B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s problems go deeper

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has followed the lead of his Cuban hero Fidel Castro

VICTORIA – As the minutes ticked down to last week’s deadline for NDP leadership candidates to sell memberships, the Adrian Dix campaign brought in stacks of memberships and bags of money, which was then divvied up and attached to memberships.

Rival candidates Harry Lali and Mike Farnworth cried foul, but the party brass quickly decided the strict rules they imposed were just guidelines, and they’ll accept the memberships.

So Dix is now the front-runner, assuming these thousands of suddenly inspired members from Vancouver’s South Asian and Filipino communities translate into votes for him on April 17. As stinky as all this is, it’s not the NDP’s biggest problem.

Dix’s remarks in launching his campaign point to another one. He chose a theme of wealth redistribution.

“Analysis from all over the developed world demonstrates that the polarization of wealth and power, and the growth of poverty, have very significant financial and social costs imposed on our children and our communities by the growing divide in our society,” he said.

Dix didn’t indicate how he intends to correct this “morally wrong” situation where some people have lots of money and others don’t. But another political controversy in Vancouver offers a clue.

B.C. Liberal MLA Kash Heed is being investigated by the RCMP over campaign leaflets distributed to the Chinese community in Vancouver-Fraserview in 2009. The problem wasn’t the content, but rather the anonymous nature of the brochures and the way they were paid for.

One leaflet claimed the NDP supports a “death tax” on inheritance. This would be one way to realize Dix’s dream of government-imposed financial equality, although it’s not one espoused recently by candidates.

But if you look up the B.C. NDP constitution, you’ll find it starts by declaring loyalty to “democratic socialist principles,” which are defined as follows:

“a) the production and distribution of goods and services shall be directed to meeting the social and individual needs of people and not for profit, b) the modification and control of the operations of monopolistic productive and distributive organizations through economic and social planning towards these ends, and c) where necessary, the extension of the principle of social ownership.”

Now this is watered down from the old NDP philosophy, which talked specifically about nationalizing banks and major industries. But there remains a definite whiff of Cuba and Venezuela, where the state seized the means of production from private owners and ran it into the ground.

Dix and leadership rival John Horgan both worked for the NDP governments of the 1990s. Horgan describes what he calls a “capital strike” that hit B.C. after the NDP was elected. His terminology hints at a conspiracy of capitalists to pull investment from B.C., to punish the NDP.

To Horgan I would reply that this is an understandable reaction by investors to a party that remains explicitly opposed to profit.

To Dix, I would say I look forward to details of this analysis of the terrible effects of income inequality in the developed world. My understanding is that if it weren’t for private capital, competition and rewards for efficiency and innovation, there wouldn’t be much of a developed world to analyze.

The root of the recent turmoil in the NDP has been described as a lack of policies. That’s not accurate. Judging by the party’s foundation document, the problem is policies so discredited they can’t mention them.

Actually there is a modern policy that equalizes wealth by supporting the poor and placing more of the burden on those most able to pay, while encouraging investment.

It’s called the harmonized sales tax.

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

tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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