Stuart Parker, the former BC Green Party leader and past NDP provincial council member, has emerged as a maverick in the current electoral reform referendum, breaking ranks with both parties.
He questions the sincerity of NDP Premier John Horgan and the party in holding the mail-in vote. What’s striking about his opposition is the fact he’s long advocated some form of proportional representation in B.C.
“I imagine this is going to go down to a crushing defeat,” he said.
Parker said the premier “is using the referendum campaign to shore up and energize party base segments alienated by NDP government support” of the Site C hydroelectric dam and the Liquefied Natural Gas project.
As such, Parker said, the NDP campaign is “specifically pitched as left-wing, urban, youth-focussed and progressive.” Those are the party segments least likely to mail in ballots, he said.
“The government can show all kinds of busywork and still deliver a clear defeat.”
NDP deputy director Glen Sanford said the determination that British Columbians wanted electoral change was made by MLAs and members of the provincial council. Parker was a member of that council until he quit in March because the NDP was proposing tax subsidies of LNG and support of Site C.
The NDP has changed its view on PR over the years.
In an interview, Parker said the party’s drop in seats in the 1996 election prompted it to look at the Greens as the source of ebbing support. A landslide defeat that reduced it to two seats in 2001 made it scrutinize the Greens even more.
Parker said the NDP had “vigorously opposed” PR but changed its position at its party convention in 2000 or 2001. Still, the resolution “just sat there.”
Carole James, the party’s leader between 2003 and 2011, and now the deputy premier and finance minister, “was an opponent of PR when she was leader,” Parker said. “She had no interest in it being in the party platform.”
An NDP source said the issue was not pushed in the 2013 campaign because then-leader Adrian Dix “made a strategic choice.”
Parker said Horgan “had few policies but did support PR” as he challenged Dix for the leadership.
“I don’t think Horgan was particularly enthused about PR when Dix lost the election,” Parker said.
Neither James nor Horgan were made available for interviews.