Why can’t the NDP win elections anymore?
That is a question I am sure is being asked at the highest levels of the party, both federally and provincially.
I have a few ideas.
Here in B.C., the NDP have positioned themselves as the “just say no” party.
They campaigned against any pipeline development, they are against the Site C dam project and they are highly critical of the LNG industry.
The latest position is their advocacy of a $15 per hour minimum wage.
A few tweaks to how they present themselves might help.
For example, one of Adrian Dix’s biggest mistakes in the last provincial election was not having a properly costed platform.
He spent most of his election campaign giving spending announcements.
Not once did he explain how he intended to pay or budget for these promises.
Then he flip-flopped on the Kinder Morgan pipeline. That made voters very nervous and that was the ball game.
So what can future NDP candidates learn from this?
Well, for starters, stop campaigning only to the NDP base.
The base is already sold.
Like the old cliche, they are preaching to the choir.
Step two would be to acknowledge that B.C. is and always will be, a resource-based economy.
That means we will always be cutting down trees, mining for minerals and trying to access natural gas.
The people that work in those industries pay their taxes, raise families and support their communities.
They also vote, so when you attack their livelihood, you are unlikely to get an X next to your name.
Before you burn me in effigy, that doesn’t mean you can’t defend the environment.
Of course we have to protect what makes British Columbia beautiful.
Just don’t make rash judgements or statements until you have weighed the benefits to the economy.
Step three is to realize that trade unions and public sector unions don’t drive the economic bus anymore. Small business does.
Small business owners go to work everyday and in most communities form some of the biggest employers.
The worst thing you can do to a small business owner is make them uncertain about their costs. Specifically wage cost.
Does the minimum wage need to go up? Of course it does.
Can it go from $10.45 to $15 in one step?
Are you crazy? That’s over a 43 per cent increase!
Would you be personally willing to pay that increase for goods and services in one lump sum?
Once again, before you light the match, that doesn’t mean that a living wage isn’t important. It really is and needs to be addressed.
However, it is equally important to give small business owners cost certainty and time to adjust their business to accommodate changes.
Bottom line here is that I think it is possible to be a fiscally conservative person, with a social conscience.
If the NDP want to win votes from anyone outside of their base, they are going to need to start showing that they care about the economy and the budget just as much as they care about social and environmental issues.
Rob Murphy is the sales manager at the Summerland Review.