Comparing the people at the top of B.C.’s two largest political parties, columnist Tom Kertes says it’s clear the BC NDP could use some of the vision and charisma shown by BC Liberal leader Christy Clark. (File photos/Black Press)

Charlotte Views: Win or lose, BC NDP needs bolder leadership

“I’ve seen enough of this election to already feel let down by the process, regardless of outcome.”

By Tom Kertes

As I write this column it’s impossible to know who will win the provincial election by the time you read it. I have to admit that I called the last election incorrectly, even though I hedged by starting my column immediately after the United States presidential election with a similar disclaimer. But then I went on to presume a Donald Trump defeat. I was wrong, so for this election, I’m not allowing myself to anticipate any election outcome, either way. I’ll wait to find out once the polls close and the ballots are counted.

I’m ignoring the pollsters and pundits, especially after the last provincial election felt like such a letdown (to NDP voters, at least) when an NDP “surge” never panned out. While I’m holding off on making predictions, I’ve seen enough of this election to already feel let down by the process, regardless of outcome.

I’m a fan of public programs that level the playing field. I believe that public education, public health care, universal child care, community parks, youth centres, and other government services are essential to building and sustaining a strong community. I also support income and wealth equality, on the belief that a strong (big and deep) middle class is best for democracy, fairness, and wellness. Progressive taxes, adequate welfare programs, and other ways to balance the distribution of wealth are all programs I support. It should be no surprise, then, that I lean left. The NDP better reflects my values than the BC Liberals. But it’s not the BC Liberals who’ve disappointed me this election.

Christy Clark, whose policies I oppose, stands out as an effective leader who stands for what she believes. She impresses me, even though I disagree with much of her party platform. I am deeply offended by how she treats public sector workers, including teachers like myself. When I was a childcare provider at the publicly funded University of British Columbia, I faced her government head on when bargaining for gender-equitable wages. Her union-bashing approach to management is demoralizing at best. At worst, it weakens programs that people depend on for a fair chance at life and for the opportunities that we all deserve. (I’m also opposed to her LNG vision, putting big business ahead of sustainable community development.)

But enough of what I don’t like about her politics. The point is, she’s effective, a visionary for her side, and charismatic. I wish she was on my side.

If the NDP bumbled into an election win, I’m happy with the outcome. And I wish the NDP the best of luck in transitioning to governing. But I’ll be worried. That’s because (win or no win) the party is lacklustre, visionless, tired, and seemingly without strategy. The NDP caucus has a few gems, like Jennifer Rice and David Eby, but overall it seems more interested in maintaining the status quo than doing what’s required to win elections, form government, and make B.C. a better place.

B.C. needs urgent leadership. Land speculation threatens to suck all economic vibrancy from the Lower Mainland economy, forcing out low-wage workers (including young families). With a housing affordability crisis in full force, it’s hard to understand why the NDP didn’t make this more of an issue. And with the northern communities facing displacement and exploitation from reckless resource development (which merely takes, and does not give back), the failure of the NDP to boldly reconcile urban environmentalism with northern economic priorities marks a missed opportunity to solve some of the most pressing issues of our time. These two issues — housing and good jobs across the province — need more than bumper-sticker approaches and electioneering.

Real policy, hard choices, and bold leadership are required. Leaders who move opinion, bridge divides, and run not just to win elections, but to shape the province for the better, are needed — now more than ever.

If Christy Clark won, voters will have proven once again that boldness and direction matter. Too bad, in my view, that she’ll move us boldly in the wrong direction.