- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2001

Like Old Man River, the global plebiscite against socialism just keeps rollin along. The latest socialist defeat occurred May 16 in British Columbia, Canadas westernmost province. There the socialist New Democratic Party, in power for 10 years, was clobbered by the conservative Liberal party, which has been out of power since 1952. It won seventy-six seats out of 79 in the provincial legislature. Crushed into what might well be oblivion, the NDP went from 39 seats to three seats.
Even the NDP premier, who had publicly conceded his partys defeat a week before election day, lost his seat. As one observer put it, "It was not just a defeat for the NDP. It was a cremation."
And so it has been elsewhere in Canada. Two of the countrys largest provinces Ontario and Alberta are in conservative hands and only one province, Manitoba, is left under NDP rule and even there it is NDP in name only. Just last year the normally big spending, welfaristic federal Liberal Party was re-elected for a third time but only because it adopted conservative ideas tax cuts, a promised balanced budget, reduction of the enormous national debt.
Canadian politics are peculiar in that the provincial party often differs sharply on the issues from the national party even though they share the same name. The newly elected B.C. premier, Gordon Campbell, for example, refused on the night of his own victory to disclose for whom he had voted in last years national election. One can infer from that refusal that he might have voted for the genuinely conservative Canadian Alliance party instead of the federal Liberal Party.
What he did disclose on election night was contained in a 33-word message: "We no longer have a choice in the Province of British Columbia with regard to whether we are going to give people a tax cut or not. Our province is losing talented people."
The onetime ruling federal Progressive Conservative (PC) Party was almost wiped out in two national elections when its social democratic policies demonstrated that its leadership was about as conservative as the "Communist Manifesto." In 1993, the PC went from 169 seats in the House of Commons to, astonishingly, two seats. The PC has since made a feeble comeback and now has nine seats.
The B.C. Liberal platform promised in addition to a reduction in personal income taxes, a balanced budget in three years, merit-based employment, no racial quotas, elimination of government subsidies and elimination of laws mandating contractors on public projects to pay union-scale wages.
To get an idea of what socialism means in practice, B.C.s economic performance and the business investment climate in the past decade have been dismal, arguably the worst record of any of Canadas 10 provinces. According to Canada West Foundation, a research organization, between 1990 and 1999, B.C.s real per capita gross domestic product grew 0.4 percent while in next-door Alberta, a conservative-run province, it grew 21 percent. For the rest of Canada it was 14 percent. B.C.s public debt in the NDP decade rose from $11 billion to $22 billion.
One reason for B.C.s depressing economic performance was that the NDP government was run by environment nuts. For example, an earlier NDP premier turned an area in northwestern B.C. into a wilderness park without allowing a company with a legitimate claim to examine an area believed to contain a treasure trove of gold, silver and copper worth an estimated $26 billion.
B.C.s population of 4.1 million (in area B.C. is larger than any state in the U.S. except Alaska) consists of many immigrants who have fled socialist countries, like Communist China, or once Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe. It is these immigrants and a disillusioned settler class which may be responsible for this repudiation of Canadian socialism.
If the new B.C. government turns the provinces economy around, it would fulfill something Adam Smith wrote in 1755: "Little else is required to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought by the natural course of things."

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution Research Fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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