There is increasing pressure on NDP leader Adrian Dix to provide some clear indications of what kind of policies he would implement should he become premier.
Not a day goes by that someone doesn't demand that the media question Dix and his party about their plans for government. Much of this pressure stems from suspicions in many quarters - particularly the business community - that Dix and the NDP have some sort of secret agenda they're hiding until after the election.
Actually, it's rare for an Opposition party to present the policy platform this far ahead of an actual election campaign, which doesn't begin until next spring. But the series of polls that show the NDP will take power unless there's a huge shift in public opinion accounts for the pressure to produce that sooner than much later.
However, while the actual platform hasn't been made public, it is possible to put together enough information from statements from Dix and other members of his caucus to get a feel for what may lie ahead if they win the election.
Most of the information shows more about what Dix and the NDP would "not do," rather than what new things they may embrace. This is perhaps an indication that an NDP government would be nowhere near the kind of "activist" government previous NDP administrations have been.
History shows the NDP has formed impatient governments in this province. The Barrett administration in the 1970s knew it was unlikely to win re-election, so tried to do as much as possible in as little time as possible.
The party had to wait almost 16 years before gaining power again. Once more, the NDP governments of Mike Harcourt and his successors brought in a blizzard of legislation, including new taxes and laws.
Come the next election, the party will have been out of power for a long stretch once more - almost 12 years. And so far, Dix and his colleagues are providing evidence they will not repeat the same ambition and impatience of their predecessors.
For example, Dix has ruled out any personal income tax increases - other than, perhaps, people earning more than $150,000 annually (a threshold that may actually kick in at the $200,000 level).
He's promised two specific business taxes - an increase in corporate taxes to 12 per cent (the level the B.C. Liberals had it
in 2008) and a tax on financial institutions. He has ruled out a corporation capital tax.
Of course, there's no convincing some people that Dix and the NDP have some sort of secret plan to raise taxes in other areas.
But if the HST debacle taught us anything, it's that it would be political suicide for a party to spring a major tax surprise on the public without telling it about it before an election.
When it comes to labour laws - always a sensitive subject with the business community - Dix has acknowledged the secret ballot in union certification votes will likely be done away with. Most of the changes coming on this front will deal with employment standards and apprenticeship training.
But there is no indication the bulk of the province's labour code will be altered in any meaningful way.
What else? Well, Dix has ruled out increases to stumpage fees for forest companies anytime soon. He's said no to reduced funding for independent schools. He's committed to holding an inquiry into the sale of B.C. Rail - but a narrowly defined one with strict spending controls.
The environment file will be a tricky one to navigate. Dix has ruled out placing a moratorium on fracking, and instead has said he will opt for a scientific review of the controversial practice (which involves injecting massive amounts of water into the ground to free up natural gas deposits).
And he has yet to take a position on the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which is facing mounting opposition. The NDP already adamantly opposes the Enbridge pipeline and presumably has to take care not to be opposed to all industrial development, so its opposition to the Kinder Morgan project is not guaranteed.
On the spending side, about the only proposals would see the NDP increase funding for skills training in post-secondary institutions, as well as student financial aid.
As I said, the actual NDP platform will be released next spring, after the B.C. Liberals release the next budget.
But all indications so far point to people being more surprised by what's not in it, rather than what actually is.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global B.C. Email him at Keith.Baldrey@ globalnews.ca.
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