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.