By Scott Costen
A NEW political party is promising to make life miserable for British Columbia’s coalition government.
“The purpose of this party in the next election is to hold a gun to the government’s head,” Stuart Parker, organizer with the BC Ecosocialists, told Redaction Politics. “We want every single Green and NDP incumbent in this province terrified that they will lose their job.”
A marriage of convenience between 41 New Democrats and 3 Greens following the 2017 election, the coalition government has alienated long-time supporters of both parties through a series of stunning policy reversals.
The NDP campaigned in 2017 against the construction of a massive liquified natural gas (LNG) facility in the port of Kitimat and the associated Site C hydroelectric dam outside Fort St. John. Shortly after taking office, it reversed position on both.
The government also increased fossil fuel subsidies, allowed more logging and mining, and reduced support for public transit, Parker said.
These betrayals – particularly on LNG and Site C – caused him and other activists to form a new registered political party that would be “further left than the NDP, and greener than the Greens.”
In practical terms, this includes cancelling the LNG project, banning fracking and investing in a Green New Deal.
“We favour a rapid and dramatic transition of our energy systems,” Parker said, noting B.C. is ideally suited for the cultivation of both tidal and wind power.
Another area of focus for the BC Ecosocialists is boosting social assistance benefits, particularly shelter allowances, in a province with some of the highest rents in Canada.
“We need a dramatic increase in the rates of social assistance, and we need to fund that through a wealth tax,” Parker said. “We favour ongoing confiscatory capital taxes on the wealthiest people in B.C.”
The party’s 33-page policy document contains a wide range of progressive proposals, including free education at every level, adding vision and dental care to the public health system, introducing proportional representation, and creating a Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Equity.
The ecosocialists would also renationalize the province’s ferry and rail systems, which Parker said were sold off in an “orgy of privatization” in the early 2000s. “We favour the recovery of assets stolen from the people of British Columbia.”
The party enjoyed a period of “very rapid growth” after its launch last October, but Parker said COVID-19 has dealt a significant blow to its organizing efforts. The party had to cancel a slew of in-person events while the government yielded a “rally-around-the-flag” public opinion bounce.
The pandemic isn’t the only factor limiting the ecosocialists’ ability to connect with potential supporters. Parker said a corporate media “blackout” has stymied efforts to promote the party and its policies.
Despite these challenges, he’s optimistic the BC Ecosocialists will be a major player when the writ drops. “I’m quite confident that we’ll be able to run a full slate,” he said.
The next election is expected in the spring of 2021, but could come sooner if the coalition’s razor-thin majority fails to hold up.
And while the ecosocialists plan to field candidates across the province, they are prepared to negotiate a strategic withdrawal from the campaign trail.
“We will pull out of the election if they cancel LNG,” Parker said. “None of us wants to sit in the bloody legislature. That’s not really our thing. This is a party of movement activists who have run out of other options.”
The party is even prepared to work with the NDP and Greens on a district-by-district basis, he said.
“Every day that the election goes on, we will offer to stand down candidates in swing ridings in exchange for the policy concessions that are necessary for basic human survival.”
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