Some thoughts on the BCNDP leader election held on Sunday April 17th. What a great democracy we live in! All of us, if we choose to, can have a say from the very front end of our governing process right to the back end - like the upcoming Federal election on May 2nd. Our political parties are microcosms of our larger democracy. And as much as we like to decry the idea of party or partisan politics, it truly is one of the building blocks of our democracy. The BC Liberal Party elected a new leader about a month earlier and last week, it was the BCNDP's turn. Setting aside the rhetoric, we have fresh new politicos and party politics here in BC.
Many of you know that I've been a social worker most of my career. As such, it's important to be aware of my own bias in any situation. Well, let me put it out there before I move on with this. I'd say that I'm likely a left-leaning social democrat. Good friends (really??) would refer to me as a pinko socialist freak. I believe we, as a community/society, have a responsibility to care for one another and share in the wealth of this land. And the best way to pool our collective wealth and take care of each other is through a governing body. And the best way to create this collective wealth is through the tempered, dominant system of capitalism. There. I said it.
So, about the BCNDP election; I think they picked the wrong leader – Adrian Dix is perceived as being too left-wing. We love our polarized politics here in BC but the media and the BC Liberals will exploit this perception with the familiar mythology of the past decade – that the NDP governments of the 90's were a disaster for the economy. Of course, this ignores the facts: economic growth was higher during the 90's than during the last decade of BC Liberal government; population growth was greater; BC had a balanced budget; we had the lowest child poverty rates (compare to the highest now).
It's important to note that it is only a perception that Dix is a hard left ideologue. Michael Smyth, in Monday's Province referred to Dix as a "dour Stalinist". All week, the mainstream media has been extolling the fears of socialist hordes at the door of British Columbia, all the while ignoring the real facts about those same "hordes" when they were in power. A Stalinist? Really Mike? Last I looked, Dix didn't have citizen execution on the table; or the state takeover of all private enterprise. Talk about fear-mongering! There's more to it than this. SFU Political Scientist, Doug McArthur considers Dix a fiscal conservative, suggesting that he is a pragmatist and understands the need for fiscal responsibility and growing the economy while working hard for social justice. No matter, it's going to be an uphill battle in some respects for the NDP.
I would've rather seen John Horgan win – he would have brought the party together and is seen as more moderate and more charismatic with LOTS of substance. I'm sure both he and Mike Farnworth will play key roles in opposition and then in government. These moderate influences will go a long way. In the meantime, the NDP must be the one to frame themselves and the issues dear to ALL British Columbians. If they continue to allow the BC Liberals and mainstream media to define them, they are doomed. It is far easier to tell people what and who you are than to tell them what and who you are not.
So there you have it, I'd rather not have the lefty in as leader. So I'm a pragmatic social democrat. Huh... such as it is, I think Adrian Dix is not who others are making him out to be. Smart, (extremely) hard working, pragmatic and...a fiscal conservative. Interesting – never a dull moment in BC politics!