For the cynics who bailed on voting in the last provincial election because: “Ah, it doesn’t matter who is in the government. It’s all baloney,” the NDP has made it quite clear – it does matter. It matters a lot.
Monday’s budget is clearly a 180-degree turn from the previous Liberal government. Despite former Premier Christy Clark’s last-minute futile effort to save her political skin by stealing the NDP platform, it is very plainly a completely different government viewpoint. In fact, it is a completely different viewpoint on life.
Where the Liberals left those on social assistance struggling for 10 years with no increases, the NDP is ensuring that disability and income recipients will be able to earn an extra $200 a month before the province claws back any money from social assistance. It will also increase welfare and disability rates.
Where the Liberals did not place a priority on helping the homeless, the NDP is spending $291 million over two years to build 2,000 new modular housing units for the homeless across the province and $170 million to provide 24/7 staffing and support services. (As an aside, it will be interesting to see if Burnaby is part of this plan.)
And with Darryl Plecas jumping ship from the Liberals and becoming Speaker, the NDP will likely be able to wait until 2021 to hold an election.
That gives them plenty of time to turn the ship around and prove to the voters of B.C. that one doesn’t have to make a choice between treating the poor fairly and enriching businesses. Hopefully, a good government can balance both interests without punishing either.
But will they do that? If we have learned one thing from politics, it’s that ideologically based parties have a hard time steering towards a centre position.
Both the Liberals and the NDP in the past have taken an election win to mean that they can upend the system and recreate it entirely in their own vision.
But we are comforted this time around that the NDP is proceeding cautiously. They are phasing in eliminating the MSP and are treading carefully on how they manage to subsidize child care. It will be interesting to see how they do all this in the February 2018 budget.