Les Leyne: NDP machinations befuddle Island boy

I’m just a simple Island boy. But I got through high school and I’ve been to the mainland for the PNE several times and I’m on the wi-fi now.

Even with that level of polished sophistication, it’s a struggle to to understand the workings of the NDP in this country.

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Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh showed up on the Island a few days ago to enthusiastically campaign for the provincial NDP, and implicitly endorse this weird pandemic election that no one wanted.

But on Wednesday he stood in the House of Commons and voted to support the Liberal government on a confidence motion specifically to avoid the alternative of a weird pandemic election that no one wants.

He was too busy to bother during this pirouette, but B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan was handy. So I asked him on a conference call to explain the master plan and help me understand it.

“Pretend I’m really dense,” I urged, to encourage clarity.

“I don’t need to have to pretend that,” he replied. (That’s just how Islanders talk to each other.)

He said it’s an “apples and oranges” comparison. His government was over three years old, the federal Liberals are barely a year into their term.

“We are going into a significant challenge in the months ahead and I believe we need to put the election behind us.”

He’s stated that several times and it could be interpreted that the NDP is not as optimistic about controlling COVID-19 as has been portrayed.

“I didn’t ask Jagmeet Singh to campaign, he came out to support our party and I’m grateful for that,” Horgan said.

That furthers the wonderment about Singh. He volunteered on his own to help out, and did so in B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstaneau’s riding, among others.

You’d think he’d have some professional sympathy for her, because they’re both leading smaller parties with a certain amount of clout in minority parliaments.

But he’s as keen on bulldozing her out of the way as Horgan is.

When Justin Trudeau eventually campaigns in Burnaby North to oust Singh as the MP – despite Wednesday’s confidence vote - he’ll get a taste of how she feels.

Elsewhere Wednesday, B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson opted to return to his opening campaign theme — “this election is totally unnecessary.

“It was called solely for the purpose of John Horgan’s selfish ambition. During the second wave of a pandemic there shouldn’t be an election.”

(He acknowledged that he sounded a lot like Singh, which is confusing.)

Wilkinson also rushed to the aid of the B.C. Greens. “Mr. Horgan’s attitude to the Green Party is so condescending, so dismissive, so cold-bloodedly political. He called the leader into his office and basically tore up their agreement in front of her.

“He has real trust issues.”

There were a few days in late September when people were wondering if that message would resonate. But he’s been hammering it for a month now and there’s no discernable bounce in the party’s polling numbers.

Meanwhile, Furstenau told reporters Greens are getting record-breaking donations from new supporters. “If the NDP are frightened by this, they should be looking at their own policies.”

Majority governments ignore evidence and deliver scandals, but the minority term has avoided them, she said.

This strange election is limping to a close now. It’s so disengaged that Horgan (“I’m a people person”) cited the half-dozen people listening to him in a Langley backyard as evidence of interest in the campaign.

In some respects, it’s already over. High turnout in advance polls is sometimes read as intense interest in an election.

But the huge hike in requests for mail-in ballots this year – about 725,000 versus 6,500 in 2017 – may also indicate people just wanted to get it out of the way and stay in their bubbles.

About half those ballots have already been mailed in during the past few weeks.

Combined with the advance poll turnout – approaching 500,000 — most of the ballots are already in, and voters have moved on with their lives. But it will take until mid-November to learn which direction they want to move B.C.

lleyne@timescolonist.com

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