Opinion Column

NDP’s performance in the 1990s shows it is ready to take the reins

David Bieber, Guest Columnist

This week’s topic: Would the NDP do a good job managing the economy if it formed government?

Who wins this week? Columnist Kathryn Marshall and guest columnist David Bieber battle over the issues of the day. Send us an email at van24feedback@sunmedia.ca — max 150 words.

I don’t generally start a lot of fights at bars. Not recently, at any rate. But it wasn’t that long ago I found myself confronted by a large man calling me a liar in a crowded pub.

“They did not,” he repeated. I considered my options. I didn’t have a copy of the auditor general’s summary financial statements, and he clearly wasn’t going to take my word that the BC New Democratic Party had left a $1.498 billion surplus when they left government in 2001. Plus, I’m not that big. So I changed the subject.

There’s a lot of heated debate in B.C. politics, and in my experience as director of party communications for the BC NDP in the last two elections, one of the hottest was this question of whether the NDP can run the economy. When things get heated, it can be hard to discuss the facts.

Expect the temperature to rise as we approach the next election and the Liberals release their attack ads. While she’s way nicer than the bar guy, I know my friend Kathryn will respond with a whole pile of scary numbers to make her case that the NDP created economic hell in the 1990s.

Let’s consider some important facts: B.C. was worse off in 2010 than 2000 compared with other provinces. After 10 years of Liberal government, B.C.’s ranking on the economy fell from fourth place in Canada to fifth. Personal income declined from third place to fourth. On jobs, B.C. slipped from fifth to seventh in Canada.

Says who? The BC Progress Board — an independent panel of senior business leaders created by then-premier Gordon Campbell. He set it up in 2001 to quantify the economic boom he promised. Instead, its 2011 report shows the NDP actually did better than the Liberals on key economic measures. Ouch.

Maybe that’s why the public isn’t buying the scare tactics anymore. Polls now show people trust NDP leader Adrian Dix to manage the economy — not just traditional NDP strengths like health care and education.

With Dix eschewing heated rhetoric to invite business leaders to work with the NDP to meet B.C.’s serious economic, social and environmental challenges, it’s time to move on.

Because scare tactics — whether at the bar or in TV ads — just make it hard to talk about what’s really important.

See Kathryn Marshall's Column

David Bieber is a political consultant. Yes, he is probably related.


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