By Justine Hunter
From Friday’s Globe and Mail
April 24, 2009 at 5:40 AM EDT
… Ms. James acknowledged she is facing more pressure this time around. And she sounded frustrated that she still is confronted at every turn with the baggage of former NDP governments.
“We are a long way from getting past that polarization,” she said. “I truly don’t believe that our province is going to grow up and be a real player until we get past that.” …
Though recent scandals and polls seem to be hurting the BC Liberals, I still believe that they will win a handy victory over the NDP.
The Liberals laid the foundation for their likely victory many years ago, when they worked to appopriate as much of the environmental agenda as possible. Through a series of initiatives, from the carbon tax to household renovations to small car rebates, they have worked to create an impression that they are an environmentally conscious government. Whether these initiatives are truly substantive or effective remains to be seen. Recent polls suggest that they still continue to follow the NDP and Greens on environmental trustworthiness. Nevertheless, they have blunted the NDP attack on the environment, and have made a few allies like the Suzuki Foundation. The NDP, in response, has offered a fairly muddled cap-and-trade alternative (though admittedly it gets little detailed coverage in the corporate press). The point is this: the Liberals have broached new ground, and have managed to steal some thunder from their opponents.
The NDP, on the other hand, have not broached new territory. They continue to reiterate their commitment to public education, public health, welfare, the environment, etc. Unfortunately, this is preaching to the converted. Their supporters already know these are the NDP’s (perceived) commitments, so why regurgitate what everyone already assumes? Where is a new emphasis on economic policy, a topic that’s traditionally dominated by a right wing perspective? The NDP does have many good economic arguments to make, but they seem disinterested in the topic. For example, they should have a hundred different arguments ready to defend the last NDP governments, whose economic records were much better than the Liberals and Canwest give them credit for. If James thinks that this can be wished away as mere “polarization”, then she’s really not up for the job. The NDP record needs to be addressed head-on, effectively and repeatedly. There should be an entire war room dedicated to responding to right wing propgaganda about the 90’s. But no, James says we should grow up. Wishful thinking, perhaps?
The problem for the NDP is this: in BC’s political landscape, the leading left wing party usually gets between 35% to 45% of the vote, while the leading right wing party gets the balance. So the math doesn’t favour the NDP. The best the NDP can hope for is that the right wing vote is split. In fact, every NDP victory in BC, from Dave Barrett’s government onward, has been because of a significant split in the right side of the spectrum (often because the right wing party has overstayed its welcome). Unfortunately for Carole James, the only real split right now is on the left side, protestations from the Greens notwithstanding. So, if anyone needs to blaze new paths, it’s the NDP, not the Liberals. But since the NDP seems unwilling to do this, the result seems preordained. No new supporters, like moderate Liberals who are disaffected by Liberal mistakes, will be found, and the math will continue to haunt the NDP.
If the NDP are not prepared to tackle economic policy as their central policy issue, then an election like this – where the economy is very important – seems tailor made for another right wing victory. I’ll grit my teeth and vote NDP (again), but it won’t be because I’m happy with their current electoral performance.
Edited on: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 6:23 PM