'No alternative except to keep going': Joey Hartman says BC Liberal win ratchets up the fight

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Describing much of the Left as "speechless" after a stunning B.C. election defeat last night, the president of the Vancouver & District Labour Council (VDLC) said the results leave "no alternative" but to keep fighting for social change.

But as Joey Hartman told Media Mornings host Jane Bouey this morning on Vancouver Co-op Radio, even if the New Democrats had won there would have still been a struggle on issues like childcare, poverty and the environment.

 Here is a transcript of where Hartman thinks the campaign went wrong -- and what's next.

Jane Bouey: It's not the morning that we thought we were going to have...

Joey Hartman: No, it sure isn't. You know, I'm almost speechless, and that seems to be the common denominator just looking at Facebook; people are completely stunned. I don't know how we could have been so far off, but we clearly did not anticipate how strong the Liberal vote was going to be. Nor did the punsters or anybody else.

JB: I think there's indications that the Liberals were also surprised.

JH: They certainly were.

JB: People that I know that were working really hard within the inside circles of some of the campaigns here in town said that they didn't get any of that sense in terms of their internal polling and work on the streets and on the doors. 

JH: I was actually working on the George Heyman campaign, and he was one of the few who pulled ahead out of it. We knew it was going to be a very close race there, but I look at some of the great people who were elected -- David Eby, Jane Shin, George Heyman, Judy Darcy -- but then I look at some incredibly good candidates who weren't and I'm flabbergasted -- Janet Rutledge, Gabriel Yiu, Craig Keating...

JB: One of the things that's clear is that a lot of working people in this province –

JH: – Didn't vote –

JB: – Or voted Liberal against what you and I would agree were their own interests. 

JH: Absolutely. We talked last week about jobs versus the environment, and what a false dichotomy that is. But it seems to have really sold: the idea that a strong economy means that you have to sacrifice the environment or that you need to sacrifice social programs. I completely reject those ideas. But clearly the Liberals have been able to persuade people. This is one thing I did find when I was on the doorsteps, when the conversation went to the economy, people who were waffling would say exactly that: 'Yeah, I kind of like your candidate, I like the social policies and I really care about addressing child poverty or education.' But then they would go, 'But we also need a strong economy.' It's not a but! That's the thing that confuses me so much.

JB: The Liberals have spent millions over the last year relentlessly pressing that they're the defender of jobs, despite evidence to the contrary. I wonder if -- one of the things I've been pondering is the fact that the NDP ran a positive campaign, yes, but they didn't really put forward a lot of substantial promises that would really inspire people to get out and work hard for them.

JH: Yes. They were so cautious not to make any commitments to things that they couldn't already identify where the funding was going to come from. And a lot of the things we care about take an early investment for a long-term benefit. We know that with investing in early childhood education and daycare programs, the $1 saves us $5 to $7 down the road. But 'down the road' is longer than most people are prepared to wait. So everything is in the 30-second soundbite and the six-month turnaround. That makes these kinds of issues harder to sell, it seems -- and people are less and less patient about it. 

JB: Yeah, there's that -- but it also seemed to me it was as if the NDP, on issues where they didn't think they were going to be able to put a lot of funds into it, didn't even go there in terms of being critical of the Liberals' record in certain areas. I'm thinking of stuff like the horrible cuts to Community Living BC and their impact on the developmentally disabled; that was an issue the NDP did extraordinarily well with in the Legislature in terms of raising it as an issue. People cared about it in the province. Yet it didn't come up at all during the campaign.

JH: That's the sort of thing that you should really be trumpeting. The whole thing about negative ads versus attack ads -- I completely agree that the personal attack ads are inappropriate and I don't like them. I'm one of the people who says, 'You may say that they work, but I really want to stay away from them.' But I think that it's a mistake not to do what people sometimes call an 'attack ad': to be highly critical of the record. That's absolutely fair game, and we should have been much tougher at exposing the true record and, as you say, trumpeting the things that we are really strong on. Even if we have to talk about it as a long-term success, let's still talk about it. 

JB: One of the things that concerns me is that, in a lot of ways as you were saying, the election came down to jobs versus the environment -- and almost a referendum on pipelines. What will this election mean in terms of issues like that?

JH: I hate to say it, but my reference point on that feels like the Harper government: once they got that mandate, with a majority, it was full-steam ahead on a whole range of issues that are going to be irreversible for us when and if we ever get rid of them. I'm really very, very concerned about the future of this province. I'm worried we're going to have 'right to work' legislation, that we will continue to have 12-year olds permanently injured on construction sites, that child poverty is going to continue to be a terrible, terrible record for this province.

JB: And the underfunding and privatization of public education.

JH: Et cetera, et cetera. How do you turn those things back once they're done?

JB: One thing that should be made more clear is the role that the federal Conservatives played in this election. It was clear that they came full-bore in support and worked really hard -- and that was part of the collapse of the provincial Conservative Party, interestingly. What are your thoughts on what we do now? I tweeted out last night that I was going to go to bed, wake up, and start working harder for justice. But that's easier said than done.

JH: It's what we always do; we are so used to being on the side of having to just keep struggling for something that's better. Obviously there has to be a very solid debrief and evaluation of what did happen. I don't know what Adrian [Dix]'s future is, given all of this, and I think like you say -- we go back to work, continue to roll up our sleeves, and keep doing what we have always felt like we need to [do]. It feels like it's such an uphill battle, but what choice do we have. I'm an optimist by nature, and I I always feel like, 'Maybe this time we didn't, but we gotta keep going.' There is no alternative except to keep going, because the alternative is really just to turn it over to them -- and that's just not acceptable...

JB: It's just going to be a harder and different sort of fight. We would have had to keep struggling no matter who won the election.

JH: That's right, and we really did get that idea. We knew that, whoever won, we were going to really have to keep pushing the agenda. We just thought it was going to be a more receptive government. 


Media Mornings segments are available on the rabble podcast network. For all our of our B.C. Election coverage, visit our issues page here.

Public Education activst and former Vice Chair of the Vancouver School Board, Jane Bouey is one of the producers and hosts of W2's Media Mornings.  

Transcribed by David P. Ball. 


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