Each week during the campaign, we will be talking to one former B.C. premier about the current provincial campaign and why it matters. This week: former NDP premier Ujjal Dosanjh (2000-2001)
What makes the election of 2013 important?
Well, I think this is an election like any other in British Columbia in that there are no earthshaking issues other than the Enbridge pipeline, which is obviously a very serious issue. But it’s important because it determines who governs for the next four years. It will be very important for British Columbians if they are looking for different approaches on the issues that face British Columbia. People need to participate.
What are the big or key issues in the election?
Other than differences between the two political parties on the Enbridge pipeline and some minor differences on labour issues and taxation, I don’t see big differences at all between the two parties, particularly with Christy Clark coming from a socially progressive background. The major issue that the Liberals are going to face and the NDP are going to deal with is the question of change. After so many years of a political party in power, people want change – and even the minor differences become very important if you’re looking for change. If the Liberals can show some change with Christy Clark, they may have a chance. Otherwise, the NDP may have a very good chance of forming a government. I think it would have been easier for the Liberal government to show change if they had gone to the polls much earlier.
What’s the best advice you ever received during an election campaign?
Keep your head down. Keep focused. Build a box for yourself, in terms of your platform and the theme of your election campaign, and go with it. Make sure your team – other candidates across the province – don’t trip you up with foolish or untimely, irresponsible statements. I remember a moment in our election campaign – I think we were 12 or 13 days into the campaign – and we were beginning to move up a bit. Then a letter from [then minister of forests Gordon] Wilson – written on ministerial letterhead that appeared to deal with a forestry issue of the day, which had not been authorized by cabinet – surfaced, and that sort of threw a monkey wrench into it and we went down and never recovered. Not that we could have won the election, but we could have done better.
What do you say to people who don’t vote?
If you choose not to exercise your right to keep the government or change the government, you should not complain. You lose the right to criticize, morally and ethically. What right does anyone have to complain about what the government may be doing if you haven’t participated in choosing that government or voting against that government? If you have huge issues staring you in the face, you would know what to do. You would have the information and you would act. My belief is that apathy and lack of knowledge and lack of engagement (in Western democracies) is born out of the perception of no real issues facing society. The fact is there are issues. Even in British Columbia you have, like in the rest of the country, the gap between the rich and the poor widening. There are issues that are important for people to be aware of, and vote on the basis of those issues.
What will you be doing, as a former premier, during the campaign? What do you find yourself doing during provincial elections?
I just enjoy the cut and thrust of the debate and the back and forth of the argument and know that I have been there. It’s just fascinating to see other people deal with very similar issues. Some lose; some win. But the process is the same. I enjoy watching it from a distance.