Imagining an NDP government

B.C. Views: Legislative reporter Tom Fletcher examines potential of NDP majority government

NDP victories in two byelections bring the standings in the legislature to 46 B.C. Liberals, 36 NDP and three independents, one of whom has pledged allegiance to the B.C. Conservatives.

B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins put a brave face on his third-place finish in Port Moody-Coquitlam and Chilliwack-Hope. Even in bedrock conservative Fraser Valley farm country, in a protest byelection with a high-profile candidate, the B.C. Conservatives managed to attract just enough to deliver a landmark NDP seat.

The NDP was helped by the absence of the B.C. Green Party on the byelection ballots, with most of its five-per-cent support from 2009 presumably going to the winners.

Cummins said his party’s goal going into the Port Moody-Coquitlam vote, with an unknown candidate and a handful of volunteers, was to break 10 per cent. They got 15 per cent and he declared a moral victory.

Cummins rejected a possible merger with the “discredited” B.C. Liberals. Premier Christy Clark was equally emphatic that she will be the leader of the “free enterprise coalition” in the 2013 election. So the stage is set for an NDP majority government.

What will that look like? Well, Port Moody mayor-turned-MLA Joe Trasolini has a wealth of local government experience, so pencil him in as municipal affairs minister. A long-time supporter of the B.C. Liberals, Trasolini should clarify if he endorses the NDP constitution, which still opposes all profit-making activity.

He’s not the only high-profile newcomer likely to be included in an Adrian Dix cabinet.

New NDP candidates from union executive ranks will likely include long-time Hospital Employees’ Union president Judy Darcy. She no longer talks about bringing a “Marxist analysis” to economic matters. Darcy is now best known for leading the long court battle against the B.C. Liberal government’s contract-breaking legislation of 2002.

The eventual decision of the Supreme Court of Canada basically invented a constitutional right to collective bargaining. (The high court could also ponder if there might be a right not to belong to a union, but that’s another story.)

Then there’s George Heyman, the long-time B.C. Government Employees’ Union president.

After leaving the BCGEU, Heyman has taken a turn as executive director of Sierra Club B.C., a branch plant of the U.S. enviro-machine that works against B.C. forest, mining, power and petroleum development.

These folks would be working with Stephen Howard, who went from senior positions at the BCGEU and CUPE to his current role as Dix’s chief of staff. Dix, of course, benefited from the sudden ouster of Carole James, who made the mistake of trying to loosen big labour’s grip on the NDP and modernize some of its quaint 1930s notions.

Then we have B.C.’s third-largest political party, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, which has already confirmed it will continue its long campaign to replace the B.C. Liberals with the NDP next year.

Such a team brings impressive experience, but unfortunately for taxpayers, much of that experience has been in extracting money from the public treasury.

And if recent B.C. history is any guide, this fundamental conflict of interest will receive little or no media attention in the months to come.

Instead, the conventional wisdom will be that voters want “change.”

• Correction: Last week’s column referred to the 1971 Greenpeace campaign against atmospheric nuclear testing. That protest boat was directed at a U.S. nuclear test off Alaska, not a Soviet test as stated. Subsequent Greenpeace protests targeted the Soviet slaughter of grey whales, and the last atmospheric nuclear tests, conducted by France in the South Pacific.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and