NDP has proven track record

Former NDP premier Dave Barrett will be remembered for quickly taking the province from surplus to debt

After the defeat of his Social Credit party, W.A.C. Bennett had one request. That was for NDP premier Dave Barrett to build another three-lane span next to the present Lion Gates Bridge.

He told Barrett that there was funding in treasury strictly for the project to proceed. Barrett did not listen and went on to bankrupt the province. Today, in 2012, the Lion Gates Bridge is still only three lanes.

Barrett will be remembered for his spending, quickly taking the government from surplus to debt. Barrett reformed the welfare system, making it so popular as to say why work when NDP welfare benefits are fantastic. He also brought in union and union wages to all government employees and bought the Ocean Falls pulp mill that never amounted to anything. Within two weeks after the purchase, the smoke stack fell down to the ground. Crown Zellerbach, which owned the mill, said the mill was old and obsolete and not worth putting money into, but the good old NDP had to do the opposite.

Barrett brought in ICBC. In 1975-76, B.C. taxpayers had to bail out their government-run insurance company in the amount of $181 million just two years after it begun operations. This money has never been repaid. At the same time, ICBC had been so mismanaged, with insurance being sold significantly underpriced, that the government was forced to increase rates by at least 25 per cent. He is known for passing a bill on average every three days during his term of government.

Barrett did a major public-sector expansion, with the highest number of government employees in history for a provincial government. His human resources minister, Norman Levi, got out of hand, and ran up that ministry to 40 per cent of the total government budget, and at one time, had the ministry at $100 million over budget. He was very quick to add programs regardless of cost with no business plans. So preoccupied with a bankrupt government, Dave Barrett did not even consult with his cabinet about calling a provincial election. His ministers found out about the election watching the television news. Alex MacDonald, NDP former attorney general, watched the announcement on the TV news at home, much to his surprise.

Barrett lost three provincial elections in a row to Bill Bennett of the Social Credit party. On Oct. 6, 1983, Barrett, as the leader of the New Democratic Party of B.C., was forcibly removed from chamber by the Legislature Sergeant-at-Arms for failing to abide by the Speaker’s ruling. This was the first incident in the legislature history where security staff had to intervene and remove a member from chamber. When Dave Barrett and the NDP formed government, it is believed they were in “minority party syndrome” and did not have the knowledge or expertise to operate as a government. Lost soles with a huge responsibility.

Joe Sawchuk