Lifelong NDPer says it's not easy being orange these days

Former MLA, and current Richmond councillor, Harold Steves finds himself at odds with his party

“Whither NDP?”

If there is one question that pops up most on Coun. Harold Steves’ extremely active Twitter feed in recent months, this, in one form or another, is it.

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After months of questioning Premier John Horgan’s NDP government on major policy decisions — such as continuing the Site C mega dam project, promoting LNG on a recent political tour in China or failing to restrict, or even ban, foreign home ownership of residential and farmland real estate — the Richmond News asked the lifelong New Democrat this week if he felt more green (BC Green Party) than orange (NDP) these days.

“I think so,” said Steves.

“I’m not enamoured with my own party.”

This, despite it coming into power in 2017 for the first time in 16 years.

On significant issues to Steves, such as farmland protection (including the Site C impact), LNG, and housing, Steves admits freely he’s more on board with Green leader Andrew Weaver.

He views Horgan’s NDP as someone who has abandoned core enviornmental beliefs, citing a Times Colonist editorial in February that claims Horgan is “going down in history as the premier who split the country’s NDP movement.”

Steves concurred, claiming “Horgan should have thought of that before he approved [Site C and LNG]. Horgan has already split the NDP.”

Like Weaver, Steves is opposed to the Site C project, rejecting its renewable energy production because power may end up feeding LNG production for exports to China. It also floods a valley of viable farmland, noted Steves. But Horgan approved the dam. And Steves rejects Horgan’s opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion considering Horgan “has no control over” it.

Like Weaver, Steves wants to see a ban on foreign home ownership. And at the least, he, like Weaver, and unlike Horgan, wants to see the foreign home buyers’ tax applied to farmland.

Instead, the NDP is now consulting on ways to “protect” the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Steves called the consultation a “rescue mission” that cannot be counted on to protect farmland. 

When Premier Dave Barrett passed away in February, Steves took to Twitter hailing Barrett as the architect of the ALR and environmental regulations in the mid-1970s.

“We were the Green party. Now, we’ve lost all of that,” he said.

Steves sees the approval of Site C as linked to the trades unions pressuring Horgan.

“The environmental wing of the party is being ignored in favour of the ‘jobs jobs jobs’ group,” said Steves, who is also critical of the NDP’s union-heavy fundraising tactics.

Steves, 81, a former NDP MLA (1973-1975), is the longest serving city councillor in B.C. (since 1977) and remains a member of the Richmond Citizens’ Association, a municipal NDP branch in Richmond. He said he sees no reason to compromise on his values, despite being in a politically right-of-centre, conservative city.

Last election Steves was the sole RCA candidate but openly supported Green member Michael Wolfe, a local environmentalist, who ran on the RITE slate.

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