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election rhetoric

If the B.C. Liberals are going to go down to defeat in the next election, it seems they've decided to go down relying on the same old script they followed to victory in previous electoral contests – one that relies on the politics of fear.

The party unveiled a new website on Tuesday it says exposes the "verbal tricks" the New Democratic Party uses to appear "reasonable and moderate," while masking the kind of sinister agenda that was responsible for the so-called "dismal decade" of the 1990s, when the party was last in office.

Much of the content found at SameDixSameTricks is the same old stuff the Liberals have been trotting out for more than 10 years now. There are references to the billions in new taxes the New Democrats imposed while in government and the labour-law changes they made to benefit friends in the union movement.

The news release launching the website came with an ominous message from Bill Bennett, the Liberal MLA who is co-chair of the party's election policy platform. He suggests that the NDP is using the same deceptive behaviour it did to gain power once before – an electoral decision that came with "disastrous" consequences. He said that could happen again if British Columbians aren't careful.

It was Mr. Bennett who recently upbraided a NDP MLA for visiting Cuba, apparently making him a Commie lover. Not sophisticated stuff to be sure, but material that may find some resonance among those inhabiting the right flank of the free-enterprise coalition.

It's distinctly possible, however, that the Liberals' tried-and-true formula for re-election may not work this time. The problem is they have a massive credibility issue. They have to campaign on the biggest public policy flop B.C. has seen in decades – the HST. They have to campaign on their own fictitious budget numbers of 2009 – ones that make the NDP's infamous fudge-it budget from the 1990s look like kindergarten stuff. They have to campaign on a string of deficits.

The Liberals have also allowed executive compensation at corporations such as BC Ferries and the Insurance Corp. of B.C. to skyrocket to utterly obscene levels, outraging the public. And those are just a few of the issues that undermine their trustworthiness this time around.

And the party is facing a tough political opponent who is proving difficult to knock off his own script.

Adrian Dix proved that once again Tuesday, while making his first-ever appearance before a business-suited audience deeply suspicious of his plans to govern the province.

The B.C. NDP Leader was speaking before a sold-out luncheon sponsored by the Vancouver Board of Trade – an event that is something of a rite of passage for anyone entertaining thoughts of ruling the province. The board is not a group known to be open-minded about the agendas of social democratic parties.

In fact, the downtown Vancouver business crowd is fairly dogmatic when it comes to its prevailing political point of view; one best described as, NDP bad, anything to its philosophical right, good. It has had a difficult time bending from its belief that given the opportunity, New Democrats will exact ideological revenge on business and the rich. And, along the way, drive corporations and the province into the ground.

For his part, Mr. Dix gave as impressive a speech as he has since taking over as NDP Leader in the spring of 2011. He walked the business crowd through a range of issues, without regard to a single note. He didn't try to avoid subjects to which he knew his audience was hostile, matters such as his plans to reintroduce a bank tax and raise corporate income taxes. As well as his opposition to the Enbridge pipeline. He told them upfront why he was taking the positions he was.

The NDP Leader also spoke about why he would not resort to personal diatribes or condone or sponsor the type of rancorous attack ads that the Liberals have already commenced. (He believes the public is cynical enough about the political process.) He reiterated his position that an NDP government would have a narrow, focused agenda, perhaps in an effort to assuage concerns among many in the business community that the party will venture off in a million different directions, spinning regulatory webs all over the place.

Mr. Dix's speech was one he has been giving for months now, at least in parts, and a sign that he's getting increasingly comfortable with the political narrative he is establishing around his prospective premiership.

At the conclusion, several members of the Board of Trade crowd got to their feet and gave the NDP Leader a standing ovation. Which is perhaps a sign that some of his skeptics are feeling more comfortable with his plans as well.