Back in October, Yale-Lilooet provincial New Democrat legislator Harry Lali reportedly
told fellow travellers than his party should quit pretending to be Liberals or Conservatives and start acting like social democrats. But what brought on that ouburst, you may wondered? Well former New Democrat leadership candidate Steve Orcherton has at least one possible explanation. In an interview on Public Eye Radio, Mr. Orcherton said, "I know Harry very well. And Harry is passionate about his politics. And - whenever he talks about politics and public policy - he speaks with a great deal of passion. I think he's experiencing a frustration with being part of a political party that, at this point, in time has taken a strategic decision not to do much - to sit and be quiet and not do a lot and sort of ride along with what's going on. And then 60 or 30 days before the next election will come out with some sort of a platform of ideas. And that will somehow get them elected. And I think that's a strategy. I happen to think that's wrong the strategy. But I think that's what's going on. And I think Harry's experiencing that kind of frustration."
And why are the New Democrats pursuing that "sit and be quiet" strategy? Responded Mr. Orcherton, "I see there's a lot of caucus staff that were there when I was there" who were "part of the Clark administration, part of the Dosanjh administration and were part of the decision-making around a lot of the issues that went on during that period of time. They're there now. I think they went through a terrible period of time when they didn't have jobs. And I think they're very, very nervous."
"The political bureaucracy behind the New Democratic party in British Columbia is very, very nervous about being without jobs again," the former Victoria-Hillside legislator continued. "And I think a lot of the political decisions and strategies that are being developed are being developed with a piece of that agenda in play - as well as an overall agenda to try and get elected and those kinds of things. And I think sometimes that personal agenda from those people in leadership positions is influencing the leader of the NDP Carole James in an adverse way."
But Mr. Orcherton added New Democrats aren't the ones with a propensity for caution. Politicians of all stripes are increasingly staying to the mushy middle rather than saying "what it is they believe. They're afraid to take risks" - like the one then Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas took when he introduced public healthcare. "It cost him an election in Saskatchewan." So while that program "came to be a great benefit to all Canadians...I think politicians understand that those risks these days cost them dearly."
But, perhaps more troubling, is the fact that taking such a risk wouldn't even occur to some elected officials. Mr. Orcherton explained there are many who "run for political office not to deal with public policy questions and engage the public in debates about the future but to get a job to become administrators of programs that are already in place....And we see public policy being developed by bureaucrats. And I think that's wrong."
So here's Mr. Orcherton's advice for Ms. James: "Let's get real debate and discussion happening. I don't think we need to be arguing about process. We need to start talking to the public and to the voters and to the people that we represent about real public policy questions - issues that effect them...We need to find solutions. We need to offer ideas."
"It's not good enough, in this day and age, to simply criticize the government and the government party and their members. That's not good enough. You can criticize, yes. But you have to come up with alternatives and ideas and engage in debates and really engage in discussion and start taking a stronger role in terms of public policy. That would be my advice. I predict she will be doing that as we get closer to the election. But my advice would be to start doing it not so close to the election but closer to today."