The BC NDP is on a roll. The party is comfortably ahead of the BC Liberals in the polls, and it was in a celebratory mood as it marked its 50th anniversary over the weekend.
Unlike many parties where a former leader has quit as a result of backroom squabbles, the decision a year ago of former leader Carole James to quit opened the door to revitalization of the party.
James has remained part of the provincial NDP team and plans to run in the next election. Her positive response to a difficult situation showed that the party has matured a great deal, and this has been a boon to the party at a time when the Liberals have major challenges.
New party leader Adrian Dix has been firmly in command of the party since taking over in April, and as much as is possible within any caucus, the party appears to be united and focused on winning the next election, which is a very real possibility.
The NDP have had help, of course. The emergence of the BC Conservatives under a seasoned political pro, John Cummins, has drained support from the Liberals and made it quite likely that the NDP will benefit in the next election. People who won’t vote NDP but are fed up with the Liberals now have an alternative.
With the very real possibility of an NDP government, the party will have to start answering some questions. While a detailed party platform won’t be released any time soon, it needs to come out long before the next election campaign, which will begin in April, 2013. B.C. residents need to know where the party stands on a wide variety of issues, from job creation to taxes.
One of the most important issues that the NDP must take a stance on is public sector union contracts. The party is deeply connected to organized labour, which is increasingly dominated by public sector unions.
These unions and their members have it pretty good. Most enjoy wages above the private sector level. They have indexed, taxpayer-supported defined benefit pensions, and the likelihood of layoff due to economic conditions is low.
They need to accept their privileged position and not ask for wage or benefit increases until the economy improves. Many taxpayers are hurting and are unable to absorb higher costs.
The NDP must signal its ability to be a government free of union domination.