After a long campaign, highlighted more by how much the leaders agreed than any substantive disagreements (except maybe on who hates Gordon Campbell the most), voting has commenced for the BC NDP, and I have made my votes.
It’s a preferential ballot, and I tried to balance competing needs in my head, yet I don’t think much has really changed since I watched their debate in Vancouver over a month ago. My thoughts then are written here, but I’ll reiterate some and give my justifications for my rankings.
Ideal first choice: Nicholas Simons
It was unfortunate to hear Simons dropped out of the race, because I really thought there was something special to his campaign.
While he wasn’t the most charismatic of the bunch, he was seemingly more honest and approached politics from an empirical standpoint – looking for the policies that were best supported by the evidence to make BC a better place.
I would have given Simons my first vote not just as a nod to the underdog, but as an attempt to promote a better kind of politics (even if it might have eaten him alive).
Now my ballot choices in reverse order:
Fourth choice: Dana Larsen
I don’t have anything against Mr. Larsen personally. I thought he had a very idealistic and admirable platform, although it was a bit lacking in depth and perhaps a touch away from reality.
I’m glad that he was in the race and stuck it out, and hopefully we see him run for MLA next election. It was definitely good to see the narrative shift in the media from him being the “cannabis activist” to the “long-shot” candidate (although it still somewhat doomed him).
However, his campaign seemed unorganized and underfunded. At a time when the BC NDP needs strong leadership, Larsen came off as amateurish (although he did exceed expectations in the debates). Further, when the party needs to be taken seriously by the media, Larsen lacks credibility and would likely be openly mocked by our overly corporate media.
Third choice: Adrian Dix
In some ways, this was Dix’s race to lose.
He’s the fighter of the Clark era NDP and can command the stage. He claims (or at least is attributed) to represent the socialist left of the party (which I’m sympathetic to), even though the finer details of each of the “big three” candidates are quite similar.
Yet Dix rubs me the wrong way.
He seems to have a very classic, authoritarian approach to party discipline and would rather have party members work within the structure (i.e. at conventions every couple years) to reform anything than to actively promote dialogue and change himself.
And while Dix has great zingers, he’s more likely to end up spending too much time attacking the BC Liberals in a debate than actually building up a reason why people should vote BC NDP.
Finally, I think he’s really disconnected if he thinks the over 1 million non-voters are just waiting for more polarization before they vote NDP. His style is too closed and divisive for me to support him.
Second choice: John Horgan
I think Horgan wins the ‘”most improved candidate” award.
He started as an outsider and likely risked the race becoming simply a Farnworth-Dix two horse race, but in the end with strong performances in debates and a good policy document, he won over many people (including Simons and Larsen).
I think Horgan could take the leadership in the same way that Ed Stelmach took the Alberta PC leadership (by being the second choice of everyone); however, in this case I think we’d actually come out pretty strong.
Horgan’s poll numbers aren’t as good as Farnworth’s, but I think that has a lot more to do with the lack of exposure than anything else.
My biggest skepticism of Horgan is his “fair tax commission,” which seems to be a way around actually tackling tax policy. However, I am a supporter of participatory democracy, and engaging stakeholders, so it may be an honest way to start the discussion about how our services should be funded.
First choice: Mike Farnworth
Farnworth was played as the “moderate” or centrist candidate, yet his policies are as progressive as the others: reversing tax cuts, funding health and education, and taking action on climate change. He’s polled strongest against Christy Clark, which means he has less distance to work toward the next election. He’s also attracted some strong endorsements including former premier Mike Harcourt.
What really wins me to Farnworth’s team is that he endorses electoral reform, notably absent from all but Larsen’s platform (which advocates for preferential ballots), specifically a mixed-member proportional system. BC has a tepid past with electoral reform, sparked by a Glen Clark win over the BC Liberals despite losing the popular vote. Campbell then initiated a citizen’s commission which recommended the single transferable vote system. The first ballot on STV garnered over 50% of the vote, but failed to meet the arbitrary 60% requirement set my Campbell. The subsequent referendum then failed to even earn 50%. Nevertheless, the first-past-the-post system is grossly inadequate in modern parliamentary democracies with more than two parties (remember, there’s still BC Conservative and Green voters about). So seeing Farnworth’s endorsement of MMP is a good sign.
Similar to Horgan’s promise of a tax commission, I would like to see promises on education beyond a commission; however, again the consultative approach is not to be discounted.
All in all, Mike Farnworth has thoroughly impressed me throughout this campaign, and he earns my ballot.
Nevertheless, any of the candidates will be a strong leader for the BC NDP, and it’s good to see them all reject the stupid “axe-the-tax” campaign of 2009.