Column: NDP soul search going nowhere

Moe Sihota says a review of the party’s performance in the May election will “look very much at the DNA of the NDP.”

B.C. Views by Tom Fletcher

B.C. NDP president Moe Sihota says an external review of the party’s performance in the May election will “look very much at the DNA of the NDP.”

Early signs are not encouraging. Start with the five-member panel announced to conduct the review. The required “labour” representation is in the person of Cindy Oliver, president of the union representing college and university instructors, and Andy Ross, ex-president of COPE 378, which represents BC Hydro employees among others.

Another appointee is NDP MP Jinny Sims, a former president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. If the party wants to further solidify its image as a lobby group for pension-subsidized government unions, it’s off to a great start.

The terms of reference defy parody. In addition to unions, the panel required “more than one woman.” A sub-committee may be struck, if it has representation from “youth, women, labour, visible minority, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisesexual, transgendered, questioning).” I presume the party’s lengthy anti-harassment policy will be read out to begin all meetings.

Once they finally get down to business, the list of election campaign details they must examine is long. In addition to that, they must review “stakeholder relations including community leaders, business, social movement, ethnic communities, environmental movement, affiliated unions and the labour movement.”

One of the excuses offered by leader Adrian Dix for the party’s defeat was the loss of 40,000 jobs in the B.C. forest industry. The suggestion is that those people left for Alberta, and if they were still here, they would have voted NDP.

That presumed solidarity has never existed in the private sector, and in fact the highest-paid union workers have good reason to vote for lower taxes. To confirm B.C. and Canada’s “progressive” tax system, all they have to do is look at their pay stubs.

The mandate for this review mentions not one actual public policy issue. Here’s one the committee might kick around.

Having lost the 2009 election campaigning against the carbon tax, the NDP is now calling for it to be increased and extended to greenhouse gases produced by industrial process emissions.

A simple example is a cement kiln, which burns fuel to reach the temperature at which the components are partially burned and cement is produced. Cement manufacturers pay carbon tax on the fuel, whether it’s natural gas or shredded tires, but not on the process.

B.C. cement makers are already pleading for relief, because the fuel-intensive process puts them at a price disadvantage with U.S. and Chinese producers.

Further unilateral tax action by B.C. would only further increase imports, and potentially push B.C. firms out of business. Goodbye unionized private sector jobs.

Dix’s last foray in question period before the summer legislature session adjourned was a demand for the government to order BC Ferries to build its next three ships in B.C.

Leave aside the NDP’s uncritical zeal for state control, and their ill-fated experiment with aluminum fast ferries. The most likely bidder for this work is Seaspan, with shipyards in Esquimalt and North Vancouver.

Seaspan is hiring almost 2,000 people to build ships for the Royal Canadian Navy and Coast Guard. It will be flat out to get that done, and the company president can’t yet say if it has the capacity and skilled labour to bid on BC Ferries ships too.

Seaspan has to operate in the real world of limited resources. So does the NDP, but it’s not clear if they can find a way out of their thicket of special interests and stale economic notions.

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

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