Daniel Veniez: Adrian Dix is the reason I'm voting B.C. NDP for the first time in my life
I'm progressive, but not of the ideological left, and pragmatic, not of the doctrinaire right. I am a moderate and in the sensible centre.
Socialism was a failed experiment. A robust private sector, including free trade, drives the innovation and wealth creation that funds our social programs, health care, infrastructure, and education system. All of which improves our quality of life.
In my 12 years in British Columbia I have been a reliable B.C. Liberal voter. I believed that Gordon Campbell’s government was a generally good and sensible one that fixed a big mess created by Glen Clark’s NDP. I strongly supported Campbell’s change of heart on treaties, his fiscal and environmental policies, and essential changes to the Forest Act.
Campbell tried hard to improve the investment climate in British Columbia, and by and large, succeeded. Despite the unforgivable arrogance and cynicism of its implementation, I supported the HST—a sound tax policy that would have strengthened Canada’s economic union and the competitive posture of B.C. businesses.
Campbell was also a positive and constructive voice in the federation. He worked hard to tear down interprovincial silos and dampen regional tensions. In many ways, this approach personified the openness and confidence of British Columbians. I was proud that the voice of B.C. in the affairs of the nation was a soothing, hopeful, and accommodating one. That mindset served British Columbia and the country well.
So, despite some of its weaknesses, the B.C. Liberals of Gordon Campbell was a party that I could stand behind. Sadly, I cannot say that today.
I have never voted NDP in my life, and I can never imagine voting NDP at the federal level, especially not with Thomas Mulcair as leader. Among other things, his cynical pandering to Quebec separatists is unconscionable for any national leader. That alone disqualifies him.
In British Columbia, voters have only two parties to choose from. On May 14, I am voting B.C. NDP.
There are two reasons for that. The first is Christy Clark. The second is Adrian Dix.
Clark’s gaffe-prone, content-free, divisive, and ethically challenged tenure as unelected premier of B.C. has been well chronicled. Many citizens, including me, have been embarrassed by it.
In hindsight, it is significant that none of her former caucus colleagues, save one, supported her bid to win the leadership of the B.C. Liberals. They clearly understood that Clark is quite simply not up to the job. The past two years have painfully illustrated the wisdom of their judgment.
Clark had a magnificent opportunity to forge an agenda for the future and take the premiership for a substantive test drive to solve some pressing challenges in education and health care. She deserves credit for raising the minimum wage. That was long overdue. But since then, the record has been marked by nothing of any significance to citizens, and much distraction that underscored the incompetence and emptiness of the B.C. Liberal government under her leadership.
The core of her relentless electioneering is anchored on a fantastical notion that B.C. will be “debt free” in 15 years through liquefied natural gas. This is based entirely on the incredibly dubious premise that the stars of a volatile and highly cyclical commodity business will align exactly as she predicts. The reality is that none of us—including those within the industry who would make these multibillion investments—has the foggiest clue whether any of this is fact or fiction.
But common sense should tell us this: if Clark has made a career out of smoke and mirrors, we should be deeply skeptical about this new card trick. For my part, I’ll wait to see real companies actually announce their intention to invest, real First Nations announce their intention to support these projects, real customers ready to sign up for long-term contracts at reasonable prices, and real analysis into the environmental impact of a massive extraction and fracking process.
This “debt free BC” slogan is a whopper from Clark whose entire government has been punctuated by advertising, gimmickry, and endless photo-ops. It simply defies all credibility because it is based on nothing more that a hope and a prayer.
Clark’s administration has not even pretended to govern. Like him or hate him, Campbell governed. Clark’s has been government by cute slogan and bumper sticker, not policy and leadership.
Before and during the current campaign, Clark embraced the politics of opportunism, from being a Filipina, to throwing Premier Alison Redford under the bus, to making the pilgrimage to Preston Manning’s "conservative movement" jamboree in Ottawa. The pattern is predictable: all politics, all the time, and doing whatever it takes.
Most disconcerting of all is Clark’s propensity to prefer a good sound bite to immersing herself in the plumbing of governing and leadership. The political zinger and attack ad always trumps the facts, evidence, decency, or due process. Brian Hutchinson of the National Post recently wrote: “Christy Clark’s campaign strategy is to misinform, mislead and make up stuff.”
In many ways, Adrian Dix is Clark’s polar opposite. He said the other day this campaign isn’t about him; it’s about us. Indeed it is.
Dix is a refreshing change. He’s a humble and quiet man, not given to exaggeration nor to fits of narcissism. Not a “natural” politician, Dix is nevertheless obviously comfortable in his own skin. Well read and well briefed, Dix knows his files, understands the machinery of government, and has a great appreciation for what government can and can't do.
Age and experience have matured him. He was elected to the legislature and paid his dues as an informed, thoughtful, and energetic health critic. When the leadership opened up, he ran, won, and united a fractious party and caucus around a moderate approach.
Dix has tried to do politics differently and has waged an honourable campaign. His bet is that the people prefer to be told the facts, hear more than talking points and platitudes, and want the straight goods, even if they sometimes may not like to hear it. As a voter, I like the idea that a political leader assumes that I am intelligent, and not a moron that falls for incendiary, superficial, and ultimately misleading sound bites.
Dix grew up in a home where his parents, some business owners, had to meet a weekly payroll. He knows how vital a vibrant private sector is to the collective good. The idea that B.C. will be nationalized upon the election of a Dix government is offensive to the intelligence of voters. CEOs and capital-market participants have spent quality time with Dix and know full well that he will be a responsible and intelligent steward of the public purse.
As premier, Dix will restore honesty and substance in Victoria. He’ll bring sober, deliberative, and collaborative leadership to the premier’s office. He’ll attract good people from across the ideological spectrum. He’ll govern the province as he has his own party: by appealing to all of us to come together to achieve solve problems. He'll work hard to restore faith in our public institutions and trust in the competence and professionalism of government.
Under new leadership, I want the B.C. Liberals to become a constructive voice in our legislature and, over time, earn back the respect that they've lost. That can never happen with Clark, so the rebuilding of the B.C. Liberals should begin on May 15.
All of us want competent, honest, and accountable government that appeals to the best in all of us. Adrian Dix will do that. That’s why the NDP is getting my vote on May 14.
Daniel Veniez is a former federal Liberal candidate in West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country. Follow him on Twitter @DanVeniez.