B.C. NDP’s apparatus as well as making other dubious changes in B.C.’s political systems, then the NDP would let the budget go through without any serious debate. Ostensibly because it’s an election year and that’s the normal, polite thing to do.
So much for the public interest, eh.
But forest policy and budget policies are only two of many important issues on which the Horgan New Democrats have been less than forthcoming. In a probably self-serving way, one of those is their relationships with and against, the B.C. Green Party. Which of course, is a major threat to pull away lots of NDP voters and thereby cause the NDP to once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with Green Party vote-splitting enabling another win for the B.C. Liberals. Which, on the basis of their performances, neither party deserves.
For example, the Weaver Greens recently advocated a doubling of B.C.’s already dysfunctional carbon tax but did you hear Horgan come out and call the idea crazy? No. But he did have NDP environment critic, George Heyman, say the plan is aggressive (i.e. good) but it lacks the rebates that the NDP would provide to 80% of British Columbians. No word about any help for businesses, though.
And that’s not an isolated example. Back in February, Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer reported on a leaked NDP planning document that even though the carbon tax is bringing in several hundred million dollars less than the value of the tax cuts, the New Democrats “intend to leave the structure in place for now.”
Though there continues to be debate about whether global warming is really happening and whether or not it’s really seriously worsened by human emissions [which still are dwarfed by natural emissions despite the population explosion from 1 billion to 7 billion people in the last few hundred years] – but there’s no debate with the New Democrats: their science is settled, and it’s political science they’re really concerned about: in order to win the next election they believe they have to try to out-green the Greens, starting with an extremist approach against carbon.
In other words, don’t rock the boat eh. Don’t tell anyone the New Democrats think they can steal this election win eh.
It seems Horgan wants voters to believe he’s a regular guy who just wants to help people when really B.C. needs a special guy, or gal, who can, and will, be tough and will fight for the Province’s best interests, which in Canada’s federal system is a most important talent.
Yes, Horgan is an affable fellow, but as Premier Clark and her colleagues repeatedly point out, he has already proven unable to lead and control his caucus and party. So the B.C. NDP continues to be an unruly cabal of minority special interests, especially militant feminists who now demand gender quotas (and racial and sex-orientation quotas) in key positions and who vie to dominate the party’s top policy priorities.
Thus, the NDP is big on helping families, notably its $10 a day childcare plank, but not so big on helping businesses. Such as intending to hammer them with higher taxes, fees, red tape and other impediments to prosperity.
Of course, there are many other issues deserving mention regarding NDP policy flaws (no space or time to deal with “Uber”, B.C. Hydro and ICBC here, too). But perhaps most important is their approach towards jobs and development.
Whereas the Liberals go overboard helping their donors to take on major projects and profit hugely from them, especially public sector ones like bridges, buildings and IPPs, the New Democrats are more inclined to pander towards “green” voters by opposing resource projects. With the end result being that the B.C. taxpayers and the public interest lose out again and again.
There is a better way, and the B.C. First Party plans include eliminating the carbon tax – if not completely at first then certainly starting from schools, hospitals, homeowners, small businesses and industries that are not major polluters (think of greenhouses that usefully consume CO2 versus the old beehive burners that smoked up wood wastes around the province in decades of yore). Our solution to the softwood lumber exports crisis will be to revive the regional log markets that were killed by former premier Gordon Campbell, even though those markets raised the stumpage returns to the province and established a fair market value test that was recognized as such by U.S. lumber trade negotiators.
But meanwhile, we see the NDP pandering to cliques of special interest cabals across a range of issues. Especially to minority special interests such as with anti-male gender quotas on candidates, and their anti-development and climate-alarmist stances, trying to out-green the Greens. They’re also staying silent while the corrupt provincial Liberals get worse and worse. Leaving it to only a handful or so of independent watchdogs to blow loud whistles and do the heavy lifting research against the self-serving Liberals.
But the good news is that in a number of ridings voters who want to vote against the corrupt B.C. Liberals but can’t vote for either the NDP or the Greens WILL have a way to do so by voting FOR John Twigg in North Island, for a B.C. Conservative Party candidate in 10 constituencies, and numerous other independent and small party candidates, raising the prospect of electing at least four MLA’s who could ally to gain official party status and thereby become a strong Opposition to whichever party wins. Or even better: holding the balance of power in a minority government Legislature.