Sometime early last week (i.e., in mid-October 2012), Globe and Mail reporter Marina Jimenez interviewed NDP leader Adrian Dix while he was in Toronto talking to bankers and presumably other business types.
Prior to that, in mid-September, Mr. Dix “delivered “his first speech ever to the business crowd at the Vancouver Board of Trade….” (Dix not preaching to converted at board of trade speech, By Dene Moore, The Canadian Press, September 19, 2012).
Quite obviously, the message Adrian Dix is hoping to convey to the public, and to the business community, is a reassuring message of calm surrounding the prospect of an NDP government in BC.
If I was to sum up what Adrian Dix appears to be placing in the shop window, on top of various reassurances that his NDP government would be different from the NDP government of the 1990s (and supposedly that of mid 1970s), I would probably have to sum it up as oxymoronic “fiscally responsible socialism.”
That’s why, as I was reading through various articles, and watching the Globe’s video interview with Adrian Dix, I could not help but feel that I was experiencing (as they say) “déjà vu all over again.”
Didn’t the NDP’s Mike Harcourt do, and say, very much the same thing back in 1991 just before he became premier?
Well, yes, in fact, he did.
Mike Harcourt actively made the rounds of various business groups and chambers of commerce in 1991 offering reassuring words about the prospect of a Mike Harcourt NDP government.
As author Daniel Gawthrop notes in his 1996 book, High Wire Act — Power, Pragmatism, and the Harcourt Legacy:
“To appease the [NDP] party’s critics in the business community [in 1991], Harcourt, along with Colin Gabelmann, Glen Clark, and other caucus members, took their message of fiscally responsible socialism to board of trade meetings, chambers of commerce and any other business organization that would hear them.”
Likewise, as an April 27, 1991 article in the Vancouver Sun about Harcourt’s election planning states:
“An overriding concern of the election planning team has been how to convince voters that this New Democratic Party is different from the one that governed British Columbia from 1972 to 1975.
To dispel business concerns, Harcourt and other key caucus members have been dispatched to board of trade meetings, chambers of commerce and what ever group will hear them.”
So, what did Mike Harcourt himself have to say about the new and improved version of the NDP that he was putting in the shop window back in 1991?
As quoted in the same April 27, 1991 Vancouver Sun article, Harcourt said:
“We’re a 1990s New Democratic Party focused on the realities of a global economy and trade, deficits and tax, tax, tax. The options that were open for previous governments to choose from just aren’t there any more. There is more discipline needed now and I think we are more sensitive to the mainstream.”
Ah, “discipline” and sensitivity to “the mainstream.” This all sounds so familiar… and moderate.
Well, we all know how “fiscally responsible socialism” ultimately turned out for BC, and within just a few short years after Mike Harcourt uttered these words of reassurance in 1991.
Needless to say, we don’t have to rehash what happened in the 1990s. That’s well-trodden ground, and we all know the story well. So, back to Adrian Dix and the present…
In the Globe and Mail’s video interview last week, Marina Jimenez asked Dix how he was going to reconcile the restrained, pragmatic economic vision he was putting forward to bankers and business people while still motivating his NDP base and the great expectations they have around “redistribution policies.”
That’s a question, call it a conundrum even, that many of us would like to see answered. In a socialist context, “redistribution” usually means high taxation coupled with big government and artificially creating employment by growing the public sector as opposed to the private sector.
In response to Jimenez’s question, Adrian Dix basically said that he is going to tell his NDP base “that there’s some things that we profoundly support and want to see happen but won’t be able to do right away.”
Okay, maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help wondering how Adrian’s message of restraint is going to go over with people like Jim Sinclair of the BC Federation of Labour, Susan Lambert of the BCTF, and the host of labour union bosses who are quickly filling the NDP’s candidate roster.
I strongly suspect that a moderate pre-election Adrian Dix could very well find himself being fired as premier by the BC Federation of Labour, as Mike Harcourt was, if he was to govern as advertised in a responsible and moderate manner.
To my mind, a post-election Adrian Dix would inevitably have to bend to the will and expectations of the NDP and its labour base around “redistribution policies.” Either that or Jim Sinclair will show him the door.
What Adrian Dix may ultimately discover — as Mike Harcourt discovered — is that he is nothing more than a piece of politically moderate bait placed in the shop window to draw voters inside the NDP shop to make the sale (see “bait-and-switch”).
I can’t possibly be the only person in this province who sees the symmetry between Mike Harcourt in 1991 and Adrian Dix in 2012. Surely others must have noticed this too, even though it seems to have completely escaped the notice of the media.
Many thoughts certainly spring to mind in relation to the symmetry and parallels noted above. But at this point the expression “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” should be playing loud and clear in the minds of critically minded BC voters regardless of the reassurances being spoken by Mr. Dix.
If not, we’re likely doomed to repeat a bit a sad BC history having not learned an important lesson from the past.