Adrian Dix and the battle worth fighting for
It’s been said that Adrian Dix—NDP Member of Legislative Assembly for Vancouver-Kingsway is up and coming. That may be. But Dix wants to be clear about his intention, to maintain party support, he says, for Carole James as leader of the NDP party.
“I am a strong supporter of Carole James," he said in a recent interview. "In my view, she would make a great Premier. Carole knows how to lead a team. She has led our party from 2 seats and 22 per cent of the vote in 2001 to 42.2 per cent and 35 seats in 2009”.
Dix wants then take us—back to basics—and away from always talking about NDP leadership (believing this conversation to be but a straw man, nothing but a smoke-screen; a way of not dealing with and moving forward with the real issues)—which, he argues, is the subject of equality.
He speaks plainly: we must avoid the temptation to relegate ourselves to that leadership, leadership! redundancy-of-a-conversation. It’s an age-old tactic used to defeat and to divert attention away from the policy issues that we need to be talking about: That the NDP is undergoing a kind of reboot. Now, finally, claiming a mandate for change—starting today—and getting ready for 2013.
Raising the alarm bell, sporadic but important “Take back the Party or “Fight Back” community initiatives have translated into a movement a-foot within the party. As a cohesive whole, Dix says the NDP is in the throes of developing a new platform that has real appeal for the people of BC.
“For me, equality [or the lack there of] is the number one issue facing our province today. It saps our province of our common purpose and leads to poorer health outcomes, more crime and insecurity. Increasing child poverty is a direct negative hit on the future”.
“A comprehensive anti-poverty plan needs to be at the centre of our party platform in the next election," he says. “The cuts to children’s dental programs and services supporting the health of people with disabilities and on income assistance are a particular outrage. In effect, the Liberal government is forcing the poor to pay for increased income assistance utilization caused by the recession”.
“The government is also diverting monies for social assistance provided by the Federal Government under the Canada Social Transfer. This is an unfair and mean-spirited action, more consistent with the 19th Century Poor Laws and needs to be overturned. Our job is to continue to focus on the issue until they do. Could we [the NDP] do better? Absolutely!”
“We have seen a dramatic growth in inequality, a shrinking and diminishing of the working middle class under the current government. Their economic record has been poor and we need to say so and offer alternatives”.
Dix acknowledges that there is there is considerable disaffection with the political process and that people are often turned-off politics. The NDP party is open to “hearing what the people have to say”. Their obstacle is people who, he says, may be more inclined to be “dismissive of political engagement”—that is—unwilling to have genuine debate and grow from that. That, somehow; government officials are simply there to be to be scorned when, in reality, this “out-front cynicism favours the status quo” according to Dix.
So how do you reach the very people who need to be reached? The issue that political action does not have the sense of urgency it once had—is a major conundrum. Hence; Dix says, “we need to do better job engaging people in the discussion. We need an active and engaged party membership…and do a better job engaging that”.
He’s confident that NDPers want the party to win the next election. “They want us to win; there are differences on how to get there”. That the problem is, “We talk past each other in these debates. My message to people is this: To get involved. My message inside the party is for us to value that involvement”.
“This is not to say that it has an easy time to be a social democratic party”.
In terms of the role of the NDP membership in affecting the direction of the official party-line, “We’ve got to take more responsibility to make it meaningful.
“[Members] don’t feel that they have voice. We have to work on that as a party”.
“We need more [activists]”.
On the concern over NDP corporatizing its image, apparently, Dix says it shouldn’t signal to us that it isn’t still the-working-person’s party. “That doesn’t mean we don’t need to change. For example, we need to challenge the BC Liberal record—we need to much more carefully examine their ideas on the economy”.
“Economic growth—the measure the BC Liberals and their supporters often use to define success—was higher under the NDP and the previous Social Credit government than under the BC Liberals”. So given this, Dix explains; it’s felt (inside the party) that the NDP is “too defensive about our record in the 1990’s”.
But there’s the question of whether the line between the Liberal and NDP party is increasingly being blurred. Can the NDP be trusted? Dix had this to say on that subject:
“What is true: there has always been a divide between those who view the NDP as a potential ‘party of government’ and those that would prefer a more strictly radical, anti-capitalist oppositional approach. The former is required if we are to continue to be a broad-based party with 40% plus of the vote. Our voters want and need us to be an alternative to the present government and this requires a program that meets the expectations of a broader coalition”.
“However, there is a place in the NDP and in society for those who wish to challenge the existing order and its ideas. I am always ready to meet and listen with people who wish to challenge us for being too moderate, too focused on programmatic responses and not enough on ideas. And if no one is challenging the existing order, with new ideas and old, there is less room for a serious debate about the future”.
But overall Dix warns against what he calls “ideological-purity”. He wants on-the ground discussions about political engagement. Join the party as it were! With a renewed fervor.
Will it ever be back to the days of true-blue (“Red”) NDP street-fighting gumption? The way it all started back in the 1930’s, like activists might like to see. That’s still an open question. But clearly Dix outlines a program that the NDP intends, as he puts it, to “Stop the BC Liberals from doing too much damage in the final years of this term and present a clear alternative in the next election”.
Dix on HST:
The HST is a regressive tax – a tax transfer of $1.9 onto working people and consumers. And worse, the BC Liberals lied about it during the election campaign. Anti-HST rallying has been and is seen by the NDP as a mobilizing issue. There are others—clearly Medicare is another. To date over 400,000 signatures from around the province have been collected. Dix’s guesstimate is 500,000-600,000 signatures—and with still close-on two months to achieve that. “It is a popular revolt against a regressive tax that will take money away from public service and a dishonest government. People are right to be angry and we need to be by their side”.
“But the signatures must be dispersed around the province's electoral districts - with a minimum 10% of all registered voters in each of BC's 85 provincial ridings. So far, the rural campaign has gone exceptionally well, while the key challenge remains urban centres. The deadline for signatures is July 5”.
Dix on Medicare: “Patient-Focused Funding” (PFF) is a Liberal scheme that also needs to be beat
Dix is Opposition Health Critic and is a Type 1 insulin-dependent diabetic so you could say that he’s got a horse in the race and has something to lose in healthcare being mismanaged in this province. PFF: the new government plan to put the larger hospitals in competition for extra money that they will get for rushing more people through surgery using supposedly better techniques and not, we hope, less cleanliness, less care and attention to the patient. .
“Pay-for-performance, regardless of what it's called, is this government's cynical response, a system that will cost more while replacing the principles of Medicare with the principles of the marketplace”.
“I am convinced now more than ever, that we need to expand the scope of Medicare for example, in the name not just of fairness and justice, but administrative efficiency”.
PFF is “adding another publicly-funded health care agency which doesn't provide healthcare, and one that is directed by the premier’s brother-in-law. It’s “freezing in place private profit. This funding model makes for a scenario of profitable and unprofitable patients and services” explains Dix.
“The result is over-diagnosis and over-treatment of some patients, and neglect and under-treatment of others. Particularly vulnerable are people who have chronic care or physical and/or learning disabilities”.
Dix on Public-Private partnerships:
“Essentially”, he says—particularly P3’s in healthcare. PFF is “clearly not the way to go in health care”.
“A better approach would be to cut administrative expenditures and direct healthcare dollars to: serving patients. That message, delivered during the Conversation on Health: protect our basic values regarding universality and fairness and expand Medicare to include more cost-efficient and community-based services”.
“The BC Liberals are focused on the wrong target—public hospitals. Public hospital spending has decreased from 40% to 28% of health costs over the past twenty years. The private side of health care is driving health care costs, including prescription drug costs which have increased by 385% over twenty years”.
There is a distinct community who support public healthcare. People with the view: Do not allow a profit option. Reaching them is difficult. Under PFF, people are going to have to pay more. And they will lose control as the model hamstrings the system in a 30 year contract.
“The BC Liberals are dismantling innovative programs that help keep other significant cost drivers like prescription medications in check, like the Therapeutics Initiative”
[For more information: HYPERLINK "http://www.ti.ubc.ca" www.ti.ubc.ca]
Dix is canvassing door-to-door in his riding telling people about this “Initiative Campaign” believing that we need to macro-fund—not defang— evidence-based drug testing trials. When it is such programs that go some way to slowing pharmaceutical companies being able to push drugs directly on doctors, as we see them do in the US (with the commercials encouraging patients to ask their doctor about taking this or that medication, a sort of tail wagging the dog approach).
We don’t want that happening in BC is what Dix is saying.
“Innovation needs to focus on primary care, public health and programs that address the social determinants of health”.
Why should one person have access to a hospital bed or doctor above or in preference over someone else because he or she has the financial resources to buy the service?
A lot of people won’t know this (a Liberal cabinet minister was taken into delicate back neuro-surgery in two weeks while a neighbor of mine who was in just as much agony had to wait 4 months)—But you do now. If that doesn’t say it all!
That’s Dix’s cause: defending the right of taxpayers to have timely medical treatment.
NDPers in the fold:
Many will already have heard— Moe Shihota is now the President of the NDP—but may not know what it signifies. The president’s role deals with reducing the debt from the last election, fine-tuning resources and building party membership.
“Great that Moe is back” says Dix. He volunteered and was elected within the party, so how can you knock that. “He is doing a very good job, engaging with our activists and improving the responsiveness of provincial office. Remember the job of Party President is not a full-time job. (Can we name any other party president in BC or Canada? I can but how not many)”.
Dix’s point: being that—the fact that anyone even noticing a comeback speaks to a shift or engagement of sorts with change. The people’s recognition of a name at the very least is the beginning of some contact with the political process and that can’t be bad. “It is an important job internally in the NDP but Moe leads a much broader party executive”. That’s the key.
As always, Dix is keeping good relations with his colleagues across the board: “I enjoy working with Libby Davies. Don Davies is the NDP MP in my area and he is doing a great job. We work together very closely on constituency issues. Kerry Jang my former constituency President is a city councilor. Kerry, Andrea Reimer and Raj Hundal (on the Parks Board) all live in Vancouver Kingsway giving our area representation at City Hall for the first time in a very long time. And I have strong personal relationships with most of the council from my old friends Geoff Meggs and Ellen Woodsworth to my former colleague Gregor Robertson”.
“I have a great relationship with City Hall and Parks Board. I think the new council has done very well in its first 18 months, clearly the best council Vancouver has had since I started voting”.
And yes, Dix is still friends with former Premier Glen Clark—going on 25 years of solid friendship. Clark is enormously supportive of the party and is still working for Jim Pattison Group. And? He’s still a working man.