NDP aims to bring back the ’90s

NDP leadership candidates Adrian Dix

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

A new sign was installed at St. Thomas Anglican Church on Saturday, June 5, 2021 in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Community effort to install new sign at Chilliwack’s oldest church

‘We feel it’s a step in the right direction to bring the church up-to-date,’ says St. Thomas parishioner

Dennis Saulnier rescued his daughters, two-year-old Brinley (left) and four-year-old Keegan, after their truck was driven off the road and into Cultus Lake on May 16, 2020. Reporter Jenna Hauck has been recognized by the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspapers Association for her story on the rescue. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Chilliwack Progress, Hope Standard staff take home 7 Ma Murray awards

Jenna Hauck, Eric Welsh, Jessica Peters, Emelie Peacock all earn journalism industry recognition

A student prepares to throw a plate full of whipped cream at principal Jim Egdcombe’s face as vice principal Devin Atkins watches as part of a fundraiser at Leary Integrated Arts and Technology elementary on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
The pied principals: Chilliwack elementary staff get messy for charity

Cops for Cancer fundraiser saw kids ‘pie the principal’ at Leary elementary in Chilliwack

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month in Canada. (ADOBE STOCK IMAGE)
Shining a light on brain injury in Canada

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Most Read