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Nothing new – not even the slogan

Rob Shaw: The NDP’s new economic plan is a flashy and beautiful document, and very little else.
B.C.’s Economic Plan: Building an economy that works for every
Premier John Horgan (BC Government Flickr)

BC’s new Economic Plan is a flashy 40-page document full of smiling workers, majestic soaring mountaintops, and cutting-edge high tech workplaces. Unfortunately, those are just the photos. The text, where all the content is supposed to be, is a far less exciting experience.

Sure, there’s a lot of words in the plan, announced this week by Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon and Premier John Horgan. They just don’t add up to much that’s new. Most of them outline “key actions” that the BC NDP government already announced long ago – in some cases several years. There’s no benchmarks, dates, or targets. The metrics used to gauge performance in most areas are two years old – in the case of housing affordability a laughable and suspiciously-convenient four years old. And there’s very little actual funding attached.

“Our economic vision has always been to put people right at the centre of everything that we do,” said Horgan. “We cannot have economic growth that leaves people behind.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s because you probably heard very similar comments in the 2017 and 2020 BC election campaigns. In fact, the title of the plan “Stronger BC” is ripped right from the New Democrats’ election materials in the last campaign.

Put that all together, and you start to understand what the new Economic Plan actually is: A fusion of political material from the election war room and last week’s speech from the throne, packaged up together into a new “plan” that is 99 per cent partisan rhetoric.

And, that’s fine.

Governments of all stripes do this kind of thing all the time. The previous BC Liberal government’s jobs plans were highly political and heavy on the same kind of phraseology.

There’s nothing wrong with these kinds of plans if you understand them for what they are: Extremely partisan guiding documents.

They also have a place. Governments tend to operate in day-to-day crisis mode, solving whatever problem of most importance has popped up across the province and rolling with the punches of the news cycle, Opposition and preferences of the ministers.

Large plans like this, help embed both the guiding principles that won the party the last election campaign with the premier’s vision for the future. They are like guidemarkers laid on an otherwise turbulent path of day-to-day political life. A reminder for everyone involved of what the core philosophy of the party is, and how it translates into actual action in government.

Viewed that way, the Economic Plan is a perfectly fine but entirely forgettable document. In the real world, there’s almost nothing – outside of a new trades centre announced at BCIT – you could take into a coffee shop and use to capture the attention of ordinary voters dealing with day-to-day life. But as a reminder to BC New Democrats about the terminology and promises that got them to power, it is what it is. It’s just not particularly new or noteworthy to anyone else.

Rob Shaw has spent more than 13 years covering BC politics, now reporting for CHEK News and writing for The Orca. He is the co-author of the national best-selling book A Matter of Confidence, and a regular guest on CBC Radio.

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