Sometimes, I wonder if the biggest problem with the NDP braintrust in Victoria is that they don't read enough nonfiction books.
NDP Leader Carole James and the law-and-order-luvin' House Leader Mike Farnworth sometimes seem to rely entirely on what they read in the CanWest papers for their view of the world.
Take the carbon tax. The Vancouver Sun's editorial writers are in a froth over Premier Gordon Campbell's temerity in introducing this relatively minor, revenue-neutral fee.
Once upon a time, like in the early 1990s, the NDP professed to be in favour of full social and environmental costing. Make the polluters pay was a common NDP refrain.
Integrated resource planning was the mantra when it came to planning energy developments until Glen Clark came along and turned power projects into exercises in dispensing political pork.
Now, James and her dynamic duo, Farnworth and NDP whip Katrine Conroy, are dead-set against the carbon tax.
It's worth noting that Farnworth was also against the old TransLink vehicle levy when he served in the cabinets of NDP premiers Glen Clark, Dan Miller, and Ujjal Dosanjh. That helped drive a wedge between environmentally minded Lower Mainland voters and the NDP that remains to this day.
The NDP position on the carbon tax might win them some votes in the Prince George region, and possibly elect a couple of MLAs.
But it's going to make Vancouver NDP MLAs Shane Simpson, Adrian Dix, Jenny Kwan, David Chudnovsky, and particularly Gregor Robertson look mighty foolish should they decide to seek re-election in 2009. It won't help Robertson's Vancouver mayoral ambitions either.
Any Green or Liberal candidate running against them in 2009 will say David Suzuki likes carbon taxes. Even former NDP MLA Joy MacPhail argued in favour of the kind of tax-shifting that the premier's carbon tax will achieve in a small way.
It's probably too late for the NDP to consider bringing in a new leader before the 2009 election. But if the party loses its third straight election to Gordo the magnificent (who's not that difficult to beat, actually), then it's time to bring in some people with more intellectual horsepower into positions of influence within the NDP caucus.
Because the current crop doesn't seem to understand the threats posed by peak oil (witness the treatment of MLA Michael Sather for opposing the Tsawwassen treaty).
Nor do they appear to appreciate the dangers of global warming (note the position on the carbon tax--and the role it can play in persuading other jurisdictions to follow suit).
Then there's the recluctance to invest much political capital highlighting the impact that Gordon Campbell's human-resources policies are having on B.C.'s poorest citizens. The NDP braintrust just can't connect the dots.
If there was any doubt, witness how James and Co. scrambled after a very capable NDP candidate in the Fraser Valley, Rollie Keith, questioned the conventional view of NATO's attack on the Balkans in 1999. He wasn't alone -- this view has also been questioned by Osgoode Hall law professor Michael Mandel and retired general Lewis MacKenzie.
In a shameful move, Keith stepped down probably largely because of the ignorant ramblings of CanWest columnists. This might have made the difference in NDP candidate Tim Stevenson's narrow loss to Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt in Vancouver-Burrard in 2005.
It's not enough for James to prattle on about seniors just because she has a bunch of seniors in her constituency. It's not enough for Farnworth to harp on about crime because serial killer Robert Pickton lived in his constituency.
Perhaps some new blood -- maybe Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan or Seth Klein of the BC office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives -- could improve the level of debate at the top levels of the Official Opposition. These two also rely on so much more than the editorials in the CanWest papers to figure out what's really going on in the world.