Rafe- NDP Opposition should try some actual opposing

Rafe: NDP Opposition should try some actual opposing

Rafe- NDP Opposition should try some actual opposing
BC NDP and Official Opposition Leader John Horgan (BCNDP.ca/youtube)

I’ve been very critical, especially recently in the tyee.ca, of John Horgan, leader of the NDP, and the Official Opposition itself. This is, I assure you, nothing personal but is entirely a matter of the quality of the opposition presented and the effect it has on forming public opinion.

Socred praise for Barrett NDP

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of talking to an old friend of mine of some 40 years, Grace McCarthy. As a couple of old pols will do, we started to reminisce. We got onto the topic of Oppositions and I was surprised – I shouldn’t have been – to hear both Grace and me extol the virtues of the NDP under Dave Barrett when we were in the House.

We talked about how the NDP kept us on our toes which, combined with a hostile press, did much to ensure that we moved carefully both in legislation and in policy.

I found both Grace and me not only congratulatory towards Dave Barrett, but there was a sense of warmth because both of us know what the opposition was supposed to do and enough time had passed for the personal sharpness to have disappeared. We agreed, of course, that we didn’t like it a damned bit when they did their job but that it was very much in the public interest.

The duty to oppose

The classic definition comes from Lord Randolph Churchill who said “it is the duty of the Opposition to oppose.” This doesn’t mean that it opposes the trivial but on all major issues it opposes the main parts.

A good example is Site C, which is as controversial an issue as British Columbia has seen in decades and, in fact, it goes back to my time in government in the 70s. In those days, our government rejected Site C largely based upon the cost, the lack of information as to alternatives and the consistent history of BC Hydro over-estimating its energy needs. “The more things change …”

With the present announcement of approval, Mr. Horgan should be dealing, may I say harshly, with a number of aspects of the development.

The residents of the area have a right to have their views expressed in the legislature and in the public. It doesn’t matter if Mr. Horgan thinks that it’s just “too bad” that they will lose their farms and homes – he and his colleagues must take up their case.

Plenty of faults to find with Site C

There is the question of the loss of 30,000 acres of farmland. Mr. Horgan may think that’s a worthwhile sacrifice but there are a hell of a lot of British Columbians who feel this land is sacred and that, indeed, it was the NDP which first made the inviolability of agricultural land the law.

There’s the question of alternative forms of energy. Mr. Horgan should have BC Hydro on the griddle asking about sources of supplementary power such as wind, tide and in particular geothermal. BC, we’re told, has virtually unlimited geothermal resources, yet there is a paucity of information on whether or not that could be harnessed instead of Hydro, or at least, supplementary to hydroelectric power.

NDP’s questionable support for LNG

The entire question of LNG is a huge one which Mr. Horgan chooses to gloss over.

Do we want to produce LNG with the damage that extraction does to the atmosphere?

Do we want to have “fracking” destroy the land around, gobble up the local water supply and pollute the water table with the waste?

Do we want to have LNG plants and the dangers they present?

Do we want to be enablers to other parts of the world so that instead of moving away from fossil fuel’s, they can use ours to their hearts’ content?

Do we want to run the risk of transporting LNG, especially in tankers down our fragile coast?

Cost of Site C

As one who has seen these things develop in the past, I would simply guess, just based on a gut the feeling, that the final price for Site C is likely to be closer to 12 billion than eight. Of course I could be wrong, but I bet my gut feeling is shared by many British Columbians who’ve watched these matters over the years.

Can Mr. Horgan assure us, as Leader of the Opposition, that he’s thoroughly tested this cost and is satisfied with it?

Instead of opposing in the way of our longstanding parliamentary practice, Mr. Horgan has chosen to ally himself with the Liberals, making this a “non-partisan issue”. (Now, in fairness, Mr. Horgan has retained some reservations in the area of revenue and need, but has not been vocally opposed to it.)

Where does NDP stand on the environment?

This brings into question this government’s entire environmental policy and whether or not Mr. Horgan is generally satisfied with it. If not, where is he opposed?

You simply cannot, logically, oppose the Ebridge pipeline because it brings toxic substances through our land and down the coast while at the same time supporting Kinder Morgan doing precisely the same thing.

You can’t logically reject the increased use of fossil fuels and then support LNG which, according to most scientists, poses the same danger to the environment as coal or oil.

Hardly a government in waiting

To be opposed to governmental policy, as a proper Official Opposition, doesn’t mean being against every jot and tittle. Moreover, in the fullness of time, you may support some or all of it. What it means really is the old American expression, “I’m from Missouri” and using skepticism to bring from the government a full justification of its policy, point by point.

There is another very serious aspect of the Official Opposition which Mr. Horgan seems to have overlooked. The Official Opposition should present to the public a “government in waiting” with its own policies in place as well as spokespeople for these policies.

Can anybody look at the Opposition as it exists today and say “I see a future government there”? I sure as hell can’t. I don’t even see a future Premier!

John Horgan and the NDP have less than 2 1/2 years to present themselves to the public has something to be supported.

Unless they get started on this project now, it will never get done in time.


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.

31 thoughts on “Rafe: NDP Opposition should try some actual opposing

  1. I write as a long time supporter of the NDP, at least up til the miasma that seemed to begin with Dosanjh. Not that I would ever waste a vote on the the big bucks coalitions that have ruled B.C. under Socred/Liberal flags.

    While many have pointed out the main stream media’s clear prejudice against the NDP.
    and their failure to publish the alleged left’s side of things, it has occurred to me that Horgan, Dix et al have made little, if any effort to defend themselves through independent digital media sites such as this one. . And I’m left wondering why they haven’t taken advantage of this clear opportunity to rally the troops, take on the opposition and get their message out? Uncensored!!…For Free!!!

    Didn’t guys like Tommy Douglas and Barret stump around to farms, churches and town halls getting out the word and taking on all comers?

    Do they really have nothing to say? Are they afraid of the people they allege to be their constituency? Are they hamstrung by the political correctness that infests our alleged free speech?

    Or is it simply another sad case of envelopes full of cash or campaign donations, to a controlled opposition?

  2. I agree with astro. Go to that website and ask how the devil the NDP can square their clear statements of environmental policy including the Precautionary Principle with fracking and LNG?

  3. NDP supporter since I have been eligible to vote , over thirty years . My support started to wane as a result of Carole James , she was so weak against Campbell . So much so that it became obvious that she was content in 2nd place ( No responsibilities just pay cheques ) . After the abysmal Adrian Dix I gave up on this party , I am now convinced they do not want to lead this province , 2nd place pay cheques will do just fine . I am now in limbo politically in BC . The BC Liberals are atrocious money managers and horribly bad policy makers , there just killing the future of this province . So where does that leave people like me , the Greens i guess

    1. I agree, the NDP appear to be content with sitting on the side; although I can understand to a degree when you have the MSM jumping all over the NDP but ignoring the Liberals and their follies. Nevertheless, your absolutely right on. The NDP have let down the citizens of BC and deserve to go the way of the dinosaurs.

      Perhaps all politicians would make better fossils, rather then pretend they work on behalf of the citizens. Politics is a game of deception and illusion. The best service offered by the political elite is not to the average citizen but to the corporations and those of wealth. I’m not so sure the Greens have substance beyond their own opportunities. I do not hear them talking about the 4-5 people who go to work day-in day-out and die on the job, or are exposed to occupational disease. I do not hear them talking about the banks and the right of Canada to borrow its own money rather than the banks.

      I want to hear a politician call us citizens and not taxpayers, consumers or human resources. I want to hear a politician talk about things that have not been talked about but should be.

    1. Fine words but without meaning. Anyone can say anything!
      Backing fracking and LNG in our province, those things tell a whole different story.
      And what of those IPP run of the river pesky things.
      The NDP are politicians, great with words but lacking in understanding that their words should actually mean something.
      Do I as a person believe one word they write about sustainablebc, not a chance!
      Insulting link.

  4. The MSM and others should watch “Question Period” to see how the NDP attacks the BC Liberals. You will not get any information in the Main Stream Media, as they are writers for the BC Liberals. They have a very BC Liberal bias and an NDP anti-bias. They are not unbiased much like Mr. Mair. Please read the BC NDP policy report at their web site to find out what their policy is on various issues. And could you tell us what the BC Liberal policy is on any issue?

  5. What Bruce Hill says should make us all cringe. The question is a simple one: if Horgan and the NDP aren’t going to oppose and thus force the government to justify their policies, who the hell is?

    The Official Opposition has no role in forming and implementing policy because they have no power to. If they don’t oppose, in the traditional parliamentary meaning of that word, of what possible use are they?

    Merry Christmas


  6. I am wondering why we are paying the opposition either provincially or federally…..they don’t do anything. Harper and Christy just do what they want so why waste the money of other parties. We have a dictatorship.

  7. Well now, along time ago the had a Boston Tea party. They threw the tea to the harbour. I think we should have a Vitoria Tea party and throw the politicians in the Harbour and start over again.

    My 2 cents.

  8. Yes, the NDP needs to DO something.

    Waiting for the BC Liberals to lie, scandal, photo-op and debt them/ourselves into oblivion apparently isn’t a worthy plan, as too many of the voting public don’t care — if they don’t see a worthy alternative.

  9. I confronted Horgan on all these issues at an NDP meeting in New Hazelton. He supports the liberal position on LNG pretty much in its entirety. The previous LNG NDP critic, Robin Austin, even went so far as to criticize the liberals for being too aggressive with their proposed revenue share on LNG, then 7 %. Horgan supports fracking without reservation. He also challenged me with this ” How are the people in the lower mainland going to heat their houses unless we build these LNG plants”. I’m not kidding. It’s time to recall him, all of them. BC deserves a legitimate opposition. They need to develop a credible, science based position on energy, be for something thats defensible, but they can’t, they don’t know how, and don’t even see the need.

    1. There are those that seem to think that John Horgan is the greatest thing since sliced bread, the saviour of our province. I can’t for the life of me understand what would give them reason for this as I certainly can’t see one.
      Given what he said to you, if that is his understanding of things, we shouldn’t waste time on hoping he learns but write him off immediately and let them know immediately.

    2. If LNG plants are built in BC, and all our BC natural gas is exported, how will people in the lower mainland heat their houses?

      1. Hugh, if you really, honestly, truly believe that ALL the natural gas in the province would be sold and we voters would be left freezing in the dark…………..
        I have some swampland in Spuzzum for sale that you should have a look at…….

  10. The BC Liberals are watered-down right-wing Conservatives. The BC NDP are wannabe Liberals. There is no effective opposition party in this province. Governance is 100% pro-big business. Anything that deviates from that is touted as bad for the economy. Doesn’t anyone question the new proposed transit tax. Why would we need another tax? Well its because Translink is a black hole of unaccountable, wasteful, and uncontrolled spending. They need more money. Yet in the media it is framed as something positive the people can do to help out.

  11. The difference between Barrett and Horgan should be obvious to all;

    One is leadership, the other is followership.

    If there is any chance at success Horgan needs to learn the difference and quickly.

    This is the problem with the Jamesite crowd in the NDP brass.

    This is not some nicey nice school board meeting with coffee and canapés where everyone’s opinion is listened to and valued, and then everyone joins hands and sings Kumbaya……

  12. I think it will serve John Horgan well to watch/read some of the debate in the legislature when Dave Barrett was in opposition. Horgan, if you read this, please recognize that you have something to learn and don’t let your ego stop you from this. Do you want to form Government in 2017? Call Rafe up as soon as possible and get some tips from him. Thanks.

    1. But Horgan does look nifty in that orange tie……doesnt he?
      I mean. its all about image now right?

    2. The BC NDP has a formidable opponent in the MSM as they are in bed with the BC Liberals. They let them off Scot Free and never question them about their policies. It is very difficult for the NDP to challenge the BC Liberals on their policy when the Legislature is rarely in session. The BC Liberals find it embarrassing to be in the legislature answering questions that they don’t have the answer to, even though it is about the policies they are introducing. That is why the legislature sits so rarely. Of course, the MSM does not report this as they are in the pockets of the BC Liberals.

      1. Don’t forget the media propping up the Greens (who are very similar politically to the Liberals/Conservatives) to try and hurt the NDP.

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