Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Looking Into My Crystal Ball for 2009

(originally posted at www.greenparty.ca)

You know, I’ve always kind of wanted to be a journalist...all those wonderful travel opportunities to exciting locales around the world. The free buffet lunches. Mostly, though, because journalists always get to gaze into their crystal balls this time of year and prognosticate. I always envied those journalists for being allowed to do so, and to share their visions with an unsuspecting, yet rapturous public.

Well, this is my first year of blogging, and what the heck, is there any reason why I can’t do the same? And share it with you, oh unsuspecting blog-readers? Nope. No reason at all. So, here is my first attempt at predicting the future (well, first written attempt anyway...I’m sure my friends and family are bored silly with my annual musings, especially over this past Christmas).

Here’s what I’m expecting in 2009:

1. More War.

OK, that was probably an easy one to call. But let me explain a bit more. I think that many will soon discover that Barack Obama isn’t the President of Peace many out there thought he would be. He’s been talking about, for quite some time now, the need to send more troops to Afghanistan, and widening that conflict to include areas of Pakistan where the Pakistani government has effectively lost control. The increase of US troops in Afghanistan will lead to more violence in Pakistan. Coupled with a weak government, a growing threat to Kashmir by India, and an increasingly out of control security apparatus, Pakistan could implode.
Oh, and all of those troops coming home to America from Iraq? Don’t look for the total troop withdrawal Obama had been promising. There will remain a strong U.S. presence in Iraq at the end of 2009.

Also watch out for an Israeli air assault on Iran, taking out nuclear reactors.

2. Another General Election in Canada

But not until the fall of 2009. Ignatieff will kill talks of a coalition after Harper introduces a budget with significant economic stimuli for many sectors. The NDP will howl, but at the end of the day, the Liberals will support the budget, likely by absenting enough of themselves from the vote that the budget gets passed. This will give Ignatieff the time he needs to brand himself to Canadians, likely as a consultative strong-man who knows what the economy really needs.

A fall election will have the lowest voter turn-out in Canadian history, with the Liberals gaining seats at the expense of the Bloc and the NDP, but ultimately an extremely minorly reduced Conservative minority government led by Stephen Harper will be the result. The Green Party will not elect a single MP.

3. The Green Party will not elect a single MP.

Oh, I predicted that one already, right? Well, even if there is no General Election, there may be a by-election or two. I know I’m hedging my bets here. But either way, I don’t see us electing an MP at this time. Why? It’s the economy, stupid. And frankly, our Party is not taken seriously as a potential saviour of the economy. Voters (those who actually cast their ballots anyway) will not be willing to take a risk on a party known for a putting a single issue above all others. It’s not our time (which is incredibly unfortunate).

I’m particularly concerned about this in the context of a General Election. Our Leader will not be invited to the televised debate, and there will be only a little public outcry as a result. We will again run a full slate of candidates, including some excellent ones with higher profiles who we will recruit over the next several months. But the economy will kill us. Few will want to hear our message in the face of the economic disaster sweeping the world. Even if we’re the only Party to offer viable solutions.

This situation will lead to great strife within our Party, which should be a growing concern, but which likely will not start to have a huge impact until after the next election.

4. Establishment of a North American Cap and Trade System

To be seen to be doing something, Barack Obama and Stephen Harper will begin discussions on a North American Cap and Trade program, modelled on that being used by Pacific Northwest states, albeit in a watered-down form. It will not come into effect until 2012, and there will be all sorts of exemptions, particularly for the struggling oil and gas industry and for the auto sector. The mining and forestry sectors will take the biggest hits, because their lobbyists aren’t as effective.

Ultimately, greenhouses gases will continue to rise; the rich will get richer, and the poor will get poorer. Taxes will continue to increase, except at the Federal level of government, which, ironically, will be the level spending the most money.

OK, none of these are exactly earth-shattering predictions. But they’re what I’ve got today. Oh, wait. You want a happy prediction? Something not so doom-and-gloom?

The best I can do: The Vancouver Canucks win the Stanley Cup. There you go.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Green Party and the Coalition: Are We Becoming a "One Issue" Party?

(originally posted at www.greenparty.ca)

I just recently read the blogpost from Attila Nagy, who ran for our Party in Scarborough Rouge River in the recent election. I don’t know Mr. Nagy, and I think this may have been the first time that I had read his blog, but I believe that Attila raises some good points. I thought of maybe writing a quick response post to his blog, but instead I’ve decided to make a new post in my own blog, because I am feeling a growing sense of unease about a number of things, and would like to expand on what Attila has communicated.

With regards to our “decision” to support the Coalition, I ask everyone to contemplate what might have happened if the Green Party took the “high road” here and decided to come out in support of neither the Conservatives or the Coalition, but instead in support of the people of Canada, their jobs, and democracy in general. What if we had moralized and urged our elected officials to find a way to work together for a change, for the good of our nation, and point out at the same time that Greens stand for something bigger than partisan politics, because we’ve got real issues to tackle and would very much like to get on with tackling them. I ask you to think about those outcomes, and wonder whether we might have missed an opportunity here.

As a Canadian, I personally would support any government which did not include Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party. Given the current alternatives, the Coalition seems to be the much more palatable of the two. That’s important to me personally, and I believe that a Coalition government would be for the good of Canada.

But as the CEO of an EDA, I really have to question why the Party has positioned itself as we have done. I’m not sure what we gain out of “supporting” this Coalition, given that we have no sitting members in parliament. I believe that we really should have thought this through a little bit more before rushing to embrace the Coalition (which I just heard being referred to as “the New Libs on the Bloc”). Unlike the other Parties, because we have not been directly involved in the situation, we actually had time to sit back and consider our options. I’m not sure that this happened.

Instead, we were almost stepping over ourselves to get our Leader in front of the camera and tell Canadians where the Green Party stands on this issue. And frankly, it was embarrassing to hear discussion about having Elizabeth May appointed to the Senate. I don’t think that Canadians really wanted to hear about that, nor did it add to the debate.

We like to think of ourselves as “grassroots”. We could have had a little bit more canvassing of opinion before our declaration of support. Careful consideration might have led to a different outcome. All of this need not have been framed as a choice between only two alternatives - Harper and the Coalition - and instead a third way, a better way, a Green way may have been found and acted upon.

We may have lost an opportunity here to take a different approach. So, where then, does the proverbial buck stop?

I have been growing increasingly concerned regarding the direction in which the Party has been going. I was personally dismayed by events which played themselves out during the final days of the election when our Leader urged Canadians to not vote for us. Yes, her message was mangled by the media, but confusion of her message to the media should have been expected, given the media's track record presenting nuanced discourse. And now we, as a Party, have come out in favour of a Coalition in which we won’t have any say, and which will also likely take Canada in a direction which is not in keeping with the policies of our Party. Policies which, I might add, have been given the benefit of careful consideration by grassroots members. For one example I offer up that Stephane Dion has already nixed the idea that the Coalition would be pursuing a Carbon Tax. While certainly the discussion of a cap and trade system is much better than Harper’s do-nothing approach, it still won’t get the country to where it needs to be.

I believe that we had a golden opportunity to stake out our position, finding a third alternative to present to the Canadian public in an election which is sure to come sooner rather than later, whether the Coalition takes over from Harper or not. Instead, we have chosen to remain the Party which is beginning to appear to be a true one-issue Party; that issue being to promote at all costs the need to remove Stephen Harper as Prime Minister.

I’m not sure this is what I signed up for. I know others are beginning to feel the same way.