Rafe Mair: How Liberal myths about the NDP distort BC’s political history

Christy Clark (Province of BC/Flickr and John Horgan (BCNDP/Flickr)

Let’s look at some political myths and near-myths.

The BC Liberals are hammering away at the NDP, saying that the last time they were in office,  it fiscally ruined the province; this from the government that in 16 years, in 2016 dollars, has doubled the provincial debt.

They say that when they took over in 2001 from the NDP, the province was in catastrophic financial shape. In fact the NDP left a surplus of $1.5 Billion.

The Liberals claim they have had 5 straight balanced budgets.

Well, you can have one too. Form a little private company, put your house and car in it, give it the money to make payments, and, presto! Your household budget is balanced. That’s precisely how the Liberal government operates – if you simply take BC Hydro and ICBC out of the picture, their budget is nice and balanced.

Your company is in lousy shape, of course,  and your banker will soon catch up to you. Governments  don’t have to worry about things like that because they are hugely valuable customers and the bank knows the government always has the taxpayer to soak. 

Cartoon by Greg Perry

As so often is the case, the cartoon tells it best, as surely is the case here, proved by Greg Perry.

Dave Barrett, the first NDP premier, was the bête noir of my era and while he certainly wasn’t a great premier, was much better than we admitted, with several accomplishments still very evident, including the Agricultural Land Reserve, ICBC, along with very important reforms in the Legislature. He did some dumb things like buying Ocean Falls, a Victoria restaurant thereafter known as Barrett’s Beanery, Panko Poultry – giving the opposition the marvellous nickname Pinko Panko, “All Left Wings and Assholes” – and Swan Valley, a huge agriculture failure he somehow escaped blame for.

It’s too easily forgotten by the Right that, contrary to their allegations that Barrett favoured unions, he lost the 1975 election because of back to work legislation. In spite of solemn and learned pronouncements by Socreds of the day, like Rafe Mair, a Kamloops lawyer, the sky didn’t fall, business didn’t move en masse to Alberta, and communism was somehow kept at bay.

I’m going to leave out Bill Bennett because I was part of that government, except to observe that, contrary to opposition rumours, the hospitals didn’t close, the poor were not sent to workhouses, nor were unions disbanded and their leaders thrown in jail.

Bill Vander Zalm unquestionably destroyed the Social Credit Party, opening the way for Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark and was a first class, all-time example of how not to govern by consensus.

Rita Johnston was not there long enough to be judged and was the unofficial sacrificial lamb for everything associated with Vander Zalm.

Mike Harcourt was a weak premier, unable to handle a scandal he had no part in. I believe that his successor, Glen Clark, was a very good but most unlucky premier. The Fast Ferries were a mistake that was made to look worse by the giveaway price Campbell sold them for, but chickenfeed compared to any of half a dozen by Campbell/Clark.

If a fair-minded person does any research, it’s obvious that the Dimitrios Pilarinos scandal should have borne by the Crown for showboating in the original search of Glen Clark’s residence, intolerable delay, and proceeding on a paucity of evidence of wrongdoing – bloody stupidity, yes, but, as the trial judge said, “There is nothing in his conduct that crosses the line from an act of folly to behaviour calling for criminal sanctions.”

Dan Miller was simply a short stand-in but Ujjal Dosanjh indicates a justifiable reason one might be leery of the NDP – but more to do with the party than the premier.

Unity has never been the NDP’s strong suit and anyone who attended the leadership convention that made Dosanjh leader can attest to that. The dissension, which almost seemed funny at the time, carried over into government and from, my vantage point, Dosanjh was dead on arrival at the premier’s office.

What is the current state of affairs? The NDP lost in 2013, blowing a huge lead by choosing the last few days to hold their traditional eating of their young. How secure is Horgan, given his tepid-at-best record as Opposition leader? Would he lead a stable NDP Government, an oxymoron?

Libs stick together, no matter the consequences

The Liberals are the very opposite – they remain loyal when sane and sensible people would long before have thrown the leader under a bus, but you have to ask yourself if this philosophy, though directly opposite that of the NDP, is really any better if it just perpetuates the term of a lousy premier? For it sure as hell isn’t superior morality at work, but a huge desire to win – no matter what the consequences – that transcends all other considerations. Any damned fool, myself included, knows that if these were normal times, Christy Clark wouldn’t have a prayer in a leadership race but, at election time, all leadership failings are not only ignored, but the Liberal party, with its long tradition of lying through its teeth to win, goes to work on this speciality with an experience none can come close to, much less match.

You will not find a word coming from Liberals about the real issues, the actual – not phoney – fiscal situation; you will think that there never was a BC Hydro or ICBC, and you can forget about integrity, honesty and truthfulness. Needless to say, social services like mental illness, violence against women, kids in need, homelessness, health lineups and so on won’t even be hinted at. You will hear the carefully manicured mantra about balanced budgets, job creation, and the destruction of the province if the NDP are elected.

Why your local MLA doesn’t matter

If there is such a thing as mass hypnosis, it’s evidenced in the notion that the quality of the candidate should be the determining factor. Every day I read the comics online, having long ago given up making charitable donations to Postmedia, and every day I see ads for our Liberal MLA and allegations about his many achievements on our behalf. In fact, he’s done nothing that each of his colleagues haven’t done or, put another way, if our MLA was a scarecrow or a fencepost with hair, they would have as much right to take credit. Whenever I hear someone say Joe Blow or Sally Slim would make an excellent MLA, I ask, “Why?”

This will be hard to swallow, folks – unless your MLA winds up in Cabinet, they will have ZERO influence upon policy or statutes and if a cabinet minister, unless one of three or four key ministers, not much. When that road is built or the grant goes to the local sports event and you are the MLA, by all means, take credit, because the public is probably dumb enough to believe you. In fact, you know full well that the money came because the party wants the seat and couldn’t care less about whose ass occupies a government seat in the Legislature.

To put it bluntly, policy and legislation are made in the premier’s office, with a bare handful of ministers involved. It’s passed in a cabinet meeting where the ministers know that if they cross the premier they’ll be out and on the backbench, their car will be gone, so will 1st class travel and their pay cut in half. When former US House of Representatives Speaker Sam Rayburn said, “to get along, you must go along,” he knew what he was talking about.

When the bill is voted on and you are a government MLA, you vote yes. If you don’t, the penalty can be as high as being thrown out of caucus and the party. I beg of you to understand that there is not a particle of democracy involved and your MLA could be replaced by a voting machine operated by the premier’s foot with no loss of democracy – for the simple reason it was never there in first place. Under our so-called “Responsible Government” system, it’s the party, not the individual that counts. Thus, I leave you with this irrefutable advice:

Vote for the party and don’t trouble about who your MLA is because it just doesn’t matter.*

* Any who would like my paper on Responsible Government, free of charge, please contact the publisher.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

11 thoughts on “Rafe Mair: How Liberal myths about the NDP distort BC’s political history

  1. So then what’s behind door # 3??? What viable alternative do we have??? From what you say this is a lose lose situation . Are we really a 2 party province? Time to stop voting party and look at the individual the other way isn’t working…hell just look at the United States…now there’s a failed system if i ever saw one.One thing i know for sure..Clark and her Liberals must die

    1. Door #3 should have proportional representation behind it. Without that we will always have a 2 party system

  2. Excellent comments on the dire situation we find our “democracy” in these days Rafe.
    “Democracy” is a poor country cousin to “Greed” and “Avarice” these days.
    Sad but true.
    I cant think of a solution that would encourage voters to participate and one cant blame them for abstaining from voting or their cynicism at the entire process.

    Other than to toss out one arrogant, bloated, greedy regime for a newer, skinny, hungry regime.
    Political Dieting 101

  3. And now a word on that canard Fastferries.

    The whole process was started by the Social Credit for a fast, 40 minute car only ferry service from Iona island to Gabriola Island.

    The NDP inherited this plan and ferry design, but not the plan, instead built a Ferry terminal at Duke Point and converted the catamaran ferries to be able to dock on the Tsawwassen/Swartz bay and Horseshoe Bay/Naniamo runs.

    Retrofitting 80 ton bow doors killed the ferry’s and the rest is history.

    The total cost overrun was about $450 million.

    Now we have the Canada Line, Campbell’s pet P-3 project.

    The cost for this hybrid heavy/light metro was put at $1.3 billion, but as costs soared past $3 billion for a full build line, the scope of the project was cut back to a final cost of about $2.4.

    For this cost we got a rapid transit line that is not compatible with the Expo and Millennium/Evergreen Lines and the stations were scaled back to having platforms only 40m long and can only accommodate 2-car trains 41m long!

    As the E and M/E Lines have 80m long station platforms, the Canada line effective has as the capacity.

    The mainstream media point to this as a success, actually it is a failure as the Canada line was at capacity the day it was opened for service.

    Estimated cost to increase capacity to match that of the E&M/E Lines, $1.5 billion.

    Yet the mainstream media have remained mute on this, not a word, not a peep.

    1. Skytrain
      Another govt project brought to you by SNC Lavalin and Bombardier.
      Those Quebec paragons of virtue…….

      1. Speaking of which.
        Any truth to the rumour that SNC Lavalin is going to take over the maintenance of BC Ferries in the not too distant future?
        I cant wait to see how many breakdowns we suffer through after that.
        Not to worry though. You wont need ferries.
        The public will be able to drive to Vancouver Island on the forest of paperwork they generate.

        1. Another good reason to toss the Christy Liberals out of B.C. If we elect a ‘clean’ government this time, I hope SNC Lavalin will be tossed out right along with Christy and her corrupt cabal.

        2. This where corporations make money today in the transportation field. It is not building transit but the maintaining of transit that is so lucrative. The SNC lead consortium operating the Canada line receive about $110 million annually to operate the Canada Line, about 3 times as much than comparable LRT lines!

      2. @ nonconfidencevote

        The original ALRT SkyTrain was brought to us by the then Bill Bennett Social Credit party and the Ontario Conservative party.

        The Ontario Crown Corporation The Urban Transportation Development Corporation (UTDC) had an unsalable proprietary transit system, the renamed from ICTS to ALRT that was know to be inferior to the new light rail coming on-stream.

        Basically, Bill Bennett forced the GVRD to build with SkyTrain so he could use the much heralded Ontario “Blue Machine” in the next election.

        The UTDC was sold to Lavalin, which went bankrupt trying to sell SkyTrain to Bangkok and technical patents for SkyTrain (cars) were sold to Bombardier, with Lavalin keeping the engineering patents and amalgamated with SNC to form SNC Lavalin.

        What really is a sore point, everyone at the time, including the mainstream media knew that ALRT SkyTrain was inferior to modern light rail and lied and continue to still lie today!

        Building more SkyTrain is just criminal!

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