I have to admit that I have agonized for a number of days about the wisdom of writing this column, which might be seen as hypocritical. As a refugee from a former Communist country, I will probably never vote for the NDP, or for any party with a socialist background or with an anti free-market platform.
That being said, I also do not want to live in a place where for far too many years, one party is monopolizing power, opening the door to potential abuse, patronage, and even corruption—especially when there is no viable counterpart to scare the "whatever" out of them.
Which brings me to the point of wondering, along with other pundits, what went wrong. And why did the NDP squander what was considered an insurmountable advantage, winning even fewer seats than in the previous election?
I have been observing election campaigns in the free world for almost 50 years, and I followed them as an editor and columnist over much of the same period of time. Therefore, I wasn't convinced at all that the poll numbers touted were real, or even close to reality.
Perhaps, it is time for the pollsters to give up on their newest tool, online surveys, which are often responded to by younger people. They like the Internet world but don't bother to vote, with the probable exception of the UBC area, where students were marshalled to the booths by a well-oiled machine.
Quite likely, many of them were from out of town. For them, a protest vote can be fun because it will not affect their future after they graduate and start looking for fat-paying jobs.
To start with, a significant majority of those who bothered to vote were elderly, often old-fashioned in their outlook, who still remember the past NDP scandals, from the Dix forged documents, Moe Sihota's repeated underhanded dealings, and even Glen Clark's famous "porch" affair. Of course, there is also the B.C. Rail mess, Gordon Campbell's drinking problem, and even Christy Clark's 'red light' admission, but many voters tend only to recall what they choose to remember.
Then there was the likability and photogenic factors. And here, there was no contest. For all of his smarts, in his ill-fitting business suits, Dix acted and walked as a reincarnation of Mr. Bean, which is not a plus for someone wanting to form a new government.
Meanwhile Christy Clark, in her tight jeans, contagious smile, and radiant optimism—no matter the political baggage she was carrying—appeared to be the girl next door everyone would want to date.
The contrast was obvious in the surely staged "mother and son" moments. Clark looked like a caring single mother with a son adoring and rooting for her, whereas Dix appeared aloof, never showing his warmer side as a family man.
In a political contest between Mr. Bean and a Barbie Doll with brains, Barbie wins all the time, hands down.
Of course, there will be those who will point to Clark's loss in Vancouver–Point Grey while Dix cruised conformable to a victory in Vancouver-Kingsway. Truth be told, Vancouver-Kingsway was such a safe NDP place that even a flower pot with the letters NDP painted on it would have been the winner.
And there it was the "what's in for me" factor.
I know a person who could be considered a poster boy for an NDP supporter. And he probably is, outside the voting station. A member of a visible minority from a working family with strong union ties, he's thrifty and outspoken. But he is also a longshoreman, earning, with plenty of overtime, well over $150,000 a year. And so are many of his friends and colleagues. When he checked how the NDP planned to raise taxes for people like him, he held his nose and voted Liberal.
And so probably did so many others, who perhaps initially answered calls from the pollsters with their feelings, but ended up voting with their pockets.
The also explains why the NDP's opposition to pipeline extensions, refineries, and other resource-based proposals—potentially bringing along tens of thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in wages and government revenues, no matter the legitimate ecological and environment concerns—was the albatross around Dix's neck. This brought him to his dismal defeat, despite earlier rosy predictions.
Can the NDP win a future election in B.C.?
Under the present conditions, surely not, unless Clark and her party get involved in some monstrous scandals that will lead to the end of her political career, bringing down her government because of a string of defections. The likelihood of such a thing happening is quite remote, and the NDP might be the opposition party for decades to come.
I am in no position to advise the NDP leadership about its future course of action, and surely nobody there would listen to a person like me.
However, the only solution for the party is to move to the centre, relying on the sanity in the rank and file membership rather than the wisdom of entrenched ideologues.
Like former British prime minister Tony Blair or former West German chancellor Willy Brandt, the NDP should discard the antiquated anticapitalistic and anti-American slogans, which might rally some of the "old comrades", but annoy the new generation. The NDP must cut the umbilical cord to the leadership of some of the most radical unions, understanding that many union members are not proletarians anymore, but high earners with nice suburban homes and fancy cars. They're surely not ready to part with their hard-earned money.
Last but not least, the NDP must attract new generations of immigrants, who have learned family values from their parents, including a dislike for totalitarian regimes.
Otherwise, Dix or the next NDP leader might one day be still sitting on the opposition benches and repeating the old Woody Allen line: "My one regret in life is that I am not someone else."
Like the premier of B.C.
Jack Chivo is a retired journalist living in West Vancouver.