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Joe Trasolini, long time civic politician and Mayor in Port Moody, has opted to run for the NDP in the forthcoming by-election. This is shattering news for the Campbell/Clark Liberals for a number of reasons.

First off, it was always assumed, by the Liberals at any rate, that he was a Liberal and likely their candidate in aforesaid by-election. He’s a businessman and just the sort of guy one takes to be a bit on the right of centre. To me this shows how far to the right the Campbell/Clark have swung and how well NDP leader Adrian Dix has softened his formerly pretty hard left position.

It will be said that Mr. Dix is an opportunist – show me a politician who doesn’t grasp the opportune moment and I’ll show you a failure. Moreover, the tiresome mantras of the “right” no longer appeal to many British Columbians who have seen Campbell/Clark more than triple the real provincial debt since they took over, making the NDP governments of the 90s look like paragons of fiscal prudence. They weren’t that of course but the argument that Liberals are the better money managers simply doesn’t wash. Adrian Dix has located the public pulse and has positioned the NDP to take advantage of that.

Secondly, The Liberals have not understood that it is no longer an “inclusive” party as was the Bill Bennett Socreds. Gordon Campbell was a big time admirer of Bennett but utterly lacked his sense of where the people were. Moreover the Campbell/Clark Liberals didn’t understand where Bennett stood on “people” issues. Until recently, the NDP have demonized Bill Bennett as being a hard right-winger but the new NDP sings a different song than their parents did. I remember talking to Graham Lea, a former NDP cabinet minister who laughingly said to me, “Perhaps the NDP should consider that the reason the Socreds win so often is because the voter likes them!”

There is a lot of cheeriness we environmentalists can take by Mr. Trasolini’s nomination. In saying this I don’t know Mr. Trasolini and haven’t the faintest idea what environmental opinions he has. We can, I believe, draw some inferences.

When the Campbell/Clark government were, in 2008, about to license the private power boys to dam the Pitt River and its tributaries, the barnyard droppings hit the fan – especially on the north side of the Fraser where Mr. Trasolini plies his trade – it couldn’t possibly have missed his attention and he would have seen up close how his and adjacent areas felt about this.

The other inference is easier to draw.

The environmental issues in this province – private power, fish farms, pipelines, tanker traffic, destruction of the Agricultural Land Reserve to name the most obvious – have drawn a very clear line, clear blue water you might say, between the Liberals and the NDP. Therefore the dots can easily be connected – the NDP have these issues in their playbook and Mr. Trasolini understands what their policy is.

For old-timers, this declaration by Mr. Trasolini, and its impact, is very reminiscent of 1975 when three Liberal backbenchers and one Tory crossed the floor to join Bill Bennett’s Socreds.

A businessman with a strong political record is a very big boost indeed to the NDP and fortifies my belief that these aren’t the Dave Barrett NDP but a mature centrist party that looks better and better, not just as stacked against the Liberal’s appalling record, but on their own coming of age.

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