What ails the B.C. NDP? Plenty

Why would the NDP secretly oppose a trade agreement with Alberta and Saskatchewan? Because it's also a "labour mobility" agreement.

NDP leader Adrian Dix returns to the opposition benches for summer legislative session June 26.

VICTORIA – 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 for the short attention spans of the modern media. 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 called “Imagine Our Future” 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 – a glaring problem in itself – 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.

In the real world,  the four western premiers met this week in Winnipeg. And the three-province project now called “New West Partnership” will continue to dismantle archaic inter-provincial barriers.

Why would the NDP be secretly against that? Because it’s also a “labour mobility” agreement.

This harkens back to a supposed golden age in Canada, when two corporate titans shared the beer business, producing identical bland lager from identical factories in identical stubby bottles. Inter-provincial trade in these stubbies was strictly forbidden, requiring each province to have a big unionized brewery to make uniformly bad beer for the proletariat.

This is the power of a monopoly union. And because of it, this was how governments tried to “create jobs.” It’s a bygone era to which many core NDP supporters stubbornly cling. This explains the party’s revival of a “job protection commissioner” for forestry.

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, nosing out the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Hospital Employees’ Union.

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 and BCLocalnews.com


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