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

Three UBC Okanagan students awarded women in tech scholarships

Computer science and math students hope the award will inspire others

Missing Kelowna woman, Cassy Miller found dead

Miller went missing Nov. 6 and was found 10 days later

Rockets break four game losing streak in Edmonton

The Rockets defeated the Oil Kings 3-1

Okanagan Floral Design students create elaborate Christmas arrangements

The students are making the floral arrangements as part of the Homes for the Holidays tour

Reduce, reuse, recycle: Repair cafes gaining popularity in Kelowna

The Regional District of the Central Okanagan’s cafe was held at Okanagan College Saturday

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

B.C. asking for tips on ‘dirty money’ in horse racing, real estate, luxury cars

Action follows a Peter German report on money laundering in B.C. casinos

Canadian dead more than a week after plane crash in Guyana: Global Affairs

Global Affairs said it couldn’t provide further details on the identity of the Canadian citizen

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Victoria spent $30,000 to remove John A. Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

South region forestry workers nearly in legal strike position

Talks broke down between USW and IFLRA, resulting in booking out of provincial mediator

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

B.C. VIEWS: Setting speed limits in a post-fact political environment

Media prefer ‘speed kills’ narrative, even when it fails to appear

Most Read