A lackluster, rather conservative campaign by the provincial New Democrats handed Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell a third consecutive majority government in the May 12 British Columbia election. The result was close to the one in 2005, except that voter turnout plunged from 62 per cent to only about 50 per cent this time.
The Liberals won 49 of the 85 seats in the B.C. Legislature, with 46 per cent of the votes cast. The NDP took 36 seats and 42 per cent support, and the Green Party won zero seats despite attracting eight per cent of the votes. In the second B.C. referendum on electoral reform, the complicated and undemocratic proposal for a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system was defeated by an overwhelming 61 per cent. Unfortunately, this may sideline the effort to win proportional representation for a long time to come.
Instead of fighting for socialist solutions to the economic crisis, the NDP, led by Carole James, posed as tough on crime and taxes, and took its distance from the labour movement in the west coast province. This cleared the path for Campbell’s right wing Liberals, an amalgam of staunchly conservative big business forces in B.C., to defend their cutbacks and their anti-labour, anti-aboriginal record – even their regressive, fake green, carbon tax.
Labour and the NDP converged visibly only on the demand for a $10/hour minimum wage, and that issue was soft-pedalled. The NDP opposed STV, and like the Liberals, advocated the electoral status quo. Campbell had a quiet, rather easy going time, in contrast to life on the usually volatile BC campaign trail, thanks to the NDP and labour tops who stifled militancy.
James led the BCNDP to a significant recovery from the 2001 election when it was reduced to only two seats, then winning 33 in 2005. But a decade of right wing drift, so clearly out of step with social needs in the current economic depression, took a serious toll on the NDP. The disastrous result, which weighs heavily on working people all across the country, underscores the need for a thorough re-examination of the course of the labour-based party. -Barry Weisleder