Friday, March 19, 2010
NDP: Please don't leave us with no one who gives a damn
With all due respect to a woman who I personally like, there’s a burning question I need to get off my chest: Where the heck are Carole James and the NDP?
I get that a party has to change with the times. The New Democrats know that if they’re to stand a chance of getting elected in 2013, they’ll need to convince the electorate they care as much about the economy as the Liberals do.
But the party’s attempts to morph into Liberal lite have left no one in the legislature to champion the cause of human beings - not just as units of production, but as regular people trying to get through their lives.
It ought to be pretty obvious to us that we all need to care about such things if we’re genuinely going to build B.C.’s economy. The essence of a healthy economy is a skilled, healthy populace who can provide all the brains, brawn and investment capital needed to ensure prosperity long into the future.
Virtually all of us will find ourselves outside the economic machine at some point in our lives, for any of a thousand different reasons. Where is the voice in the legislature for that group, now that so much of the messaging from both sides of the House excludes them?
People get sick. Their children are born with disabilities. A workplace accident changes their lives forever. Their parents get old. They struggle to find decent, affordable daycare. A loved one develops a mental illness, or an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Such are the events of life for all of us. Nobody escapes.
Yet in our legislature right now, we have one political party that has been busy eroding social supports and preventive services for almost 10 years now, and another that appears to have checked out of the debate entirely. Yikes.
Of course, a 35-member Opposition can’t possibly stay on top of everything the government is doing. MLAs in Opposition also seem to feel a greater duty of care to their constituents than do those in power, which explains the highly local nature of many of the 18 press releases the NDP has issued since the budget came down March 2.
The party has clearly looked into the crystal ball and decided it needs a broader base of support in B.C., which I guess is why it has made the Harmonized Sales Tax its biggest issue of late.
But when the Liberals cut almost $12.4 million out of services to non-aboriginal B.C. children and families and the story is gone from the media in the blink of an eye - well, that’s a pretty big sign that something’s up with the NDP. There was a time when the New Democrats could have whipped up a media frenzy for weeks over a development like that.
When a whole heap of trouble comes raining down on the province’s poor and the only thing that emerges from the NDP is a mediocre press release repeating the government’s own confusing information on the grim list of cuts to basic health care and birth control, you just have to know that the old fire in the belly that was once a party hallmark has faded to a dim flicker.
Is it because the NDP just don’t want to get into these issues anymore? Or are they having trouble engaging the media, and thus have no vehicle for getting their howls of indignation heard?
I don’t know, but I sure hope they figure it out. I don’t adhere to a particular political ideology or voting pattern, but it’s a very sad day when the only party that has ever talked in a meaningful way about caring for people appears to be losing interest in the subject.
"For the NDP to be successful, it needs to have stronger relations with all sectors of the business community," Moe Sihota told Province columnist Mike Smyth last fall, not long before Sihota’s election as the new president of the B.C. New Democratic Party.
"People need to see that the party is attentive to both business and social concerns. You need to reach out so that people feel comfortable."
True enough, Moe. But you can’t have forgotten your own time in Opposition in the 1980s, when every day was another opportunity to stick it to the Socreds over one poorly considered cut and deception after another. Remember how good it felt to hold the government accountable?
Please get back at it, New Democrats. Your new corporate look is scaring me.