Home > BC New Democrat Convention 2009, BC New Democrats, British Columbia Politics > Which Way Should The BC New Democrats Go Ideologically?

Which Way Should The BC New Democrats Go Ideologically?

November 24, 2009

With the BC New Democrat Convention beginning in only 3 days, discussion has cropped up in regards to which direction, in an ideological sense, that the BC New Democrats should head towards.

There are two major arguments. One states that the BC New Democrats should orient itself to the centre-left and focus on policies and messages which try to convince new groups to vote for the party. The other states that the BC New Democrats should orient itself to the, let’s say, left-centre-left, and focus on policies and messages which appeal and energize the core New Democrat base.

To a degree the left-centre-left argument makes sense; after all, an application of game theory in politics states that the best electoral coalition to win under is the smallest one needed for victory, for the reason that if less groups are responsible for bringing your party victory, then less political favours (with less possible conflicts between them) are required to keep those groups happy. Furthermore, there are examples which show that energizing your base (while taking action to reduce the likeliness that people not within your base will vote) can work to win elections. The US Republicans in the early ’00’s are a good example. The Harper Conservatives in the late ’00’s are a less successful example.

However, I believe that the left-centre-left argument has one very big, gaping flaw: the BC New Democrat base is not a big enough electoral coalition to win an election in BC, unless the opposing right-wing electoral coalition is featured fractured.

Therefore, we are left with the centre-left argument: that the BC New Democrats need to work on convincing new groups to vote for the party. That means that the party must work on messages and policies that attract the swing voter. And let’s be honest here: considering that the large fault line in BC politics is the so-called “socialism versus free enterprise” split, that means making inroads into BC’s business community. That means establishing a perception of the New Democrats as sound fiscal managers, because heck, the BC Liberals certainly aren’t.

Some supporters of the left-centre-left argument might respond to this by saying: “BC Business Groups aren’t going to support the BC New Democrats because they will always get a better deal from the BC Liberals.” But I’m not sure if getting the support of business groups is the reason why the BC New Democrats should make inroads into the business community. No, the big 3 reasons why the BC New Democrat should be making inroads is:

  1. To attract swing voters that watch the business community, but aren’t as tied up in the leadership of business groups;
  2. To reduce the fear of a BC New Democrat government and therefore reduce the actions taken to prevent it; and
  3. To recruit candidates with perceived business and economic credentials.

I believe for the period ahead of us, the BC New Democrats should be going in a ideological direction that will enable us to gather the electoral coalition needed to win and retain control of BC’s government. Once that is done, then the incremental work of shifting the both the BC New Democrats electoral coalition and the people of BC to the left can begin.

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  1. November 24, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Given we’re talking about the province of BC, the NDP, relative to the national political landscape, already occupies the centre or the traditional federal Liberal position, except for the occasional opportunistic nod to the perceived left. E.g., their Axe-the-(carbon)Tax and now the Axe-the-HST campaigns, are/were both misguided and obscure certain important truths.

    The BC Liberal Party is snug-as-a-bug with the current federal Conservatives. They, and to some extent even the BC NDP – depending on the issue du jour -, make the former Progressive Conservatives appear to have been the most progressive of the bunch.

    All of which is to say that ANY shift by the BC NDP to the left of centre would be an improvement. 😉

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