These days, if you don’t win, it’s due to a cheat, not your own ineptitude
British Columbia’s legislature is in session, even though it’s summer.
That’s rare. It’s also likely, when the session ends in a few days, the last time the lights will be on in Victoria for a while.
So you might expect the opposition NDP to be taking this gift from the governing BC Liberals to put some serious markers down for the future.
Hard core challenges to Liberal assertions that their budget is balanced, for instance. (It wouldn’t be hard to show there’s a lot of the old shell game going on.) Asking question after question about why the debt is going up at rocket-to-the-moon rates if the books are in the black.
Digging into the real reasons BC Hydro’s teetering on the edge of bankruptcy might be a good use of Question Period, too.
No such luck. It’s been question after question, instead, about “Ethnicgate.”
You may recall that back in March there was a loud kerfuffle in the BC legislature because attempts to influence ethnic communities in the BC Liberals’ favour using government resources had come to light.
In NDP leader Adrian Dix’s storyline, the reason his party didn’t win the 2013 general election has to be that “ethnicgate” was carried out — and worked. And that’s a “cheat.”
This is vaguely reminiscent of “robocalls”, the “scandal” that was shoved front and centre right after Michael Ignatieff led the federal Liberals to ignominious defeat at the hands of Stephen Harper. For the CBC, for the nation’s press, and for the commentariat nationwide, it was inconceivable that, in a majority of ridings, Canadians had elected Conservatives. No, there had to be some trick, some cheat, that had been used.
Because otherwise, well, you know, they’d have “done the right thing.”
That’s the sort of logic Dix is using right now.
I hold no love for Christy Clark’s BC Liberals. I think the party in government has cheated British Columbians left, right, and centre. I think the sale of BC Rail and the coverup activities surrounding it are a scandal. So is the Pacific Coast Trust, and the Independent Power Producers forced on BC Hydro in the last decade, both of which have created a scheme to funnel public monies around and have some of them end up as party donations.
Their handling of the public finances of BC is abysmal, as shown by the massive growth in the public debt.
All this before we get into whether their policies are worthwhile: has being the worst of the provinces for child poverty every year for over a decade, for instance, been a necessary price of achieving something else?
In other words, there was no shortage of material for Dix and his NDP to use in the last general election campaign if they wanted votes.
They chose not to use it. Effete hands didn’t want to handle muck.
But here’s the thing about politics, and especially politics in the 2010s. Right now, despite deep dissatisfaction with whomever governs between elections, there’s a strong trend toward keeping the devils you know rather than trying something different.
Harper was kept nationally. Redford came from behind to keep Alberta. Despite the commission of investigation ongoing in Québec that has toppled the entire city council and mayor of Laval, and two mayors of Montréal, in its scandal and corruption web, the implicated government of Jean Charest almost pulled off a victory, and today would easily win a majority over the Péquistes.
Manitoba kept its NDP around, Ontario kept its proven corrupt Liberals, and, yes, in BC Christy Clark’s Liberals pulled off yet another term, raising their seat count.
You know, if they’d squeaked home with a minority or something, you might wonder if those last couple of seats had been edged out by unsavoury practices. But they didn’t — they won convincingly.
That’s not Clark’s fault. That’s Dix’s. And these attempts to shift the blame rather than do the proper job of an opposition and oppose on policy matters doesn’t serve British Columbians well, either.
But the BC NDP will have to go through gnawing off a few more of its legs caught in traps before it’ll be ready to do its job.
You can see that the party is flailing around, unwilling to deal with reality. The hoary old chestnut of proportional representation has started to circulate within the BC NDP.
I’m no great fan of first-past-the-post, and would love to see the alternative vote replace it. (That’s where you rank your candidates 1-2-3 rather than marking an “X” next to your first [and only] choice.) But I judge parties’ seriousness about the issue by where they stand in good times and bad. (I also judge whether they want the kind of system that keeps communities well served, or some sort of party list that lets unelectable hacks get in because they top the list served up by the party.)
But the NDP was happy with first-past-the-post when the polls were good, and now that the voters didn’t reward them they want to change the system? Give me a break.
A party like that is just floundering, looking for something — anything — to blame for their own errors.
So let’s make it clear. The reason BC doesn’t have an NDP government today is the fault of the BC New Democratic Party.
It failed to make the case to British Columbians why their program was better than the one offered by the Liberals.
It failed to hold the Liberals to account for their twelve years in office — and left their attacks go effectively unanswered.
It failed to get out its own vote on election day.
That’s not “cheats”, that’s not “done in by the voting system”, that’s a badly run campaign and a leader who made bad decisions.
Until the party accepts responsibility for itself, the Liberals will have a free ride in BC.