Clash of visions in political spring

Mike Harcourt endorsed Mike Farnworth as the NDP leader who could reach beyond the party's base. Adrian Dix mocked those who would 'sidle up to the Liberal government

VANCOUVER – My weekend in the big city didn’t lack for variety. It started with Stephen Harper’s defence of business tax cuts, and ended with the election of Adrian Dix as B.C. NDP leader on a Marxism Lite program of reversing this world-wide trend and making the corporations pay.

I caught up with Harper on a tour through swing ridings in Vancouver, including Vancouver South where now-Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh hung on by 20 votes in the last of our semi-annual federal elections.

Harper hit B.C. pleading for a majority to stop this merry-go-round of elections and stabilize the country as a player on the global business scene.

I was granted a 10-minute interview, and one of my questions was about the multi-year program of business tax cuts being completed by both the federal and B.C. governments.

I asked Harper if B.C.’s unemployment and investment performance suggests not all of the savings are being reinvested. That’s because taxes are only one factor, our economist Prime Minister replied. Business confidence has to be there, and that’s why stable, multi-year programs are needed for business plans.

Ottawa has implemented its four-year reduction plan, and Harper noted that B.C. isn’t alone in following suit. Most provinces have cut business taxes, including Liberal and NDP provincial governments, and now their federal counterparts campaign on promises to roll them back.

“And nobody’s doing it,” Harper said. “This is what’s ironic. You look around the world. Ireland’s bankrupt, and it’s not raising its business tax rates. The United States has a deficit three times ours, and President Obama, who’s not on my side of the political spectrum, says they need to lower their tax rates.”

But let’s not let federal or provincial politicians blow smoke that it’s their policies alone that have created 500,000 jobs across the country in two years, or made Canada’s currency soar past the U.S. dollar. Canada’s dollar is now seen as a stable petro-currency in an unstable world, and it’s international lumber markets that have led to double-digit unemployment in many B.C. towns.

Natural gas, and foreign technology and investment in it, have been a key part of B.C.’s recovery. And in general we’re starting to enjoy the effects of a commodity boom.

Then came the NDP leadership vote on Sunday. Here is a party that already has tilted itself toward the urban areas with a one member-one vote system. And it just rejected Mike Farnworth, its most popular candidate and the one with the best effort to emphasize rural and resource development.

Newly anointed NDP leader Adrian Dix is going to raise taxes on banks and those evil corporations, and use the money to subsidize post-secondary education for anyone who wants it.

Meanwhile the reality for post-secondary students is that business programs are tough to get into, because students are lining up to pay the supposedly onerous tuition fees.

Dix’s rhetoric about state-imposed wealth redistribution seems not so much alarming as quaint. It’s his federal counterpart Jack Layton who blithely promises to double a federal pension program, just as Canada’s population approaches the tipping point in 2015, where there will be more seniors than children for the first time in our history.

Where Dix is alarming is when he talks about offering a positive alternative to the B.C. Liberals on the economy, the environment and education.

His convention win was presided over by a former president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. The NDP’s environment policy is in disarray. And on the economy, he is diametrically opposed to the global consensus.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

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