EDITORIAL: Free enterprise not the problem

Considering the results in a pair of B.C. byelections last month, are the province's voters drifting toward toward the left? 1

Is the B.C. electorate truly drifting to the left?

The results of two byelections last month might seem to indicate a rise in support for the NDP. It’s just as likely to be a symptom of resistance to the right-of-centre options offered in the province today.

It’s no secret the public is disenchanted with the BC Liberal brand. And it’s no secret to BC Liberals – where once the party name alone was deemed a sufficient selling point, they have been falling over themselves to remind us that they are, in fact, “a free-enterprise coalition.”

This weekend’s departure of party executive director Chad Peterson and director of communications Jehnifer Benoit to pursue opportunities in the private sector – no matter how vociferous their parting good wishes – can only be viewed by a jaundiced public as further symptoms of the BC Liberals’ slide.

While John Cummins’ BC Conservatives gained more points than either the Liberals or the NDP in Chilliwack and Port Moody-Coquitlam, there are many who suspect the more extreme right-wing elements of the party, just as there are those who fear electing the NDP will signal a return to doctrinaire socialism.

Fact is, the B.C. electorate is angry – angry as much as anything else with a lack of leadership choices. At this point they are seeking only government targets, and in this regard, unfortunately, they have been provided with an elaborate menu of options, in spite of best efforts of PR consultants and media apologists to keep the lid on a rangeful of bubbling tureens.

Policy advisors should recognize that when the public blood boils, it’s not a time to expect calm or rational decision-making. Lecturing, or hectoring, the electorate will likely only raise the temperature in the kitchen.

It’s not just a B.C. problem. The ‘Occupy’ movement achieved traction internationally because of the unpunished excesses of a group of economic looters. Avarice – and corporate and governmental double-speak – has led to a climate of suspicion surrounding all free-enterprise capitalism, a climate that must be overcome by responsible leadership.

Many still recognize that soundly  based business success is crucial to the economy, the only sure source of jobs, a proper living wage, and the money to adequately fund much-needed social programs.

It is likely that many British Columbians still support free enterprise. It’s just free-for-all enterprise they have a problem with.