In the weeks and months to come, I believe New Democrats are going to wish they had listened to Mike Harcourt.
More than a week ago the former premier warned NDP voters: “You go left, you get left out. It’s not complicated.”
Of course, he was talking about Adrian Dix, the hardliner who stole the NDP leadership from moderate Mike Farnworth on the weekend.
Harcourt, a true political gentleman, had endorsed Farnworth saying: “You have to appeal to your strong supporters and the passion they feel as social democrats, plus a broad range of British Columbians who feel it’s time for a change of government.”
The Dix forces countered that Farnworth was just “Carole James in a suit,” a disparaging reference to the party’s ousted lackluster leader.
Harcourt thought, and most New Democrats seemed to agree, that the party needed to establish a broader base of appeal to capture disenchanted voters closer to the centre of the political spectrum.
In fact, polling just before the leadership vote supported this wisdom. Amongst NDP voters, Farnworth had a net impression (positive score minus negative) of +38. Dix was a distant second with +15.
The poll found that in a general election contest between Farnworth and Premier Christy Clark, 32 per cent would support Farnworth and 38 per cent would support Clark, a competitive six point gap. However, the poll indicated the Clark/Dix gap was 19 points. It seemed to be glaringly obvious to all NDPers who can read that Premier Clark, the populist, would wipe the floor with Dix.
So, how did this guy squeak to victory with 52 per cent support at the party convention? Dix supporters would tell you they wanted an agent of change who will build the party’s left-wing base of community activists, labour unions and working families before venturing toward “the mushy middle.”
In fact, Dix was elected because of mass signups of Indo-Canadians and trade union endorsements. Moderate NDPers had very little to do with his poll-defying victory.
You may recall that back in January the Dix campaign stuffed party headquarters with up to 5,000 last minute bulk memberships from the Indo-Canadian community. CTV even caught Vancouver-Kensington MLA Mable Elmore stapling $10 bills to NDP membership forms after the deadline. Party boss Jan O’Brien ruled that the bulk memberships and the duffle bag of cash were OK. Without this ethnic support, Dix’s chances of becoming leader were slim.
As well, Dix enjoyed numerous endorsements from the trade union movement including the Operating Engineers, the B.C. Ferry Workers, the Labourers, Unite Here Local 40, the Canadian Office and Professional Employees, the Paperworkers Union, the B.C. and Yukon Building Trades Council and the Steelworkers. Farnworth, by comparison, did not show a single trade union endorsement on his campaign website.
So, rather than pick a leader dedicated to moderation and consensus, the party is now lined up behind a disciple of former premier Glen Clark who thrives on class warfare.
Dix, if he ever managed to become premier, would undertake the redistribution of B.C.’s wealth at the expense of bankers and business leaders. It’s a sure fire formula for business dampening conflict that will erode our fragile economic confidence.
Now, why would the party vote for that when it actually had a chance of winning the next election? M
Read The Kieran Report at briankieran.com.