Fixing the BC NDP, 2013 Version

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Can the BC NDP actually Think Forward?
Can the BC NDP actually Think Forward?

About 4 years ago, there was a movement within the BC NDP to make it more relevant. It was called Think Forward BC NDP. The party had just lost the election and there was some soul-searching about what went wrong and what was systemically broken in the party.

Well, it’s four years later. Deja vu. And almost four years ago I wrote a post with the same name. Sigh.

So here are some solutions this time around [strangely similar to last time]:

  1. First, read Matt Toner’s insightful piece in the today: Matt Toner: Let’s reboot the Old Democratic Party into something new for the 21st century.
  2. Then read the “principles” and “action” documents of Think Forward BC NDP, and ask yourself if the suggestions are as eerily relevant today as I think they are. Coincidentally, Matt Toner himself embodies #7 of the principles document.
  3. Then read the most relevant BC NDP document I’ve seen in decades, Sustainable BC, which itself could be a framework to rebuild the entire party. It’s short, direct, simple, elegant, realistic and inspiring, even.

And now that the party is actually asking for input about how it’s broken, the only question I’m hearing from party members is whether or not it will be a whitewash review or if, actually, everything is on the table. The cynicism about the sincerity, credibility and legitimacy of this review is profound. If everything is actually on the table, the 3 listed items above could be really useful about now. If not, who really cares?

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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,

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11 thoughts on “Fixing the BC NDP, 2013 Version”

  1. The Sustainable BC item may be short, direct, simple, elegant, realistic and inspiring but it ain’t gonna happen. The people who run BC and its economy would never agree.

  2. Frankly I’m at a “so what” point on whether to back “never happen” policies. The NDP are already losing. So, like, they back some real policies that are actually useful and the Powers That Be don’t like it. Big fat hairy deal, they gonna make the NDP lose harder?
    Might as well go down guns blazing instead of whimpering platitudes. And hey, pushing policies that really make a difference might actually motivate people to vote.

  3. OK, so I went and looked at Matt Toner’s article.
    Am I missing something? It didn’t appear to say anything. I mean, it said things are bad and the NDP is in trouble and has to change. So, sure, everyone’s saying that. But the suggestions about how, ironically given his statement that changing buzzwords is not enough, seemed to be mostly buzzwords.

    1. i hear ya, but i think these bits will be disturbing to many in the centre of the party:

      – many mainstream voters cannot bring themselves to vote for the B.C. NDP, no matter how much they share our values or how wholly they distrust the incumbents

      – we haven’t done much to blunt this line of attack. So the label has stuck

      – we must acknowledge that the need for reform goes much deeper

      – We need to challenge ourselves to pivot from this foundation into the 21st century and begin speaking to a new range of issues that resonate with a new generation of voters…using language and media to which they respond.

      – Rebooting is a process that is more than just deep and searing: ideally, it should be somewhat public.

      while much of this may be obvious to “outsiders”, people in echo chambers don’t always hear anything from outside. and transparent change, historically, has been vehemently forbidden. no airing dirty laundry.

      1. I was being polite about some of those parts. Frankly, a good deal of that sounds like “We haven’t been third way enough! We haven’t abandoned our principles enough! Only complete capitulation to neoliberalism, full-on Blairism, will stop the media from bashing us, so that is what we must do.”

        I find that deeply repugnant. It’s the opposite of the real problem. To the contrary, Dix’s campaign studiously avoided putting any serious policies in his platform, was absolutely scrupulous about the need to avoid Keynesian policies let alone populist or left-ish ones. His platform was amazingly tepid, and would do little good to anyone. A tiny bit of training here, a scholarship grant or two there, a minimal increase in health care spending the other place. It was an almost complete capitulation to becoming Liberals under another name.

        But “almost” isn’t enough, so the media was still against him. “Almost”, however, is also far too uninspiring to get much support from people being hosed by the status quo. Given two parties offering plenty of nothing, and one of them supposedly “risky” and “socialist”, it’s hard to choose the risky socialist one. The only way anyone will pick the risky one is if it seems like it will give real, concrete help.

        I’ve said elsewhere that if Mr. Dix was going to take the high road and run a positive campaign, foolish against an opponent with so much baggage, it would have helped if he had something to campaign positively about. Continuing to offer “business as usual, but without secret free enterprise sauce” as both Dix and for that matter Carole James did, is a losing proposition.

        1. perhaps it is my own internal filter, but i read the call to action in toner’s piece to be to re-align with progressive social values, not further drift to the mushy middle.

          but certainly, more tangible examples of what a new direction would look like would have made his piece somewhat less ambiguous.

    2. Should we be surprised that when the complaint about excessive use of cliches is itself filled with cliches? Maybe that’s simply the style Toner employs in his business world but calling for a “deep and searing reboot” leaves me none the wiser. Particularly when he announces there is no present need to change the party hierarchy. The fact is that more of the same will gain more of the same.

      Someone told me over a year ago that Horgan and Ralston were working on a comprehensive strategy that would demonstrate the NDP’s commitment to innovative enterprises and development of small and medium sized businesses. Wonder what happened there? The party’s large union component has never truly liked small business because they’re too hard to organize and that means less financial power for the trade unionists.

      I wonder if Matt Toner’s desire “to strip away stale elements” includes changing organized labour’s power over the NDP. It should, because in the future post-industrial economy of BC, being a party of trade unionism will guarantee permanent minority status.

      Voters will favour the party that claims to want more and better jobs for all. The Liberals understood that and their strategy, even though it was dishonest and cynical, worked.

      1. thanks for the link!

        cliches, yeah. i hear you. that’s why i included the think forward bc ndp link with some directions of where the party could go if it wanted to matter to people who need change.

        i get your read on the party hierarchy. i read that bit as not getting fixated on removing a figurehead when there are systemic problems through the whole organization that would remain if we simply switched leaders.

        innovative initiatives often die in that party, along with a website with party-passed policies. sustainable bc was mentioned zero times this spring when it was supposed to be THE policy lens for the future. sigh.

        much of what i get from the union perspective is that small business creates often better jobs than big business. and a vibrant small business with decent wages solidifies a tax base for public services and sound infrastructure improvement. so that benefits labour, and non-union workers alike.

  4. I did find the “Think Forward BC” stuff interesting. The principles document looks like it could work out to empty sloganeering, but the “Workplan document” contains some pretty good meat, some real suggestions for improving the democratic and policymaking process in the party.

    1. yeah, broad principle statements can sound sufficiently motherhood that they lack tangible accountability. but as benchmarks for evaluating an organization’s existence they can be a good checklist.

      we developed them in 2009 as a list of things that had empty check boxes.

  5. The NDP’s problem is that it did not get its message to the voters. Its policy was not reported by the MSM because they do not report things unless they are told about them. The NDP must bring all its policies forward, esp. Sustainable BC. MSM may report them and it may not. We must remember that the BC NDP is not in bed with the MSM the way the BC Liberals are so their policies may not be reported. This happened in the last several elections in BC, no reporting of the NDP policies.

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