NDP aims to bring back the ’90s

NDP leadership candidates Adrian Dix

VICTORIA – 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 around the province, the front-runners are fighting hard to turn that conventional wisdom 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. Those northeast coal mines that Bennett’s government nurtured are up and running again, with new ones held back only by a lack of port capacity.

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 infantile tantrums aimed at both the Canadian and U.S. governments.

Dix’s Vancouver Island rival John Horgan also wants to take back the 1990s. He claims a list of NDP accomplishments: the Agricultural Land Reserve, B.C. Transit, the Columbia Basin Trust, the B.C. Ambulance Service.

Alas, B.C. Transit dates back to B.C.’s greatest-ever socialist, W.A.C. Bennett. The ALR and ambulance service were hurried projects of the Dave Barrett regime of the early 1970s, and the ambulance service stands today as a symbol of the hazards of unionized government monopolies.

The Columbia Basin Trust was a Harcourt-era accomplishment, and it’s a worthwhile effort to share the benefits of the dams on the Columbia River with the region.

But the important question for B.C. voters today is, what would the next NDP government do? Would there be a Peace Basin Trust along with the Site C dam? Not that I’ve heard of.

Today’s NDP has no coherent energy policy, just pandering to knee-jerk opposition to Site C, recanted opposition to the carbon tax and some neo-Marxist claptrap that 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, 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 desperate 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.

As this column noted in January, the B.C. NDP constitution remains explicitly opposed to profit and explicitly in favour of a state-controlled command economy. Harcourt and Carole James both tried to ease the party out of that rut, as Tony Blair did with the UK Labour Party.

Both were dumped. Now the NDP strains to look ahead, but sees only the past.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com.

Just Posted

Men accused in Michael Bonin’s murder knew him: IHIT

20-year-old’s body found on a rural service road North of Hope in April

Union files human rights complaint over Chilliwack school trustee’s LGBTQ comments

Board and trustee Barry Neufled facing $50,000 tribunal charge over alleged ‘unsafe work environment’

Drone photos show Hope from above

Chris Barker captures a new perspective of Hope

Smokers will soon have fewer places to light up, smoke hookah and vape in Hope

New Hope district bylaw to expand definition of smoking and add more banned areas

Highway 9 reopens after early morning crash

Accident on the Agassiz Overhead

VIDEO: Drone race in Chilliwack kicks off west coast league in new year

Indoor course starts 2018 for B.C.-wide group at Heritage Park

More places in Hope to pick up Naloxone

Hope and Area Transition Society opens doors for people seeking overdose antidote

Pipeline routing through Chilliwack subject of NEB hearing Monday

City of Chilliwack, WaterWealth Project and local Sto:lo intervenors in the hearing

Senior randomly stabbed in B.C. mall food court

Woman arrested after victim, 71, suffers serious injuries

VIDEO: Southern schemes on stage in Langley

The farce of “The Foreigner”

B.C. Liberal hopefuls begin final leadership push

Five MLAs, one outsider pitch policies to party members

Vancouver Island marijuana producer bought by Aphria in $230M deal

Aphria’s annual production forecast increases to 230,000 kgs

UPDATED: ‘Young, innocent’ teen hit during Vancouver shootout dies

15-year-old Coquitlam boy was in a car driving by the scene

Fraser Valley truck driver killed in Alberta semi truck crash

Young driver was adjusting load on side of highway to Fort McMurray

Most Read