Editorial — Mike Harcourt sets off round of NDP navel-gazing

The party's endless plotting and self-destructive behaviour did him in when he was premier. He's finally said goodbye.

Mike Harcourt was probably too nice a guy to become premier of B.C., especially as the first leader of the NDP to win power after the fondly-remembered (by NDPers, at least) Dave Barrett government of 1972-1975. The Barrett government was the first NDP government ever to take power in B.C., after being in opposition as the CCF and NDP for almost 40 years.

Harcourt led the party back to power after 16 years in the wilderness. He had earlier served as mayor of Vancouver. He styled himself “Moderate Mike,” a fairly accurate label, as he tended to try and make as many people happy as possible, and not bash business quite as much as some of his colleagues were prone to do.

However, he fell victim to the endless plotting that seems to be an integral part of the NDP’s DNA. Barrett had taken over after Tom Berger failed to win power in 1969, in an election the NDP were sure they could win. Barrett was then knifed by labour allies in his last year in power.

Harcourt was under pressure over the Nanaimo Commonwealth Holding Society, an NDP-controlled organization involved in many questionable financial moves. He had nothing to do with it, but the fact that it came out on his watch caused some of his cabinet, notably Moe Sihota, Joan Smallwood and Glen Clark, to go after him.

Despite the shoddy way he was treated, he remained a member of the NDP and campaigned frequently for the party. In January, he decided not to renew his membership, a fact made known earlier this week. It received a lot of media attention, not surprisingly, given the fact that he endorsed Adrian Dix’s campaign less than a year ago.

Harcourt said the Kinder Morgan flip-flop, attack on Carole James’ leadership (do we detect a pattern here?) and NDP fight against the carbon tax in 2009 caused him to not bother paying his dues this year.

Those are reasonable doubts, and his action will cause many within the NDP to ponder just where their party is headed, as it undergoes its second leadership campaign in three years.

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