A Big Win Brings New Challenges For BC Working People

Statement by the Communist Party of BC, June 2, 2017

The May 30 accord between the BC NDP and Green parties has been greeted enthusiastically by people’s movements in British Columbia. This agreement can spell the end of the reactionary Clark Liberal government, and opens the door to potential gains around progressive demands advocated by the labour movement, First Nations, environmentalists, supporters of public education and health care, child care advocates, and many others. Perhaps most significant, the agreement may help to achieve some form of proportional representation in BC, which would boost the struggle for democratic electoral reform on a Canada-wide scale.

The Communist Party of BC welcomes these developments as a major victory, but one which also brings new challenges for the working class. The CPBC has worked together with other progressive forces for the past 16 years to drive the Liberals under Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark out of office. As our candidates said in the May 9 provincial election, the Liberals have ruled solely on behalf of the big corporations. Their huge tax breaks for the wealthy and big business were imposed as part of a right-wing agenda of deep austerity cuts to social programs, health care and public schools. The resource sector corporations and the big developers took advantage of virtually non-existent electoral financing regulations to pour millions of dollars into the coffers of the BC Liberals, effectively purchasing a provincial government which backed mega-projects aimed at extracting and exporting fossil fuels and other unprocessed raw materials, at the expense of indigenous peoples, the environment, and the jobs of British Columbians.

These reactionary policies finally cost the Liberals their majority in the Legislature. Under pressure from the nearly 60% of voters who clearly want a change of government, the NDP and Greens have reached a deal to govern a full term in office. Their 10-page accord promises action on many issues – increasing the minimum wage to $15 in stages, reversing cuts to social spending, health and education, action on child care and social housing, increased tax rates for upper income earners, a referendum on PR (which Horgan says will need 50%+1 to pass, not the previous 60% “super-majority”), and much more. While there are some disagreements between the parties, such as the NDP’s support for the proposed $10/day child care program, the Greens will not block progress on these issues.

The accord promises to resist Kinder-Morgan’s Trans-Mountain Pipeline project, but unfortunately, it does not include an immediate halt to the Site C dam. As a working class party, we appreciate the political difficulties posed by laying off building trades workers at Site C, but we believe that protecting the valuable agricultural land of the Peace River region is a higher priority, and that there are better ways to create jobs in British Columbia.

During the recent election, the Communist Party of BC campaigned for fundamental economic and social changes. We demanded complete reversal of Gordon Campbell’s tax cuts for the rich and the corporations, which cost the provincial treasury an estimated $2.5 billion annually. Our platform called for doubling social assistance rates, a $20 minimum wage, universal child care, legislation to implement PR, an improved Labour Code, public ownership of the resource sector, a massive social housing program, and other policies to put people and the environment ahead of corporate profits.

Despite its shortcomings, we believe that the NDP-Green accord can reverse some of the worst impacts of Liberal rule. Premier Clark should accept the democratic will of the voters and resign immediately. Once the new government takes office, the Communist Party of BC will help to mobilize the working class and democratic forces to press for quick action to carry out its positive promises. Such a strategy is critical because big capital will use every tactic to make the new government back away from implementing progressive policies.

This new situation offers a historic opportunity for the working people of British Columbia to expand our collective horizons. The Communist view is that reforms are urgently required to improve living and working conditions, to protect the environment, and to reverse the genocidal impact of the legacy of colonialism on indigenous peoples.

But we also know that the right-wing corporate agenda springs from the nature of capitalism itself, regardless of which parties are in office. Capitalism is based on maximizing private profits, through greater exploitation of the working class and the destructive extraction of natural resources. The struggle for immediate reform is crucial for the working class and its allies, and much will be learned from the experience of an NDP-Green alliance government in British Columbia. But only socialism – based on democratic public ownership of the economy and the political power of the working class – can offer a genuine solution to the complex problems confronting our world. Our task in British Columbia today is to expand on this limited electoral victory, and to unite the working class and its allies to fight for truly fundamental change.

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