A conspiracy theory about Adrian Dix and the B.C. film industry

Occasionally, the highest compliment a journalist can receive is to be called a conspiracy theorist.

This epithet can actually suggest that the reporter or columnist is probing possibilities that the rest of the pack hasn't considered.

In that spirit, I'm going to lay out some of my thoughts about B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix's approach to the B.C. film industry.

This morning, I heard Dix say on The Bill Good Show that his recent trip to Hollywood was prepared months ago.

It makes sense because an opposition politician probably can't fly into Los Angeles on short notice and obtain meetings with top executives at Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros. This takes planning.

According to Dix, it was a coincidence that his trip occurred just after thousands of film-industry workers and their families held a town-hall meeting at North Shore Studios. This was to press the B.C. government to save their jobs.

A week earlier, the NDP candidate in Vancouver–False Creek, Matt Toner, wrote a commentary on Straight.com condemning the B.C. Liberal government for its "indifference" to the film industry.

"Adrian Dix, on the other hand, clearly understands the importance of creativity and innovation as a path to our province’s future," Toner stated. "And the way we get there is by taking a series of measured steps that engage the industry and the people working in it."

Toner, a digital-media producer and economist, surprised many by narrowly defeating Vancouver park commissioner Constance Barnes for the NDP nomination.

Where's the conspiracy theory?

Try this on for size:

• The B.C. NDP decided a long time ago that it needed to boost its street cred on business issues.

• The problem facing the B.C. NDP is that most industry leaders are strongly in the camp of the B.C. Liberals, particularly in the resource, retail, real estate, and financial-services sectors. There are no third-party endorsers for the NDP at the B.C. Mining Association, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Urban Development Institute, or the Canadian Bankers Association.

• The film and digital-media industries, on the other hand, are not so firmly ensconsed in the B.C. Liberal universe. And the film industry, in particular, is highly unionized, making its workforce a natural ally of the B.C. NDP.

• For years, people in these industries have been grumbling about how B.C. is losing film productions to Ontario, and how Quebec is undermining our video-game sector with generous tax breaks. This provided the B.C. NDP with an opportunity.

• The B.C. NDP solution: nominate a candidate who can speak to these issues with some business credentials. And then hammer away on this up to the election to make the B.C. Liberals look like economic incompetents.

• Because the film and digital-media industries both offer good visuals, a campaign around saving people's jobs would generate plenty of coverage on TV newscasts with massive audiences. Because these are largely urban-based industries, they're within easy reach of the major provincial media, who could be relied on to deliver a series of stories.

• Book a trip to Hollywood for B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix. And get the producers and unions to raise hell with a huge rally just before the premier-in-waiting returns to Vancouver.

Constance Barnes didn't fit into the script

One obstacle on Dix's road to power, however, was Barnes. She had topped the polls for Vancouver park commissioner in two consecutive civic elections. This constituted a threat to the NDP's broad strategy of nominating Toner as a key NDP voice for the film and digital-media industries.

Fortunately, one of Dix's strongest political allies, NDP fixer Neil Monckton, is the president of the Vancouver–False Creek NDP constituency association.

In the end, Toner reportedly won the nomination by six votes, though feelings still remain bitter in the Barnes camp over the outcome.

Barnes wasn't going to help Dix reinforce his credibility as an economic manager. So she was expendable, notwithstanding her father Emery's long service to the party as an MLA and speaker of the legislature.

B.C. NDP sends economic messages to voters

Dix has been doing other things to convey business savvy to the mainstream, such as ringing the bell at the Toronto Stock Exchange after Catalyst Paper Corporation emerged from bankruptcy protection. Stunts like this are generating positive coverage for him in the Vancouver Sun and other media outlets.

Last year, former Port Moody mayor and businessman Joe Trasolini was elected to the legislature from Port Moody–Coquitlam. This also helped the B.C. NDP calm down its traditional opponents in the editorial offices of large newspapers.

Earlier this month, the B.C. NDP went even further by nominating the former executive director of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce, Patti MacAhonic, as a candidate. She has ties to the pro-hunting and pro-fishing B.C. Wildlife Federation.

I'm not suggesting that New Democrats don't care about film-industry jobs, because they do. But it's also likely that B.C. NDP organizers have worked hand-in-hand with the film unions and industry officials on the timing of this latest campaign.

The B.C. Liberals tried striking back by announcing an $11-million expenditure to woo the Times of India Group's film awards. This may have backfired, however, after the B.C. NDP revealed that this event was created in advance of the B.C. election after the province failed to attract the International Indian Film Academy Awards.

"They invented a whole new Bollywood awards show trademarked and sponsored solely by the B.C. government so they could hold this event in April," charged B.C. NDP arts and culture critic Spencer Chandra Herbert in a party news release.

In the meantime, B.C. film workers are left wondering why the premier will spend $11 million on a Bollywood awards show while refusing to help preserve their jobs.

And thanks to some shrewd long-term planning by the B.C. NDP, Dix is coming across as the only provincial political leader who gives a damn about them and the domestic film industry.

It's very likely that the B.C. NDP will win the next election even as Toner loses in Vancouver–False Creek. If this occurs, you can be certain that Toner will be taken care of by the party in power.

It's conceivable that by then, an NDP government might even be looking for a new head of the B.C. Film Commission.

Comments (54) Add New Comment
cuz
I can't believe I actually agree with something Charlie wrote. Thanks for staying in the middle Charlie. Why would anyone want to vote for a person who quit his previous job for falsifying documents during a police investigation. If the NDP's treatment of Constance Barnes is any indication, then our province is in big trouble.
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Aqua Velva Man
And maybe it has something to do with when we were all voting on the HST in BC a while back. The film industry in BC which lobbied quite hard to keep the HST. Sighting reasons such as a potential loss of jobs to Ontario. Which thus far appears to have been borne out.

While Mr. Dix and the NDP actively campaigned to get rid of the HST.
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Sandra Montgomery
I am the person who created the slogan Save BC Film and then created the FaceBook Page and the Twitter Account. Just me. My impetus to do so was a reaction to concerns we voiced on Christy Clarks FaceBook page being deleted. I saw that people were reacting to this on their own pages and getting comments, and I felt the reaction was scattered. I am not facebook friends with 98% of the industry and I wanted to know what EVERYONE was feeling about this. So I thought I'd create a single location where they could all come and say what they thought and even repost the deleted posts if they wanted. Not once did even a shadow of a thought cross my mind that what took place over the next 14 days would happen as I created those pages. To suggest some sort of NDP conspiracy makes me literally laugh out loud. I have never voted NDP in my life. I am not sure I will even after all of this. I know I won't be voting Liberal again unless something drastically changes.

Feel free to contact me... my email address is on the Save BC Film page or you can Private Message the page and I will get it.

I am just a script supervisor who loves what I do and I want to get to do that and more in film here in Vancouver so I don't have to move away from my family and new granddaughter.

If you're interested in the truth, contact me.
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Mary
so help me if people vote for the ndp,they are cutting their own throats..and voting for the Conservatives is the same thing..the cons have had some much infighting, they don't even register on the playing field..the Liberals brought this province out of a recession from the 90's..I said when the ndp were in power, it would take 20 years to overcome the disaster they created..Read Mark Milke's book "Barbarians in the Garden City..the 10 year reign..they don't change their spots..
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Lulu
It is funny to see that when the NDP step up, they are immediately suspected of illegal and despondent exploitations of circumstance.

More likely, the Liberals tripped up and the NDP see a viable lacuna that they can expose for the elections.
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Hans Goldberg
Spinning fancy theories is fine, but should you not worry more about interference in civic decision making (Surrey Casino), the bidding process for the stadium roof, the bankrupting of BC Hydro. I could think of many topics with respect to ruining BC.
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Resident
Constance Barnes has spent her time on the Parks Board fighting for other people -- affordable childcare, green space, off leash areas. She is an active spokesperson on the fight to keep the Kits Coast Guard Station.

Matt Toner has spent his time fighting for.....himself! Any incentives for the creative industries will benefit him and his band of supporters.

Toner bragged that many of the people working on his campaign were new to politics. What he forgot to mention was that many of them were new to the country -- and therefore not eligible to vote!

Although the party was made aware of a number of voter irregularities, they destroyed the ballots. This was overseen by the riding president who throughout the campaign, was openly disdainful of Constance Barnes. Now he has been rewarded by a job with the party.

Constance Barnes is a long-time loyal member of the NDP. She is unlikely to comment on this or to reveal any of her inside knowledge of voter fraud.

In Vancouver-False Creek either Sam Sullivan or Lorne Mayencourt are unlikely to take the same high road. Previous commentaries on Matt Toner's ethics and values may be seriously challenged.

For those readers who think the conspiracy theory a bit convoluted, consider the fact that Toner promised the NDP that he could raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe their support of his candidacy is as simple as that,
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Jin brown
This issue shows the true economic incompetence of the NDP. The NDP spent the last few years rallying against the HST, who's largest benefactor was the film industry. They also say they're going to increase taxes and labour costs for every business across BC. Of course all of this will have no negative impact on the economy.

Now Dix is running around developing corporate welfare schemes to reduce taxes and labour costs in the name of economic development. Dix is supposedly for small business but he's raising taxes for all small businesses while giving tax cuts to select corporations and industries he favours.

Welcome to the new era of BC where everyone pays higher taxes to subsidize unsustainable businesses hand picked by Dix. I can see why business donations to Dix have gone up. It looks like that's the only way to avoid Dix's wrath.
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bud66
The Film Industry is but 1 symptom of a bigger problem
To the Feds
If I were Harper I'd do International free trade trips anytime over trying to establishing "Free Trade" amongst my own provinces and territories.
At home he gets heckled; abroad [Because of our resources] he gets his ass kissed; as long as he don't bite the hand that feeds us tooo hard.
P.S. Be nice to get more than $.80 on the $ though. The $.20 probably covers the royalty.
Provincially
Too bad Gordo blew the HST thing--we are seeing the 1st ramifications of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
I think trying to overcome Gordo's arrogance might be Christie's toughest life challenge so far.
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Zoe Gauvreau
Sigh, sometimes I really wish someone was organized enough to actually pull of a conspiracy. Sadly everyone is as opinionated, unorganized and difficult to deal with as you and I.
I will vote for any party that shows some sense and despite what some folks think, my vote isn't for sale for some grand useless spectacle.
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out at night
In order for a party or individual to win a general election certain people and things are put into place. Strategic choices are made. I may have raised an eyebrow to half-mast reading some of the points around a riding nomination but come on, am I ultra-cynical or just stupid? I see absolutely no conspiracy here. I just see politics as it's been played for centuries.
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Ken Friss
A conspiracy theory? Really? That's the best spin you can put on it? Wow you Christie loving liberal writers are getting more sad by the day .. I can't believe you would stoop to this level and that the Straight would even let you continue to write for them ... what a rag
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Martin Dunphy
I think it might be time for the more delicate readers to untwist their knickers, turn their gaze to the top of the article, and read the word, in large letters: Commentary.
And, of course, have a nice day.
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Kerry Corlett
I read the article, and am thinking. And thinking. And thinking.

Charlie, how is this a "conspiracy" again?
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Aaron Jasper
Charlie’s theories have certainly sparked an interesting debate.

Clearly front line workers in the film sector who’ve been part of the discussion have established a great grass roots campaign to address challenges in their industry. I wish them success in their efforts.

On issues relating to the NDP nomination race in False Creek, the reality is this. Two skilled and knowledgeable candidates contested the nomination.
Yes it was a close race, and the candidate I supported, Constance Barnes, would have been a very capable hard working MLA bringing the change that so many voters in False Creek urgently need.

That nomination contest is now over. So it’s time for Barnes and Toner supporters alike to work together to win the riding for the NDP in the May election.

Aaron Jasper, Vice Chair
Vancouver Park Board
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Lulu
It is funny to see that when the NDP step up, they are immediately suspected of illegal and despondent exploitations of circumstance.

More likely, the Liberals tripped up and the NDP see a viable lacuna that they can expose for the elections.
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katz
you do know Peter Leitch, grand pooh-bah of MPPIA, is a dyed in the wool BCLib?
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Paul Klassen, Business Representative, IATSE Local 891
As a member of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of BC (MPPIA) involved in planning the townhall meeting, and a representative of one of the labour organizations for motion picture workers in BC, I can confirm the following:

- discussions and planning of the January 22 town-hall meeting actively started in the first week of December
- at no point was I approached by the NDP regarding holding the town-hall meeting, or its timing
- I first found out about the NDP's trip to Los Angeles after it occurred, when it was reported in the media

There are currently a lot of people involved in BC's motion picture industry who are concerned about their jobs, providing for their families, and opportunities for the next generation. The town-hall meeting provided a forum for many of us to come together.
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Charlie Smith
Hi Paul,

Are you saying that Brian Topp, executive director of ACTRA Toronto and the B.C. NDP campaign manager, was completely oblivious to the decision to launch a campaign (and not just a town-hall meeting) to preserve film-industry jobs?

Charlie Smith
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Clive Edwards
OK, I buy some, or even most of the "Conspiracy Theory". So what? Who could it hurt? The Liberals are the most corrupt party to have ever governed in BC. BC rail, BC Hydro, HST, Smart Meters, Run of River Power projects, privatizing provincial parks and campgrounds, de-commissioning logging roads and back country access, open pen salmon farms, BC Ferries, Translink, the list goes on.

Sure, the NDP will have their own corruption issues. The problem with the Liberals is they've turned corruption and sellouts into a finely tuned business plan.
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