John Horgan should welcome the hatred of B.C.’s real estate barons

BC NDP leader John Horgan on the campaign trail. | Photo courtesy of BC NDP

The B.C. election is going to come down to the wire. Polls show a tight race between the BC Liberals and the NDP, with the Green Party in third place and within striking distance in a few seats on Vancouver Island. On May 9, voters in B.C. will make a clear choice on whether to extend the 16-year rule of the Liberals.

Since 2001, when the Liberals first swept into power, B.C. has indeed been the “Best Place on Earth” for corporations and the super-rich. The remarkable natural wealth of this province, and the fruits of the labour of those at the bottom, has flowed into the coffers of those at the top. It’s no wonder the big corporate interests in B.C. are near-unanimous in their support of the Liberals. That’s how it’s always been here: anybody but the socialists, as they used to say back in the days when the ruling party was Social Credit.

Perhaps no one has enjoyed the Liberals’ time in office more than the real estate barons who dominate the extremely profitable and overheated real estate market. While homelessness numbers have been growing, and the affordability crisis has spiralled out of control, those in the development and real estate business have been laughing all the way to the bank. It’s no wonder that eight of the top ten donors to the BC Liberals in 2016 were real estate development or construction firms.

The NDP has put forth a serious platform for dealing with the housing crisis, with promises to cool speculation through taxation, provide more money for social housing, and to give relief to renters in the form of a $400 annual rebate and the closing of loopholes that landlords have been abusing to “renovict” or gouge tenants. These measures would be a step in the right direction, even if they don’t go nearly far enough.

Despite the relatively cautious reforms being proposed by the NDP, some of the real estate barons are crying foul. Ryan Beedie, who runs the billion-dollar Beedie Development Group, took to Twitter to warn against the NDP menace: “#NDP leader John Horgan resorts to class warfare in a divisive and pathetic attempt to win the election.”

Given who Beedie is and what interests he represents, voters should take this tweet as making a strong case for the NDP. “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made,” as U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once put it. FDR also once famously said he welcomed the hatred of the finance capitalists and predatory corporate interests who opposed aspects of his New Deal agenda. Horgan should take a similar line, welcoming the hatred of the Beedies of this province.

As for “class warfare,” we can only wish the NDP’s program reflected a more militant class-based response to the warfare that the super-rich have been waging on the rest of us for the past 16 years. For the elite, it’s only considered class warfare when our side fights back.

In a candid moment some years back, legendary billionaire U.S. investor Warren Buffett conceded, “there’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years, and my class has won. We’re the ones that have gotten our tax rates reduced dramatically.”

Beedie, like many who have profited from Vancouver’s housing bubble, inherited control of his business from his father. In fact, you can also find on Twitter photos of Beedie mugging for the cameras with Ivanka Trump, celebrating with the children of the far right U.S. president at the announcement of their new luxury tower in Vancouver. (A development which is bankrolled by the Holborn Group, yet another real estate giant run by the son of its billionaire founder.)

Raised with that kind of financial privilege, Beedie and his ilk know how to defend it. He and his corporate entities have donated hundreds of thousands to the BC Liberals in recent years.

Horgan and the NDP have not only promised to cool off speculation in the real estate market, they’ve also vowed to ban big money from electoral politics. Both of these measures would represent a small but significant restraint on the unrestrained power Ryan Beedie and his fellow real estate barons enjoy. Unfortunately it’s hardly class warfare – more like long overdue defensive measures.