BC NDP Convention Minus 4 Days: Why We Lost the Election


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We didn’t lose the election. The Liberals didn’t win it either.

We failed to win it.

There are a great many explanations for why we failed to win, but I have spent a great deal of time since about 8:30pm on Tuesday, May 12, 2009 talking to dozens of people about what is systemically wrong with the BC NDP so we can think about moving forward. I was angry too, but quickly I stopped the urge to participate in a witch hunt. We didn’t win an election we should have. That was done. It was time to figure out what needs fixing…future focussed.

Here is a short list of many of the most popular explanations for why we aren’t in government right now, in no particular order. Tomorrow I’ll explore how these issues connect to party transformation and why I’m running for BC NDP Vice-President.

  1. Carole James – bad leader, woman, not inspiring, lacks vision or passion, been around too long
  2. Negative Campaign – smearing Cambell, Maui, COPE 378’s ads, using the Liberals’ tactics of getting elected when they largely point out how much the NDP sucks, relying on the Liberals’ horrible policies to allow the party to phone in a campaign
  3. The Platform – unfocused, not clearly promoted as positive alternatives, not communicated to members or the public
  4. The Slogan – too many slogans, unclear slogans, slogan-based campaign
  5. Party Disorganization – despite knowing when the election was to happen not having enough volunteers, money, key staff when required
  6. Policy Reversals – Axe the Tax and supporting the Port Mann Bridge rebuild and Gateway which violated explicit party policy
  7. Rogue Leadership – lack of accessibility and accountability through different elements of the party
  8. Fear – throwing under the bus anything necessary to avoid/appease criticism
  9. Not Developing Constituencies – lack of time, money, and resources to develop robust activists, fundraisers, and networks with progressive groups eager to mobilize members and supporters to stop the Liberals

OK, so #9 is a bit of a plant. That’s what Think Forward BC NDP speaks to and it’s a bit of a hint at what tomorrow’s piece will be all about. But it’s not a coincidence. In figuring out what Vancouver-Kensington wants to do for the next 3.5 years, we looked at these very areas that we need to develop further.

I believe the whole party can benefit from addressing the systemic weaknesses in the party. That’s why I’m running for one of the 6 Vice-President positions.

Tomorrow I’ll explore each of the above areas in the context of transforming the party into the electoral wing of a progressive social movement.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website, dgiVista.org.

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18 thoughts on “BC NDP Convention Minus 4 Days: Why We Lost the Election”

  1. All this navel gazing is a waste of time. The BC NDP needs a strong 3rd party to defeat the Liberal coalition, like the BC Conservatives.

    It is impossible for us to win a 2 way race.

  2. I sure have heard the phrase “navel gazing” a lot in the last 6 months.

    The inference I get from it is that there is no substantial internal, systemic improvement the party needs to embark on…that people who look towards internal reform are blind to the outside world and bringing everyone down.

    Whether or not that is your view, Quimby, I don’t accept that view. No party is perfect and there are lots of problems I’ve been hearing about, with so many people I’ve talked to quitting, stopping their donations or continuing to feel justified in not joining.

    At first, whenever I hear someone say “navel gazing” I immediately tentatively assume they’re out of touch with the grassroots of the party. Then I look for evidence that they have any sense of what members, activists and supporters are feeling. Often I get nothing encouraging, so their credibility plummets even further.

    So I’m very hopeful that we can turn this party into something vibrant and exciting. Otherwise I wouldn’t run for Vice-President and I’d quit the party.

    And if, Quimby, you can show you have some sense of the malaise in the party membership, please share it because it will improve your credibility.

    That said, I also hope for a split right vote. But how pathetic would this party be if it could never win on its own merits. I happen to believe it can.

  3. But Quimby’s comment does bring up the issue of how difficult it is in a two-party system (sorry, Greens) to win and consolidate power. The Liberals have managed to do it by scaring the middle ground into believing the BC NDP will ruin the economy, again (grrrrrr). I’m in a bit of a hurry, so I can’t really get into it, but it brings up the issue of the need to build a bigger coalition than we currently work with.

  4. You don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle!

    You want to sell the steak. It’s not going to work.

    The NDP biggest problem has been adjusting to modern politics. We need to sell , what we will do for the voter and why that is better. Not sell the policy.

    On economics our line should be, ” The BC NDP will ensure a steady growing economy for BC, not Yo-Yo economics.”

    Constant steady growth makes your life easier.
    And we can point to our record to show zero negative growth years and an average greater then the current government.

    As for membership malaise, meh!

  5. Wow. Superficiality over substance and policy. I can’t go for that.

    Constant, steady growth [in long run cycles] of the last 150 years has made unregulated, free-market capitalism a cancer on humanity and put us on the brink of climate breakdown. The cost of our lives being easier will be borne by the following generations. That is unacceptable.

    Steady-state, sustainable economics is the tonic for the obsession with growth. See http://www.steadystate.org/

    No membership malaise, eh? That pretty much establishes your credibility for me.

  6. You really like to toss on around the word credibility. When at the same time, your Kumbaya politics will lead to the complete decimation of the party, electorally. You need to get into government to effect change. Your strategy will ensure that never happens.

    Voters don’t vote with logic and reason. They vote on emotion and gut instinct. If you want to form government, you have appeal to those facets.

    You may not like it, but it wins elections.

  7. Which elections did it win? 2005? 2009?

    If we need to split the right to win, that means we can’t really win when that doesn’t happen, like in 2005 and 2009.

    So should the party even run candidates in years when the right isn’t split?

    Regarding the party not being hampered by pesky things like policy and such, here’s the kind of party you are describing:

    – A party exists.
    – It has policies.
    – It attracts members, cash and candidates.
    – It wants to improvise without the pesky members holding the leadership or politicians to any political philosophy.
    – They either form government or not.
    – The members leave the party because it no longer reflects their values and on any given day, it could believe whatever is expedient/strategically attractive.
    – The party is over.

    Does this accurately characterize how you see the BC NDP working?

  8. Wow, I see you want to turn the NDP into the left wing version of the CHP.

    I say leave the dogmas and moral absolutes to the crazies.

  9. Did you really expect to win 2005?

    By my definition CJ did an outstanding job taking the party out of oblivion.

    As for 2009, approx 6,000 votes in 8 ridings was the difference. Knowing the demographic make up of these swing ridings would tell any political analyst, that left wing “special interest” politics won’t give us the necessary gains.

    The best strategy is give a wink and a nod to the BC Conservatives. We only need them at 10% to win. This could be accomplished by stating publicly; That although we don’t agree with them. We respect that fact, they are staying true to their beliefs.

    I am afraid your strategy as a political wing for social movements would be perceived as pandering to special interests.

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