The NDP’s great leap backward

Tom Fletcher discusses the NDP and the Leap Manifesto, a document that calls for a radical restructuring of the economy.

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan distanced himself as best as he could from the federal party’s decision to dump moderate leader Thomas Mulcair and spend the next couple of years debating the far-left crackpottery known as the Leap Manifesto.

“It’s a document that I don’t embrace personally,” Horgan told reporters at the legislature. “I believe there are elements in the document that make sense, and there are elements that make no sense in British Columbia.

“So we won’t be proceeding under any Leap Manifesto in the next 12 months under my leadership.”

Horgan didn’t specify what part of the manifesto he likes. Presumably it’s not the part about tearing up Canada’s free trade agreements, converting food production to local agrarian collectives or unilaterally dismantling our energy industry and replacing it with community-owned windmills and solar panels.

It can’t be the demand to stop all pipelines, because while the B.C. NDP doesn’t like oil, Horgan is in favour of natural gas exports to Asia. In general, that is. He’s now on record with the federal regulator that he’s against the Petronas-led Pacific Northwest LNG project with a terminal at Prince Rupert.

The Leap Manifesto is the brainchild of anti-capitalist Toronto author Naomi Klein, with support from Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. Its campus-radical cluelessness is perhaps best summed up by the format, which consists of 15 “demands.”

Here’s demand number six: “We want high-speed rail powered by just renewables and affordable public transit to unite every community in this country in place of more cars, pipelines and exploding trains that endanger and divide us.”

This demand effectively declares all of rural Canada irrelevant. By even considering it, the NDP risks doing the same.

Here’s number 11: “We must expand those sectors that are already low-carbon: caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public interest media.”

And how will “we” pay all these state-funded ballerinas and bloggers? Financial transaction taxes, increased resource royalties (until resource industries are killed off), a “progressive” carbon tax, and that old standby from the Occupy tent, higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

It’s hard to tell now, but the NDP was created to give political power to industrial workers. Horgan was asked if the party’s effort to win back industrial workers could be hampered by this potential lurch to the urban left.

“The difference between my hardhat and the premier’s hardhat is that my hardhat has union labels on it, and hers doesn’t,” Horgan replied.

As this statement was being made, the B.C. and Yukon Building Trades Council was meeting in Victoria. Its president, Tom Sigurdson, would use that event to host B.C. Liberal cabinet ministers and blast Horgan for opposing Pacific Northwest LNG.

In the 2013 election, then-NDP leader Adrian Dix made a mid-campaign decision to come out against the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion. Since then the NDP has opposed construction of the Site C dam on the Peace River. Horgan is in favour of hydroelectric power, you understand. Just not this project at this time.

Perhaps the most stunning thing about the federal NDP’s fling with the Leap Manifesto was that it was staged in Edmonton. It came as a direct rejection of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who faces the grim reality of an oil and gas slump.

Notley has promised a carbon tax and the end of coal-fired power generation, moves that no NDP government has proposed, much less implemented.

Her own pretending-to-be-green party ignored and betrayed her.

Horgan wandering around in a hardhat is looking like a tougher sell every day.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press.