B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark, B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan pose before a debate on Monday, May 1. After a series of very narrow results in the May 9 election, voters will have to wait until May 24 to see who will form the next B.C. government. (File photo/BC Broadcast Consortium)

Charlotte Views: B.C. needs leaders focused on housing, job markets

“Underlying both challenges is an approach that concentrates wealth and power in the rich…”

By Tom Kertes

I wrote last week’s column a few days before the election. At the time, it was impossible to know who won. I’m glad I didn’t make any predictions, given that we still don’t know. Preliminary counts put the BC Liberals ahead by one seat, one short of a majority. With only nine votes between an NDP or a Liberal win in one riding, it’s possible that after all votes are counted the Liberals can still end up with a majority. But it’s also possible for the NDP to pick up seats.

Despite my support for the NDP and what it stands for, I’d still be worried if the NDP ends up winning the election. That’s because the NDP lacks the kind of leadership B.C. needs. An NDP government will need to prove otherwise. While I can’t know if John Horgan’s tepid approach to political leadership explains why his party (may have) lost, or if it’s the reason that his party (may have) surged to a near win, his leadership style leaves me wanting more. More vision. More direction. More commitment to achieving results that matter. I hope he’s earned the chance to prove this and that he’ll seize the opportunity for the benefit of B.C.

If the NDP ends up with a majority, I will surely prefer that over a Liberal win. That’s because I am a strong supporter of the overall NDP vision of a progressive province with a strong economy that works for everyone. I agree with the NDP that public sector services are essential for levelling the playing field. That’s why I support investments in welfare, health care, child care, public education, housing, and communities.

But I’d still be worried because the NDP needs to do a better job at laying out a concrete vision for how to solve two of the biggest challenges facing our province: out-of-reach housing in the Lower Mainland and unsustainable development in rural B.C. Underlying both challenges is an approach that concentrates wealth and power in the rich, treating the land and people as commodities for the benefit of the few.

Like the Liberals, who constantly project their own vision of the ‘free market,’ the NDP must show how pressing issues are directly connected to the structure of the economy. This would expose Liberal efforts to privatize education, exploit northern resources at either great risk or no benefit to actual communities, and to price housing based on speculative, not human, markets. It would also explain why the Liberals and the Greens have more in common than most voters realize. Like the Liberals, Green ideas are rooted in free markets over democratic markets.

The rise of the Green party marks a possible historic moment in B.C. politics. One possibility is that the Greens attract environmentally conscious voters from both the Liberals and the NDP, creating a single-issue party unable to unite a sizeable block around the multitude of issues facing B.C. This will sink the urban environmental vote to one of perpetual protest. Another possibility is that Greens define themselves as ‘Liberal-lite’ — a more friendly and centrist version of the currently misnamed Liberals (better named the Conservatives). Either possibility presents a challenge to the NDP, who require centrist liberals and urban environmentalists to build an effective ‘big tent’ progressive party that can represent all regions of the province.

Embedded in the two great challenges (housing and lasting good jobs) is the need to reconcile the economies of urban and rural B.C., which requires an end to colonial mindsets about the province. The place itself, and the people within in, have inherent value. B.C. is worth protecting, and it is more than a former colony of the British empire. A place with tens of thousands of human histories to draw from surely has the capacity to go beyond its brief colonial past. The NDP should build and protect a vision that unites the province around a future that moves beyond our colonial past, centring on reconciliation and fair development for all generations — today and for all time.