Opinion Column

B.C. NDP’s so-called 'dismal decade' economy never was – and B.C. Business Council knows it

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

John Horgan. (Carmine Marinelli/Vancouver 24hours File Photo)

John Horgan. (Carmine Marinelli/Vancouver 24hours File Photo)

“Give me a one-handed economist. All my economists say, ‘on the one hand...on the other.'” - U.S. President Harry Truman, 1945-53

Now that B.C. New Democrat Premier John Horgan has taken office, expect to hear a lot from the surly B.C. Liberal opposition about how horrible the 1990s economy was when the NDP were last in power.

Horgan and the NDP will bring back the so-called “dismal decade” or “decade of decline,” as ex-B.C. Liberal Energy Minister Bill Bennett has claimed.

But don’t believe the hype – because the B.C. Business Council didn’t.

Rather than accept the B.C. Liberals’ perpetual propaganda line, the Council representing our largest companies did the research, comparing B.C.’s economy in the 1980s – when the Social Credit Party ruled; the 1990s under the B.C. NDP and the 2000s with the B.C. Liberals in power.

And their 2012 study found that far from a “dismal decade,” the economy under the B.C. NDP did significantly better than their right-wing opponents in many ways.

On the most important measure of any economy – real Gross Domestic Product growth – the Business Council report found that the B.C. NDP in the 1990s led the way with annual 2.72% increases – beating the B.C. Liberals at 2.36% in the 2000s or Social Credit’s 2.12% in the 1980s.

Yes, that’s right – the social democratic NDP under then-premiers Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark presided over a faster-growing economy than the B.C. Liberals.

And the NDP decade also saw the largest average annual employment growth, with increases of 2.17%, followed by the 1.91% in the 1980s under the Socreds and last, the B.C. Liberals at 1.58% in the 2000s.

But did the B.C. Liberals best the NDP in some categories? Yes – and more recently, ex-Premier Christy Clark rightly said B.C. had Canada’s best economy.

But Clark also dramatically increased B.C.’s debt – up an astonishing $10.85 billion in just the last four years.

Still, perhaps the report’s most important point – besides dispelling the NDP “dismal decade” myth – is that no matter who governs, B.C. is at the mercy of world economic forces.

That’s worth remembering as the B.C. Liberals resume their tired spiel that the B.C. NDP can’t run the proverbial peanut stand – when even B.C.’s biggest businesses know that Horgan’s party can and has economically outperformed their right-wing opponents.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at billtieleman.blogspot.com. Twitter: @BillTieleman