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Editorial: On being accused of smiling because the NDP are (sort of) in power

BC Legislature

An acquaintance recently said to me, "I guess you're smiling because the NDP are forming the government now."  Actually, I was smiling about something completely non-political.  Besides, I tend to be a bit agnostic about party politics; are political parties really necessary?  She went on to say that in her recollection, "when the NDP were in power before, all they did was spend, spend, spend."  Of course, that's what governments are supposed to do:  take in tax dollars and spend them, preferably for the benefit of  our society as a whole.  For the common good.  Politicos of different stripes  get into arguments not so much about the spending as they do about what the spending should accomplish ― about priorities, about who should benefit.

Statistics, like the Bible, can be used or misused  to support almost any point of view;  but let's consider the view of  a strong NDP supporter.  Bill  Tieleman, a former NDP strategist, has published a piece in The Tyee citing figures that, he maintains, debunk the myth that the NDP government in the 1990s brought in a sort of economic dark age.  He obtained those figures  not from his own imagination, but from a 2012 study by the Business Council of British Columbia.  He also cites figures from an article by Andrew McLeod, who wrote in April 2017 that  "in the six years since Clark became premier, the government has added 30 per cent more to the province’s debt than the NDP did during 10 years in power during the 1990s."  Tieleman asserts that Christy Clark's Liberal government increased BC's debt load by 10.85 billion dollars.  Spend, spend, spend, eh?

Tieleman also states that the 1990s NDP government outperformed the Liberals on several fronts, including annual increases in the GDP, average annual employment growth, and annual increases in export sales. To his credit, Tieleman  acknowledges  "the report’s most important point — other than dispelling the NDP 'dismal decade' myth — is that no matter who is in power, B.C. is at the mercy of world economic forces."  Just as well to admit that, because taken as a whole, the results of the study are mixed.

World economic forces aside, looking at the performance of the NDP in the 1990s seems (to me)  useless when it comes to predicting the performance of a different NDP government in a different time, composed of different people and holding power only with the support of three Green Party MLAs, under an agreement which obliges the NDP to do certain things, and obliges the Green Party to support those things.

Perhaps that agreement and our new government will provide us with the things the NDP and Greens vowed in their agreement to work toward, including but not limited to:

·         Proportional Representation:  based on a referendum to he held concurrently with the 2018 municipal elections;

·         A ban on corporate and union political donations and a limit on individual donations;

·         Investing in more home-care;

·         Fast-tracking enhancement to K-12 educational funding;

·         Eliminating regressive Medical Services Plan premiums; and

·         Ensuring that the cost of drugs is not a barrier to health management.

Some people get very excited and optimistic about changes in government; remember all the hoopla about Justin Trudeau when he was freshly elected?  Bah.  I tend to recall the words of my dear departed father, cautioning me against falling for appealing promises or charisma.  "Watch their hands," he said.  He meant, see what they actually do.  So I'm waiting ― waiting to see what they do.  Maybe they'll do something that gets me smiling.  I hope so, because they're almost certain to do some things I will deplore.  Don't all governments?

Some people are predicting another BC election within a year or so.  I most fervently hope they're wrong. For one thing, an election is a huge cost to taxpayers and it means that our government suffers an interruption ― it can accomplish nothing during the election period, and usually for a while before and after it; for another, we now have the legislature that resulted from voters' wishes in our last election and in my view, every MLA of every party  is under an obligation to strive  to make it work; and further, I'd really like the next BC election to give us  proportional representation.  

But let's see what they do.