When Adrian Dix took over as B.C. NDP leader two years ago, he struggled to communicate, especially in the sound bites of radio and TV.
There was a running joke in the legislature press gallery: It didn’t matter what question you asked him, you got a six-minute answer that ended with the evils of log exports.
Even more than under Carole James, the NDP railed against log exports. “B.C. logs for B.C. jobs” became one of Dix’s favourite slogans. As the election approached, another Dixism was heard daily: “Say what you’re going to do, say how you’re going to pay for it.”
So it was a surprise a few weeks ago when the NDP signaled it would essentially not offer a policy on log exports. They’re going to meet with “stakeholders” and come up with a plan after they get a majority government.
This is exactly the same non-policy the NDP had in 2009. They don’t have an answer to the industry’s point that the high price gained by premium logs in foreign markets is what keeps many loggers working, and subsidizes the harvest of other logs for B.C. coastal mills.
Another thing the NDP doesn’t like is private power development. This issue featured prominently in the NDP leadership contest two years ago.
Leadership contender Mike Farnworth told the party faithful he would study independent power purchase contracts, and if he found that they are not in the public interest, he would “mend them or end them.” Another leadership hopeful, energy critic John Horgan, allowed that he would “break” contracts if necessary.
By this spring, Dix had a new non-position on power purchase contracts. He will “assess them and address them.” The printed platform promises a review “within the limits of existing contracts.” Either they plan to risk a costly legal battle, or they’re just paying lip service. All you have to do to find out is elect them.
Labour code changes are another blank slate. A memo from the B.C. Federation of Labour executive to members last year described how they were working closely with the NDP to rewrite B.C. labour law.
The NDP election platform punts this issue until after the election as well, promising an independent expert panel to decide on issues like whether to end secret-ballot votes for union certification.
This isn’t just a bad idea, it’s a 30-year-old bad idea. It’s based on the destructive old notion that employers are the enemy of workers, and only a union can protect them. The long decline of union membership in the private sector isn’t caused by employer bullying or secret-ballot votes that protect employees’ freedom of choice. The cause is global competition. The only protection workers have from that is their own efficiency.
Balancing the budget? An NDP government will strive to do that over “the business cycle,” says finance critic Bruce Ralston. Old-timers might remember this one. It’s taken from the NDP’s 1991 election platform.
Yes, 22 years ago there was a widespread belief in a predictable four-year cycle of commodity prices and other economic determinants. Whatever was left of that dusty, faded picture was erased with the financial collapse of 2008.
If you still believe in a predictable “business cycle,” you may be willing to accept that an NDP-led B.C. will become the first jurisdiction in human history to eliminate poverty, by setting annual targets and paying out borrowed money to low-income parents.
On ferries, fracking, union contracts, capital construction and other weighty matters, the NDP’s answer is the same: trust us.
Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com.