Les Leyne: Leap Manifesto is gift to B.C. Liberals

Les Leyne mugshot genericIf you think the New Democrats will be going on and on about the Leap Manifesto for the next few years, you should check out the B.C. Liberals’ talking points.

Three days after federal NDP delegates voted to seriously engage in considering the radical anti-oil economic manifesto, Premier Christy Clark introduced a motion designed partly to highlight the Leap — as an agenda that will “dismantle our economic foundation.”

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After months spent painting the NDP as a party that is saying no to jobs, Clark must see the Leap Manifesto as a gift. It’s a whole new set of brushes with which to work on her elaborate mural depicting the NDP as being against everything.

Her motion backs the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-country free-trade pact initialled by the previous Conservative government and now subject to a two-year ratification process around the Pacific Rim that’s going to be rocky.

The new federal Liberal government hasn’t committed to it yet and is holding hearings before deciding. But Clark has already made up her mind, proclaiming the proposed deal a way to create jobs, provide preferential market access for B.C., and increase investment and opportunities.

It’s obviously up to the national government to decide on signing the deal. B.C. has as much or as little input as any province, and the future of the TPP depends far more on major players such as the U.S. than it does on what Ottawa determines. So Wednesday’s debate was mostly for show.

Clark made it clear at the outset what the theme of her show was. The manifesto calls for “an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects.”

Clark said there are voices that in the name of ideology say no to economic development, no to jobs for working people, no to deals such as the TPP.

If some people had their way (guess who) this could be the first generation “to leave B.C. poorer than when we found it.”

Earlier, she got in another dig. Discussing the Vancouver real estate market, she said: “B.C. is still a free market. ... Until we make that great leap forward, we are still a capitalist society where people can invest from around the world.”

Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair came out strongly against the TPP in the final weeks of last fall’s campaign. The B.C. NDP has been more circumspect. Opposition Leader John Horgan has said he likes some parts and not others. On Wednesday, he countered Clark’s motion with one of his own, calling for referral to a committee for further study. He quoted numerous experts condemning the TPP, but said Clark thinks she knows best.

“If she’s so certain, take the opportunity to ask the public what they think.”

The motion occupied most of the afternoon and the debate will continue.

Earlier, the premier staged a news conference at James Bay’s Finest at Sea, which does a booming seafood business on both domestic and overseas markets. The TPP would lower duties some Pacific Rim countries charge on incoming fish, which could give the company a boost.

Clark said there are people who want to shut down all trade. The argument rages in the U.S., where various presidential candidates oppose the TPP, and Clark said the argument has “contaminated” Canada as well.

“International trade is our bread and butter. ... If we care about working people, we have to care about making sure there are places for them to work.”

She said people in other provinces might find there are trade-offs to be made if Canada adopts the TPP, but “there are virtually no downsides in B.C.”

“There has never been a trade agreement negotiated by Canada where B.C. comes out the clear winner the way we have in this deal. From B.C.’s perspective, it is almost all positive for workers and jobs here.”

The added bonus for the Liberals is that it segues into a long, painful argument her opponents will soon be having among themselves.

lleyne@timescolonist.com

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