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BC NDP: relevant or not?

Praxis is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted or practiced, embodied and/or realized. "Praxis" may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas.”

Okay, that’s a little lot pretentious.  But today’s topic is the future of the BC NDP and I think the Wikipedia definition of informed action is relevant to the current debate.

Earlier this week I wrote a piece about Carole James and her desire to change the party and make it more relevant to British Columbians.  I know - a shocking concept.

And some are clearly shocked, mortified even, including a Cariboo MLA who’s been fighting James since he arrived in Victoria and a well-known blogger who’s been working with him.  Bill Tieleman sums up the position he shares with Bob Simpson succinctly: “Carole James Is Too Nice to Business,” arguing for a continuation of the class war approach that’s brought the NDP to power approximately no times, ever.

Now it is odd that Bill Tieleman thought outreach to business was exactly the right strategy for Vision Vancouver, but so wrong for Carole James, as if he doesn't want James to be successful.

Still, they’ve got some support for their critique.  The Straight Goods, a blog I read, took me to task (along with former MLA David Schreck).   “Mr. Reid,” he wrote, “Your wrong, the old NDP policies are needed more today then ever before, just like the tea baggers down south, no more pandering to elites, to bankers, to corporate greed…  What we need is an NDP party with the values of 20 years ago where people and the long term environment come first.”

Here’s the surprise.  I agree with part two of that statement.  We do need the values of 20 years ago.  And that’s because values don’t change much over time.  The NDP is a people first party – fairness, equality, opportunity for all to live a fulfilling life, that’s what animates us and must continue to animate us.

But surely the policies that can point us down that path have changed in twenty years?  The world is different than it was twenty years ago.  And we’ve learned more about the world – about our province.  Or rather, if we haven’t learned something in the past 20 years we don’t deserve to govern this province.

Aristotle said – okay I just upped the pretension level a lot. It’s now off the scale – values must engage with the world as it is, in order to change it.  That’s what makes politics relevant to people, to the way they live, to their hopes for the future.

If the BC NDP can’t rethink its policies towards business, we won’t be relevant.  Take taxation.  Innovation should be important to all governments, arguably more important to left wing governments.  If New Democrats want a high value added economy, high corporate taxes are a questionable proposition.  And then there’s property tax.  The property tax structure sure isn’t helping rural communities now.  That’s where the real de-skilling is taking place in our province.

The taxation policies of any party twenty years ago, let alone ours, aren’t up to figuring out this problem and they have to be re-thought.  Successful left wing parties do that all over the world.  Unsuccessful ones don’t – they pump out the rhetoric in place of the ideas.

Carole James is not about pumping out the rhetoric of 20 years ago.  If that’s what you want then I can see why she’s not for you.

But I don’t think that’s what most British Columbians want, or need.  They do want an alternative to the corrupt, out of ideas Campbell government.  But they want that alternative to be modern and relevant to their lives.

What does modernizing the NDP mean?  By my reckoning Carole James’ outreach to business is all about making our principles relevant to people today.

Aristotle would call it praxis.  I call it common sense, a winning approach for the left.

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