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Sunday, January 29, 2012

The New Democratic Party has a long tradition of standing up for low and middle income people


The New Democratic Party has a long tradition of standing up for low and middle income people -- both here in British Columbia and, with our federal party, across Canada.

Here in B.C., NDP governments elected in 1972, 1991, and 1996 have established a lasting legacy of progressive legislation for British Columbians.

Nationally, we've always made a difference.

Ed Broadbent former leader of the Federal NDP. David Murray candidate in 2011 in Abbotsford. His Father Bud worked on the Tommy Douglas campaign October 1935.
The New Democratic Party's roots go back to the people who tried to find a solution to the unemployment and poverty of the Great Depression in the 1930s. In 1932, representatives of socialist, farmer, church and labour groups met in Calgary to form the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) under the leadership of J.S. Woodsworth. A year later, the CCF met in Regina to adopt a constitution and platform that became known as the Regina Manifesto.

Many of the ideas the CCF fought for -- unemployment insurance, universal health care, decent wages and pensions -- are often taken for granted today, but they seemed like radical concepts at the time. CCF candidates worked on many fronts, running in municipal, provincial and federal elections.

The first CCF government was elected in 1944, when Tommy Douglas became Premier of Saskatchewan and established free hospital care, public automobile insurance, and progressive labour legislation.

When the Cold War began in the late 1940s, the CCF lost some of its popularity. Although the government in Saskatchewan was re-elected, the CCF had difficulty breaking into power in other provinces. There was growing interest in the creation of a new party that would expand on the traditional strengths of the CCF.

In 1961, over 2,000 delegates gathered in Ottawa to develop the constitution for a new party -- the New Democratic Party. Tommy Douglas was elected leader.

Initially, prospects for the new party didn't look good, when the Saskatchewan government was defeated in 1964 after a bitter doctors' strike against the introduction of Medicare.

But then in 1969, Ed Schreyer led the party to victory in the Manitoba provincial election and two years later the party was re-elected in Saskatchewan, with Alan Blakeney as Premier.

In 1972, Dave Barrett led the NDP into the long-awaited victory in B.C., and brought in new, progressive legislation that left a lasting legacy in the province.

In the same year, federal New Democrats under David Lewis elected 32 Members of Parliament and held the balance of power with a minority Liberal government.

The early 1980s looked promising for the NDP. Under the leadership of Ed Broadbent, the federal party elected 33 members and received 20 percent of the popular vote. And New Democrats were returned to power in Manitoba. But the party was unsuccessful in other provincial elections. Though the 1988 federal election saw 43 New Democrats (19 from B.C.) elected to Parliament, it was a disappointment to those who had hopes of forming the official opposition.

The 1990s brought new success for the NDP, when they elected governments in Ontario, Saskatchewan and the Yukon. In the 1991 provincial election in B.C., Mike Harcourt and the New Democrats brought down a discredited Socred government, ending a regime that had run the province for years. In 1996, the NDP was elected to an unprecedented second term in B.C.

Here's just some of what the BC NDP achieved in government between 1991 and 2001:

Economy: The lowest unemployment in 20 years

greatest job growth in Canada 1991-2000 (up 24%)
economy grew 3.4% in 2000
booming film, tourism and high tech sectors
second or third lowest income taxes in Canada for ordinary families
income taxes cut $800 million since 1995
lowest small business income taxes in Canada
best small business growth in Canada 1991-2000 (6.8% a year)
second lowest provincial debt per person
books balanced, last three budgets
second highest average wage in Canada ($17.48 an hour)
highest minimum wage in Canada
third lowest Hydro rates in North America and no increase since 1993
car insurance rates among lowest in Canada (no increase since 1996)

Health Care: Increased health funding every year since 1991.

BC is the only province that did not cut health care funding in 1990s
health budget increased by almost $1 billion in 2001 to fund new hospital equipment, train and recruit additional nurses and doctors
four new cancer clinics since 1991
best screening mammography program in Canada
best cancer recovery rate in Canada
most comprehensive health coverage of any province (including chiropractors, physical therapists, naturopaths, massage therapists, eye exams and podiatry)
one of the most extensive Pharmacare programs in Canada
a world leader in protecting kids from tobacco
guaranteed choice on abortion for BC women
innovative new BC HealthGuide Handbook and NurseLine

Environment: The best record in North America.

first in North America to reach UN goal of 12% protected parks and wilderness
created Tatshenshini-Alsek and 345 new protected areas and park additions since 1992
worked with communities, First Nations, companies, unions and environmentalists to protect coastal (Great Bear) rain forest
2.5 billion trees planted in ten years
moratorium on grizzly bear hunting, and Khutzeymateen grizzly bear sanctuary
toughest forest practices rules in North America ensured sustainable forestry and access to international markets
new laws protected fish-bearing streams
urban salmon habitat program restored salmon runs
cut chlorine discharge from pulp mills by 80%
Green Economy Initiative promoted innovative environmental technology
Eco-tourism strategy
2,500 km of recreational forest trails built
10,000 km of damaging logging roads removed

Advanced Education: From second worst to second best in Canada.

tuition fees cut 5% in 2001, after five-year freeze
BC tuition fees 44% lower than Alberta, 46% lower than Ontario
three new universities (Northern BC, Royal Roads, Tech BC)
40,000 new post-secondary student spaces since 1992
most comprehensive student assistance programs in Canada
5,025 additional post-secondary spaces and
3,150 more apprenticeship spaces in 2001
five community colleges designated as University Colleges
participation rate in post secondary education improved from second worst in Canada in 1991 to second in 2001 (after Quebec)

Children: A strong start for BC kids.

lower class sizes in Grades 1 - 3 improved reading and writing skills
a new school was built every 19 days
136,000 new spaces and 5,423 classrooms were added since 1991
only province that did not reduce education funding in 1990s
4,000 additional teachers hired since 1991
658 portables removed since 1998
school lunch program helped kids in need
heritage language program in 150 schools offered 26 languages including Chinese, Punjabi and aboriginal languages
before and after school care program launched in 2001 helped 19,000 kids
lowest child poverty rate in Canada after PEI
BC child care was ranked best in Canada (Vancouver Sun, Sept.26, 2000)

Social Justice: Fairness and respect for all.

eliminated provincial income tax for 100,000 low-income British Columbians
one of only two provinces that continued to build social housing (6,500 units completed, 275 planned for Woodward's Building/Downtown Eastside)
BC Family Bonus helped low and modest income families
strengthened human rights legislation
public and private sector pension benefits extended to common-law and same sex spouses
pay equity law worked to end wage discrimination against women
improved occupational health and safety standards
anti-scab law protected workers' rights
balanced Labour Code reduced days lost to strikes/lockouts and ensured fair union certification process
finalized the Nisga'a Treaty - Canada's first modern treaty
commitment to negotiating land claims, not courts and referenda

In May 2001, after ten years of making real progress for ordinary people in B.C., the NDP was defeated by the provincial Liberal party. Since that time, many British Columbians have been hurt by the Liberal government's mean-spirited and uncaring approach -- an approach that broke key election promises, cut health and education, neglected the needs of seniors, children and the most vulnerable people in B.C., and left average families paying more taxes and fees but getting fewer services in return. Despite an economy made prosperous by cyclical commodity prices and low interest rates, too many British Columbians were being left behind.

Throughout the first term of the BC Liberal government, NDP Leader Joy MacPhail and MLA Jenny Kwan fought daily to make sure the Liberals couldn't ignore the needs of ordinary people. Their tenacity and spirit was an inspiration to every British Columbian who yearned to restore balance in B.C.

Carole James was elected Leader of the BC New Democrats on November 23, 2003. While Joy and Jenny -- joined by Jagrup Brar after the Surrey-Panorama Ridge by-election of October 2004 -- held the Liberal government accountable in the Legislature, Carole traveled the province to meet with community organizations, business groups, labour representatives and thousands of ordinary people.

In May 2005, Carole led a revitalized NDP to an historic comeback, electing 33 MLAs and forming the largest NDP opposition in B.C. history.

Under Carole's leadership, the new opposition worked hard on behalf of all British Columbians, holding the arrogant Liberal government accountable for:

massive pay hikes for Liberal advisors
refusing to raise the minimum wage since 2002
$500 million in wasteful spending at the Vancouver Convention Centre
a toothless lobbyist act that allows the Liberals' friends special treatment
lack of investment in public transit and a gas tax that lets big polluters off the hook
promotion of offshore oil drilling and millions in subsidies to oil companies
allowing homelessness in Vancouver to increase almost 400% in just a few years
growing health care wait lists and neglectful care of seniors

On October 29, 2008, the BC NDP won two key by-elections with just months to go before the provincial elections. Jenn McGinn was elected in Vancouver-Fairview and Spencer Herbert was elected in Vancouver-Burrard, taking back a seat the Liberals had held since 2001. With the addition of McGinn and Herbert, Carole's team grew to 34 seats in the BC Legislature.

On May 12, 2009, 42% of British Columbians voted for Carole James and the NDP, the highest level of support in 23 years.

On July 23, 2009, the Liberals brok their election promise and announce that the HST will be introduced the following year in British Columbia, hurting families and small businesses across the province. Carole James and the BC NDP lead the fight to stop the HST, quickly collecting over 100,000 signatures on a petition to scrap the HST.

On December 6, 2010, Carole James stepped down as leader of the BC NDP. In her years as leader, Carole saw the growth of the party into a strong opposition and to unprecedented levels of publc support.

On April 17, 2011, following a four month leadership race, Adrian Dix was elected leader of BC's New Democrats. Adrian served as the MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway since 2005, and has held the Liberals accountable for their failures as the New Democrat Healthcare Critic.

In June, Adrian Dix kicked off the New Democrats' campaign to defeat the Liberals' HST in a province-wide referendum. For the next eight weeks, Adrian and his team campaigned in communities all across British Columbia. On August 26, Elections BC announced that the HST had been soundly defeated. This victory is part of the momentum building in BC, of voters who are ready for a fairer, more just province for everyone.

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