Monday, July 27, 2015

Kelowna - Lake Country Greens Defy Grassroots Green Party Members

I don’t often praise my own Party enough for all of the good things that the people in my parth have been doing.  Usually, when I write a post about the Green Party of Canada, it’s because I’m complaining about something, rather than expressing my thanks to the many volunteers and grassroots members who work hard to build and promote the party.  The proof is in the pudding: Fundraising levels are up to a point where they’ve never been before.  Across Canada, quality candidates are being nominated – and nomination contests are energizing local electoral district associations.  Volunteers are being inspired, and new supporters are joining us like never before.  There’s a real feeling of change in the air, and a lot of that momentum has to do with the people working behind the scenes – most of whom are grassroots volunteers.

Green Party of Canada - United in Hard Work

Kudos of course to our elected MP’s, Elizabeth May and Bruce Hyer, along with their professional campaign staff who will be doing what we can to ensure that that both Elizabeth and Bruce are sent back to Ottawa – along with a cadre of other Green MPs from across the nation.  The Green Party has developed great policies which really set us apart, and the campaign has been diligently rolling out platform planks now for the past month.  We are starting to be noticed, despite the setbacks we’ve had to endure once again regarding the leader’s debates.

I’m just thrilled that all of this is happening.  Here in Sudbury, I’m looking forward to taking some time to help out with the campaigns of Laruentian University professor of economics, Dr. David Robinson, which the Sudbury riding nominated a few months ago, and with organic farmer Stuart McCall who is seeking the nomination against “None of the Above” in the Nickel Belt riding (I’m fairly confident that Stuart will make a better candidate than NOTA).  In both ridings, local electoral districts discussed whether we should nominate candidates at all – as is the prerogative of local riding associations (EDA’s can talk about anything that they’d like to discuss) – and in both cases, local Greens agreed that we’d be foolish not to offer our voters an opportunity to vote for a candidate of their choice, rather than having to vote for the least worst other candidate.  After all, we’ve been working hard between elections to build the Party here – and to have our Party taken seriously by voters and other political actors.

Green Party - the Party of Co-operation

I’m proud of our leader Elizabeth May for writing to MPs in the Liberal and New Democratic parties back in 2012 in an attempt to start building electoral bridges between the opposition parties (see: “Elizabeth May and political co-operation”, Maclean’s Magazine, January 18, 2013).  May acted on the direction of grassroots Greens who, at our Annual General Meeting in Sidney, B.C. that year, passed a resolution calling on our Party’s leadership to pursue opportunities to co-operate with the other parties.

Ultimately, May was rebuffed by the Liberals and the NDP (although the question of working with then-Independent MP Bruce Hyer was resolved when Hyer joined the Green Party as our second MP, citing Green’s desire to work with other parliamentarians as one of several reasons for becoming a Green himself).

In the spirit of co-operation in an extremely unique circumstance, Greens sat out the Labrador by-election in 2013 – and urged the NDP to do the same (see: “Labrador: Greens Will Not Field aCandidate, Challenge NDP Also to Desist,” Green Party press release, March 23, 2013).  That by-election was triggered by the resignation of Conservative MP Peter Penashue in advance of the conclusion of an Elections Canada investigation regarding his expenses.  Penashue, who eventually lost Labrador to Liberal Yvonne Jones, had admitted to accepting 28 illegal campaign donations in 2011, was still authorized by the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to contest Labrador (see: “Former Tory cabinet minister Penashuebegan re-election bid three days before he resigned over illegal campaigndonations,” the National Post, March 19, 2013).

With the 2015 General Election around the corner, the Green Party of Canada has come under fire from many directions, but especially from elements of the progressive Canadian left and the New Democratic Party for having the audacity to contest the elections in districts where New Democrats are running.  Of course, since the NDP has a party requirement that they field candidates in all national ridings, that means that essentially the Green Party has come under fire for simply existing.

The Green Party - Doing Politics Differently

Many New Democrats, of course, believe that their Party has the best policies, and conceive of any reason that Greens are contesting the election – so they resort to inventing reasons, such as the ever-popular “The Greens are really neo-liberals and are more to the right than the Liberals and Conservatives”.  Of course NDP partisans our out to tar the Green Party now that the Green Party has been getting noticed in a way that it never has.  Interestingly, those same NDP partisans who bemoan the existence of the Green Party and its audacity to contest elections – those same partisans don’t seem to ever call on Liberal candidates to step down even though a riding without a Liberal running would likely benefit the NDP much more than an absentee Green.  It’s almost as if the NDP, despite being hyper-partisan, harbours an elitist attitude of entitlement when it comes to being “in the club” of large, old-line parties.

Choosing not to run candidates in certain circumstances has been a bit of a hallmark of the Green Party – and in my opinion, it shows quite clearly how the Green Party is walking the talk of “doing politics differently” (for more on of my analysis on this topic, see: “GreensDoing Politics Differently: A Smart Play by Elizabeth May in Etobicoke Centre,” Sudbury Steve May, July 19, 2012).  Although many so-called progressives on the left roundly criticized May and the Greens for having a Leader’s non-compete pact with Liberal Leader Stephane Dion in the 2008 general election in their respective ridings, May and Dion were engaged in an activity which has happened numerous times throughout Canadian history, especially in circumstance where an unelected Party leader was vying for entry into Parliament.

In 2008, Greens also did not oppose Independent Bill Casey’s bid for re-election in Nova Scotia’s Cumberland - Colchester riding.  Casey was ousted from the Conservative Party after having voted against the 2007 federal budget out of concern that Stephen Harper’s government has betrayed the Atlantic Accord (see: “Green party Leader praises Bill Casey’s courage,” Green Party of Canada press release, June 6, 2007). 

In 2015, it may very well be that the Green Party doesn’t field candidates in certain ridings where elected MP’s, like former-Conservative now-Independent Brent Rathgeber (Edmonton - St. Albert) have been allies.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if the riding of Dauphin – Swan River - Marquette is not contested by the Green Party, as former MP Inky Mark has announced that the will be throwing his hat in the ring to run as an Independent when the writ is dropped (see: “Inky Mary Running in 2015 Federal Election,” CKDM 730, November 13, 2014).  Mark has in the past shown a lot of solidarity with local Greens in that riding and throughout Manitoba.  

No-Compete vs. Actively Campaigning

It’s never an easy decision for local Greens to make when it comes to contesting elections at the riding level.  If Greens don’t run, the outcome could be the disenfranchisement of local supporters.  It can also lead to calls of “co-operation” as we’ve all seen with the May-Dion non-compete agreement (apparently, “co-operation” has become a dirty word in electoral politics in Canada). 

It’s one thing, however, for a local riding association to opt to sit out an election – it’s another thing completely for a riding association or a candidate to actively campaign for another candidate or political party.  This may seem like a subtlety – it isn’t.  Sitting out an election, as Greens did in Labrador and in Cumberland - Colchester meant that the Party devoted none of its resources into electing a member from another party, or an independent legislator.  In some respects, those situations could be described as “letting the chips fall where they may”, albeit I think it’s hard to go so far as to suggest that the Party didn’t have a preferred candidate in mind, even if there was no official support lent to that candidate.  That may seem nit-picky, but it isn't.  What we think in our minds and feel in our hearts are one thing - but when we convert those feelings and thoughts into actions, we need to take responsibility for those actions.

Crossing the Line in Kelowna - Lake Country

Recent events involving the Green Party and its newly nominated candidate Gary Adams in the Kelowna – Lake Country riding, however, are quite different than simply standing down.  In Kelowna – Lake Country, it appears that nominated candidate has a formal agreement with the Liberal’s nominated candidate, Stephen Fuhr, that would see Adams step down as candidate, and Greens supporting Fuhr in return for some vague commitments on climate change and electoral reform (see: “Gary Adams, Green Party Candidate, Will Quit toCampaign for Liberal Candidate,” the Huffington Post, July 19, 2015) .  The real reason behind the agreement likely has a lot more to do with defeating a Conservative MP than it does with climate change or electoral reform.

This situation in Kelowna – Lake Country is truly problematic.  Although on the surface, it might appear that Greens in the riding have found a unique way around a number of issues standing in the way of true local co-operation, such as the prohibition to hold joint nomination contests with another political party, or to nominate a candidate belonging to another political party.  Both of these issues are created by the fact that the Green Party of Canada’s Constitution does not contemplate them happening.  In fact, the Green Party’s Constitution, like that of other Canadian political parties, emphasises the Party’s desire and direction to nominate and elect Greens to parliament.  Without the Constitutional options available for nominating a non-Green or holding a joint nomination, the Kelowna – Lake Country Green Party EDA appears to have come up with an interesting way to circumvent the stated direction and desire of the Green Party’s Constitution, by nominating a candidate to fill the required slot, but then having the candidate step down and endorse another candidate, and actively campaign on behalf of the other candidate.

No Getting Around the Will of Grassroots Members

Of course, when you go about trying to circumvent rules and regulations, like the Green Party’s Constitution and By-laws, in order to do something not in keeping with the spirit of those rules and by-laws – which, I need to emphasize are rules and by-laws adopted by grassroots party members like me – you can run into trouble.

And as far as I’m concerned, what’s happening in Kelowna – Lake Country is nothing but trouble for the Green Party of Canada.  Standing down is one thing – but using the name and resources of the Green Party of Canada to actively campaign for a member of another party is quite another.  Yes, we Greens pride ourselves on doing politics differently – but we have not authorized a unit of the Party, in this case an Electoral District Association – to go so far as to ignore the Party’s Constitution and engage in campaigning for non-Greens.

No serious political party would contemplate doing anything like what is happening in Kelowna – Lake Country – at least not without some sort of formal agreement being in place at the Party level – and even then, only after requisite changes were made to the Constitution and By-laws of the Party.  When grassroots party members authorized the Party to approach the Liberals and NDP with the end goal of co-operation, the resolution directed the Party’s Federal Council to take the initiative.  Grassroots members who supported that approach in Sidney in 2012 could have taken another approach – to leave it up to individual electoral district associations, for example – but in our wisdom, the initiative fell to our Federal Council – the body charged with making decisions for the Party between elections.  To me, it seems like this was the appropriate body to have work on the initiative, which ultimately failed.

The Constitution is Paramount

The Constitution of the GreenParty of Canada – indeed, the Constitution of any Canadian political party, is an expression of the will of the Party’s membership. For the Green Party, our Constitution and regulatory by-laws can only be amended through a vote of the membership at a General Meeting.  Our Federal Council does not have the authority on its own to amend the Constitution (although Fed Council can propose amendments to the membership at a General Meeting).  In fact, our Federal Council is charged with upholding our Constitution as an expression of the grassroots members who have, over time, voted as per the Party’s rules to enact, alter, rescind and add to the Constitution and attendant by-laws.

What the Constitution isn’t is something to be taken lightly and ignored for the sake of political expediency. 

With that in mind, it is completely clear to that the decision of the Kelowna – Lake Country EDA and nominated candidate Gary Adam’s to campaign for Liberal Stephen Fuhr is one which is was made and will be undertaken outside of the Party’s constitutional framework.  Further, not only has the Kelowna – Lake Country EDA, along with Adams and his supporters, authorized an action in contradiction to the Party’s Constitution, it has done so in a way which flies in the face of the very grassroots volunteers who have built the Green Party of Canada.  When you ignore the Constitution in the way that it is being ignored in Kelowna, it’s like giving grassroots greens a giant raspberry, as if to say “Who cares what you think? We’ll do what we want.”

Why the Kelowna- Lake Country Situation is Unconstitutional

Let’s explore for a moment some of the provisions of the Constitution of the Green Party of Canada and attendant by-laws to which the Kelowna – Lake Country decision to campaign for the Liberal Party is in conflict with. 
  • Section 3.1, Basis of Unity: “To enhance the effectiveness of the Global Green Movement in creating a Green Society by providing an evolving political structure that embraces and supports Green Values and offers itself as a voice for the broader Green Movement.” 
A nominated candidate who campaigns for a candidate of another political party is not promoting the Global Green Movement or helping create a Green Society in circumstances where the campaigning is for a candidate which does not support Green Values.  Although Stephen Fuhr has committed to some minor consultation with Greens, the values of the Liberal Party of Canada are not in keeping with those of the Green Party of Canada.  Clearly on an issue by issue basis, there may be some overlap, but there will also be considerable conflict.
  • Section 4.1.1, Purpose: “Fielding and electing candidates in federal elections.”   
A candidate which campaigns for another candidate is not meeting this purpose of the Party.  One might argue that this Section makes no reference to a candidate having to be a Green member – but given the balance of the Constitution and By-laws, I believe a strong case can be made that it’s implied that the candidates to whom are fielded by the Party are anticipated to be Greens – and not, as in this case, a member of the Liberal Party.
  • Section 4.1.4, “Advancing the Party's Platform, Positions, Policy, Values and Basis of Unity outside of electoral periods.” 
A candidate who campaigns for another candidate is not helping to assist, and is instead hindering the advancement of the Party's platform, positions, policies, values and basis of unity, both pre- and post-writ.  Given the fall-out already prevalent on social media regarding the incident in Kelowna – Lake Country, it’s quite evident that this unilateral action of the nominated candidate and his supporters is not in keeping with the historic decisions of the national party’s grassroots and is hurting the Party.
  • By-law 1, Membership, Section 1.1.2, “Every Member shall uphold this Constitution and Bylaws.” 
By campaigning against the Party's values, basis of unity, etc., Gary Adams and his supporters are not upholding the Party's Constitution and Bylaws.
  • By-law 1, Membership, Section 1.1.4, “A person cannot be a Member of the Party if the person belongs to an organization whose actions are detrimental to the Party, as determined by Federal Council.” 
Although it is not clear that Adams or his supporter belong to an official organization which is working at cross-purposes to the party, it is clear that their actions and close association with the Liberal Party of Canada and it’s candidate in Kelowna – Lake Country are working against the interests of the party.  While I acknowledge that those in Kelowna may not be technically in violation of this by-law section, I believe the situation in Kelowna is in violation of the spirit of this section.  And it may be that having entered into a formal Memorandum of Understanding with Stephen Fuhr that the violation is, in fact, more than just a spiritual one, if the MOU itself is viewed as akin to an “organization”.  Certainly it’s an agreement outlining expectations – and that sounds pretty “organized” to me.
  • By-law 1, Membership, Section, Resignation and Removal of Member, which reads:  "A person shall cease to be a Member of the Party...On stating that they are working to form a new Federal political party, or if they are working for another existing Federal political party (emphasis added). 
For me, this really is the clincher. It’s an expression of the Green Party’s grassroots that we grassroots members will not tolerate a member working to further the interests of another political party.  Grassroots Greens have said that we are a tolerant group – that we even want our Federal Council to explore ways of co-operating with the other opposition parties pre-writ.  We even accept the idea that in some cases, the Party will not run candidates in certain ridings in general elections and in by-elections.  But even we grassroots Greens have our limits – and our limits, as expressed by the national Party membership, are located where a Green member is actively working with another or a new federal political party. 

I agree with those who may suggest that there is some vagueness to this provision (what, exactly, constitutes “work”?  Is a tweet of support to a member of another political party?  Does work require a payment?).  I would suggest, however, that most level-headed Greens would look at a situation where a nominated candidate and/or an EDA actively campaigns for another candidate to win – that the campaigning in favour of the other candidate would be viewed as “work”, despite the lack of pay.  We who volunteer on political campaigns know just how much “work” goes into any campaign – and most of us never receive any money from anybody for the pleasure of working the campaign – nor do we seek it out.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that those members of the Kelowna – Lake Country EDA or Gary Adams or his supporters are receiving a payment for their actions and activities.  But I am suggesting that their actions and activities – campaigning for a Liberal candidate, constitute “working for another existing Federal political party” and as such they have ceased to be members of the Green Party of Canada.

Why Gary Adams Should No Longer Be Considered a Nominated Candidate or Member of the Green Party of Canada

To be clear, in Section 1.3.2 of By-law 1, the authority to expel members of the Party has been granted to Federal Council, and there’s a process which must be undertaken should Federal Council decide expulsion is necessary.  Those same provisions, however, don’t apply to the circumstances outlined in Section 1.3.1 of the By-law, which include the death or resignation of a member, or the member not being in “good standing” for a period of 12 months, or on stating that they are working for another Federal political party as Adams has done.

Based on the Green Party’s Constitution and By-laws, as voted on by grassroots members of the Party from across Canada, not only should Gary Adams be considered not to be a member of the Party by virtue of the actions he undertook to publicly work for the Liberal Party of Canada, but Adams’ nomination in Kelowna – Lake Country should be considered null and void because, having stated his position to work with the Liberals to Green members at the nomination meeting and beforehand, Adams could not have been considered a “member” of the Party at the time of his nomination, as per By-law

Now that may seem extreme to some – and perhaps it is – but nevertheless, our Federal Council does not have discretion to determine the membership of individuals who cease to be members in accordance with Section 1.3.1 – Fed Council can’t determine that a member not in good standing for more than 12 months is still a member, or that a member who resigned previously is still a member, or that a member working for another political party is still a member.  The Constitution and its by-laws treat all of these circumstances the same way.  Where a ruling by Federal Council might be needed is not in the determination of membership, but rather in the determination of what constitutes “death”, “resignation” or “working for another political party”.

If the Green Party of Canada’s Federal Council ultimately decides that actively campaigning for another party’s candidate is “working for another political party”, then Gary Adams and his supporters will cease to be members, retroactively to the time when they publicly made statements to the effect that they would work to elect a Liberal in Kelowna – Lake Country.  And that was before the nomination meeting.

The Limit of Local EDA's Authority As Per the National Party's Grassroots

For those who may look to By-law 5 under the Green Party’s Constitution as offering a potential way for those supporters of Adams in Kelowna to view their anti-grassroots initiative as in keeping with the Constitution and by-laws of the Party, I would suggest that Section 5.1, which reads, “Where there is an EDA, the electoral district shall select the candidate in accordance with the association’s Bylaws” can’t be relied on because Adams was not a member of the Green Party of Canada at the time of his nomination, for the reasons given above related to By-law  Further, Adams is not now the nominated candidate for the Party for those same reasons.

And that means that the Kelowna – Lake Country EDA needs to start looking for a  candidate quickly – or that our Federal Council will need to appoint one to run in the Kelowna – Lakeland riding.  The grassroots members of the national party will expect these outcomes, in keeping with the Party’s Constitution and By-laws – and in keeping with their own commitments to build the Party.

Federal Council Must Act in Kelowna - Lake Country

In keeping with all of the good thing that volunteers, paid staff, Green MPs and other grassroots members are doing to advance the interests of the Green Party of Canada, in keeping with our shared Green values, our Federal Council must ensure that a Green Party member is in place as a candidate in Kelowna – Lake Country prior to the final day to register candidates.  Gary Adams should no longer be considered a member of the Party due to his own actions – and if Federal Council determines that other Greens are actively working to elect Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr in Kelowna – Lake Country, those Greens should be advised that they, too, have ceased to be members of the Party. 

We the grassroots are watching.  So far this matter has been allowed to fester for most of July, and came to a head at the July 18th nomination meeting.  As a result, our Party’s reputation has taken a serious hit thanks to the unconstitutional act of a few members who believe that they know better that the Party’s grassroots.  It is with this in mind that I urge our Federal Council to either work with the Kelowna – Lake Country EDA (if it’s still a viable unit of the party) to find a new candidate, or that Federal Council appoints a new candidate.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada) 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Taking a Closer Look at Maley Drive, Part 2: Project Suburbia

In Part 1 of this blogseries, I indicated that I would follow-up with a second part of the series – one focusing on the Maley Drive Extension and the expectations that building this new road will lead to growth.  Since writing Part 1, it’s become clear to me that the myth that growth brings about prosperity is alive and well in our City – and is being used by some as a definitive argument to embrace Maley.  In some cases, those critics, like me, are being dismissed as “defeatists” or "anti-development" because we champion sustainability over last century’s growth-focused development paradigm.  

Clearly, there is a need for a more significant level of education about costs and benefits, and about the future in general.  With scarce financial resources at our disposal, it is now more important than ever that we invest in infrastructure which will meet the needs of the community.  With that in mind, I’ve decided to extend this blogseries through the inclusion of a Part 2 different from the one that I had originally contemplated.  In this “new Part 2”, I’ll discuss why the project of suburban development is ultimately one which must be halted, without fanfare, because it is not sustainable.  In Part 3, I’ll return to my original plan and identify why Maley Drive will not facilitate growth in the way that so many are claiming it will.

A Conversion on the Road to the Future

There may not have been a single “Road to Damascus” moment for former City of Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion.  McCallion had one of the lengthiest – and arguably the most brilliant – of careers of any head of Council in Ontario.  When “Hurricane Hazel” took over as Mayor of Mississauga in 1978, the newly amalgamated (1971) City’s population stood at just over 280,000.  By the time McCallion retired in 2014, Mississauga had bloomed to over 710,000 people – making it Canada’s 6th largest City.

Most of the growth in Mississauga which happened under McCallion’s watch could be described as “suburban” in nature, although in her later terms of office, McCallion and the City underwent a slow conversion to new urbanism sparked by the creation of a new City Centre at Burnhamthorpe and Hurontario (where Mississauga’s “celebrated” City Hall today sits surrounded by soaring condominium towers).  For a long time, Mississauga residents enjoyed one of the perks of runaway development – 0% tax increases – as the City’s budget was sustained through the collection of development charges.

Of course, the 0% tax increase party has been over in Mississauga for a while now, and suburban development has been exposed for the unsustainable Ponzi Scheme that it is.  McCallion might have been one of the first in Mississauga to seriously ask the question, “just what have we done?” and then attempted to atone for her ways by embracing new urbanist principles.  But even Mississauga’s most popular leader couldn’t change the minds of residents married to the idea of sprawl development – at least not until taxes were forced to rise (see: “Mississauga on the eve of Hazel McCallion’s departure:Hume," the Toronto Star, February 21, 2014).  It may have taken some time, but “the capital of suburbia” is in the process of intensifying and retrofitting itself, through the use of smart growth and new urbanist principles.  The goal is sustainability for built form, transportation, and the municipal budget.

The End of the Oil Age

Writing about Mississauga’s experience with suburban development may seem like a strange place to start a blogpost about Maley Drive, a proposed new road in Sudbury’s north end.  Mississauga is, after, quite unlike Greater Sudbury in many respects – although if one looks back at the Mississauga of the late 1960s, one might be able to discern similarities between that Mississauga and today’s Greater Sudbury (although the differences remain, including one of the biggest: 1960’s Toronto Township, which became Mississauga in 1971, was primed for growth, due to its proximity to the City of Toronto.  Today’s Greater Sudbury isn’t growing to any significant degree at all, and sits in the centre of region which has experienced a decline in population for several decades, and which is forecast to continue to decline).  However, both Mississauga and Greater Sudbury are struggling with one issue in common: how to retrofit a largely suburban development form with the infrastructure needed to face the challenges of the 21st Century.

The challenges of the 21st Century are quite unlike those of the 20th Century.  It all starts with the end of the Oil Age – or at least, the end of the era of cheap oil – an era whose door was firmly closed at the conclusion of the 1990s.  Although oil remains an abundant resource, digging it out of the ground, processing it and transporting it have made the commodity very expensive.  Despite the expense, a global glut of oil due to over-production in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. is keeping prices down, and a long-predicted economic slow-down might lead to even lower prices.  That’s cold comfort for Canadian motorists, who continue to pay significantly higher prices today than at almost any time in the past (except for 2007-2008).

The glut isn’t sustainable, however, as production will likely slow as the economic downturn continues.  Production should begin to even itself out as demand decreases due to economic inactivity and cheaper renewable energy.  This evening out will likely means job layoffs in the fossil energy sector.  Predictably, lower prices will give way to higher prices when demand starts to increase again, and production needs to be wound back up.  It’s all a part of the familiar cycle that we’ve lived through now for decades – but the long term trend for prices has only gone one way – up.
But there’s a monkey wrench that will eventually be thrown into the mix which will disrupt this cycle.  When the world begins to get serious about climate change, one of the outcomes will be that existing fossil resources will need to be left in the ground, safely sequestering a carbon resource which we dare not burn.  This won’t happen all at once – indeed, the notion of not exploiting known resources seems strange to a large number of people today – some can hardly fathom it.  However, there really is no escaping the fact that the world can’t get serious about mitigating against the impacts of climate change and burning all of our known fossil resources.

It’s already happening with coal – the world’s first “stranded asset”.  Heavy oil like that found in the tar sands will be the next.  The more carbon-rich a resource, the more likely that it will be at the head of the stranded asset class.  We’ll continue to develop and exploit deposits of less carbon-intensive fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, right up until we don’t need to any more.  The first part of the 21st Century will see a significant shift away from fossil resources and towards renewables – a process which likely won’t be completed until the end of the Century.

But there really is no denying that it will happen.  It must happen. 

The Electrification of the Future

In a world where fossil energy is no longer inexpensive – or no longer a vialble energy source at all – is Mississauga’s and Greater Sudbury’s predominant form of low-density development (“suburbia”) sustainable?  There is some suggestion that with the right technological development, we could theoretically sustain this sprawling development pattern.  Electric vehicles could simply replace oil-burning cars and trucks, while the equivalent of electric gas stations might start popping up along well-travelled corridors.  Better batteries (which are almost certainly going to be a reality) will give drivers the ability to continue travelling long distances as ever before.

Or is this just a dream? 

Electrification is bound to be the civilizational project of this century.  We’ll finally have completed the endeavour begun in the 1800s – and interrupted by cheap, often publicly subsidized, oil (see: “Time to Complete the Electrical Revolution,” Dr. David Robinson, Economics for Northern Ontario, June 14, 2015).  As we make the shift away from fossil energy, electricity will be the go-to fuel source to meet an ever-growing number of our energy needs, including for transportation of ourselves and the goods we purchase, and for heating our homes.  The development of an distributed smart grid will help lower costs and reduce waste.  However, there will be a significant cost to electrification – and it’s certainly not clear that we’ll be paying less for electricity over the next several decades.

With higher costs to move personal vehicles around on highways, will personal vehicle ownership continue to make sense for most middle class Canadians?  Already, Canadians are choosing to drive less.  Car ownership rates are down considerably amongst millennials (see: “The many reasonsmillennials are shunning cars,” the Washington Post, October 14, 2014) and seniors are finding that car ownership, coupled with rising insurance rates, may not be appropriate for fixed-income budgeting.

Reassessing the 'Suburban Dream'

Higher energy costs, and a greater focus on conservation, will ensure that the future of suburbia isn’t what it used to be (see: “America’sSuburban Dream is Over. You’ll Never Guess What Happens Next,” Andrei Burke, Ultraculture, April 30, 2014).  With this in mind, sustainable development forms become even more important, as the shift towards more livable communities (read: transit accessible, walkable, mixed-use, bike-friendly) is already underway.  There is no stopping this trend.

With this knowledge in mind, it’s not difficult to understand why a major municipal leader like Mississauga’s Mayor Hazel McCallion acknowledged the need for retrofits in her City.  To be better poised to meet the challenges of the 21st Century, and to seize the opportunities, McCallion recognized that Mississauga had to transform itself into something more than a low-density bedroom community.  Continuing to do things the same way that they had always been done would have led to financial ruin for Mississauga, while getting out in front of the livability trend would better position her City to be able to prosper.

The recipe is the same for Greater Sudbury, although the ingredients are going to be a little different.  Unlike Mississauga, Greater Sudbury has largely continued to put off its day of reckoning with suburban sprawl.  There have been some positive signs, however, including new higher-density development on lots in fully-serviced areas of the City.  But new condo developments have run into trouble (see: “Sudbury homebuyers still ‘experimenting’ with condominiums,” CBC News, July 15, 2015), and the majority of the Ctiy’s new population has found itself living outside of the former City of Sudbury – in most cases in suburban style subdivisions, rather than in more urban forms in the cores of outlying communities.

There are many in Greater Sudbury who embrace this 20th Century style of development.  I understand why – it’s easy to continue to believe that the future will look like the past – or at least the part of the past that we are familiar with.  I grew up in the “splendid suburbia” of Brampton – Bramalea, to be precise.  Growing up, I never thought very much about just how new and “innovative” planned suburban communities were – to me, they were just natural.  And when I encountered different forms of development, such as on those occasions when my dad would take me to Carleton and Yonge to see a hockey game at Maple Leaf gardens – I would lament the fact that people had to live in the filth and grime of Toronto because their circumstances didn’t allow them to own a suburban home like ours.  It was only later in life that I came to realize just how bizarre suburban living actually is in the context of historical human settlement patterns.  Bizarre, yes – but still very popular.

The Myth of Who Pays For What

The popularity of suburbia has, however, been oversold.  Literally.  I am of the opinion that suburban development would not be so popular if suburban occupants were paying the real costs of living of their own lifestyle choices.   Many of these costs are hidden – and because they are hidden, it’s not the suburban resident who picks up the tab – the costs are subsidized by all taxpayers.  These hidden costs are numerous and insidious (see: “Suburban Sprawl: Exposing HiddenCosts, Identifying Innovations,” Sustainable Prosperity, October 2013).

However, despite the very real evidence that taxpayers are subsidizing suburban homeowners, the myth that suburban residents pay more than their fair share to society (in the form of high property taxes) remains largely unchallenged – and as a result, prevalent.  Here in Greater Sudbury, hardly a day goes by where someone isn’t posting on social media about how their taxes are paying for downtown development, and how much better off places like the Valley and Chelmsford would be if suburban taxpayers there erected a firewall.  People who live in the Valley are good people – they are my neighbours.  But they are also very wrong when it comes to the notion that they are financially supporting the inner city – the opposite is clearly true, thanks to hidden costs which are picked up by municipal property tax payers.

Christopher Hume, in his piece about Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, linked to above, provided a revealing statistic which he saw first in a book authored by former Toronto Mayor John Sewell.  This statistic should have some resonance with Greater Sudburians, as we tend to have a pretty substantial “roads focus”.  Hume writes, “In his wonderfully informative book, “Shape of the Suburbs”, former Toronto Mayor John Sewell points out a revealing statistic: there are five feet of road for every city dweller; 18 feet for every suburbanite. That pretty much sums up the situation.”

Rethinking the Future

We know that the City of Greater Sudbury is already facing a massive infrastructure deficit.  Simply put, we’ve not been investing in maintaining our sprawling sewer, water and transportation infrastructure.  Had Greater Sudbury experienced a Mississauga Moment back in the 1950s, before we committed ourselves to building our Northern version of “splendid suburbia”, it’s doubtful that we would have chosen to undertake the project in the first place – and instead would have required a significantly more dense form of development – one which is easier and less expensive to service, and one which is more livable.  Of course, in Greater Sudbury's defence, most cities in North America opted to go the car-dependent route.  Hindsight is 20/20.  But today, given all that we know, there is no longer any good reason to shun the foresight that we have about the form of development that we need to embrace in the 21st Century.

Of course, there are a lot of bad reasons to continue doing things the way that they’ve always been done.  First, suburbia is popular.  Second, the idea that “growth” will pay for itself is prevalent.  Third, there are many influential supporters of the status quo out there which have a vested interest in continuing to do things as they’ve always been done.  Fourth, there are just some people who don’t believe in the future – or at least the version of the future that they themselves are likely to experience – and who will do whatever they can to stave off that future’s arrival.  Unfortunately for us, many of those people are the leaders of our communities, our provinces and our nations.  Our elected officials, our leaders of business and industry, even our educators and public servants – too many continue to fight for the future of the past, rather than the future that we are actually likely to get.

Maley Drive and the Decline of the Growth-Centred Paradigm

And this brings us back to Maley Drive.  There are some very loud voices in our City who are championing the creation of the Maley Drive extension, in part because they believe that building this new road will facilitate growth in our City.  Growth, they believe, is the panacea to all of the City’s problems, despite the fact that the City has grown over the past 100 years and, well, here we are. 

In Part 3 of my blogseries, I’ll explore the sort of future that we are likely to have in Greater Sudbury, and why Maley Drive will actually prove to be an impediment to that future.  I’ll discuss sustainability vs. growth, and show how the project of enlarging the “splendid suburbia” on the low density fringes of our City just isn’t in the cards for a number of reasons. 

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada) 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Orange Sleaze: The NDP’s Fact-Free Smears of the Green Party

There used to be a time when New Democrats wouldn’t lower themselves to uttering the name of the “Green Party” or its leader, out of fear that acknowledging its existence would lend legitimacy to the Party.  It’s 2015 now, and all of that has changed.   With the Green Party now polling at around 16% in British Columbia, the NDP appears to be in the midst of launching an all-out smear campaign against the Greens.

The filthy mist rising from the ranks of BC’s NDP is starting to waft westward, across the country.  Rather than taking the Green Party on based on policies or other issues, what I and many others who are paying attention are seeing instead is an effort to malign and marginalize the Green Party based on innuendo, spin, distorting the facts and just plain making things up.  Of course, the NDP are the masters of this game (although the Conservative Party has certainly given the NDP a good run for its money in recent years) – the use of sleazy tactics has long been one of the aspects of the New Democratic Party which has completely turned me and others off.

Sleaze Starts at the Top, Flows Downhill

While many might want to write the recent disgusting attacks off as the work of a few anonymous NDP muck-raking partisans, the fact is that the direction here is coming from the top.  Back in November, 2014, just before the Lima COP conference, the NDP issued a release about a Green Party fundraising email in which the Green Party “attacked” the NDP for not sending delegates to COP conferences (see: “Elizabeth May’s climate conference hypocrisy”, NDP, November 4, 2014).  The release goes on to criticize Elizabeth May, inferring her hypocrisy on attending international environmental conferences by selectively using a quote from May which – on the surface – is quite critical of flying to international conferences.

Of course, the NDP revels in dealing in half-truths.  What the release didn’t say was that the quote from Elizabeth May wasn’t about the UNFCC’s COP conferences, but rather was made in response to why May was not going to the Rio +10 conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, back when May was in charge of the Sierra Club Canada in 2002 – 4 years before becoming leader of the Green Party of Canada.  As May pointed out to Mulcair and the NDP in her response, the Rio +10 conference was not in fact an international climate change negotiation (see: “Response from Elizabeth May:Dear Tom”, Green Party of Canada, November 5, 2014).  Essentially, Mulcair and the NDP have called May a hypocrite over comments May made on a matter unrelated to the matter for which the NDP branded her a hypocrite.  I’m not certain what the term is for that – so I’ll just refer to it as “sleaze”.

And although this is a minor point, it does help illustrate how the NDP likes to twist the facts or just make things up.  The so-called “fundraising email” was sent to members from Executive Director Emily McMillan.  I received it.  I can confirm that nowhere in the email were members asked to contribute funds.  As a Green Party member, I recall this being an unusual circumstance, as just about all of the emails I receive from the Party are asking for a donation somewhere in the text – but not this one.

Despite having received May’s comments and having had these issues brought to their attention, the NDP news release remains available on the NDP’s website for all to read – errors and distortions included.  Spin and fantasy sell better than hard reality and facts, I guess.

NDP Can't Challenge Greens on Issues

And there’s the rub.  Not only is it true that more compelling stories are often those that are made-up (think of any fishing story – “I caught a fish THIS big”), but it’s especially true when the facts of an issue are problematic.  And when it comes to the issues that the Green Party of Canada have been talking about – especially in British Columbia – the hard reality for the NDP is that their own party’s policies on climate change, pipelines and tankers just don’t measure up.  In fact, the NDP’s poorly conceived and uncoordinated policies are a complete hash.  Kudos to the NDP for wanting to put a price on carbon, but what’s up with wanting to expand the tar sands?  Good on the NDP for wanting to change the National Energy Board’s flawed assessment process for pipelines, along with the NDP’s opposition to Keystone XL and Northern Gateway – but the NDP’s refusal to call for a halt to Kinder Morgan and Energy East is extremely problematic.  Bravo to the NDP for wanting to ban tankers from accessing the Port of Kitimat, but it’s too bad that they don’t have the same concerns about tankers in the Port of Vancouver.

In a word, the NDP’s policies on climate change can be summed up concisely: Greenwashing.  Simply put, the NDP has no credible plan in place to address the biggest issue facing humanity in our times.  And given that the NDP was the party to introduce legislation calling for meaningful targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and has re-introduced that legislation several times now since 2006, there really is no excuse for the NDP not to have gone further and developed a full-fledged plan to take on climate change.  Frankly, the NDP has missed 9 years of moving forward on climate change.  Good targets can’t be equated with a credible plan, as we’ve seen from prior Liberal governments which endorsed reasonable targets for Canada under Kyoto, which also proved to be greenwashing. 

On the other hand, the Green Party has a very comprehensive plan in place to provide leadership for Canada on climate change.  The plan has long been available on the Party’s website, for anyone wanting to take the time to read it (see: VisionGreen, Green Party of Canada).  Recently, Elizabeth May announced a more condensed, election-ready version at a news conference in Victoria (see: “May announces Green Party’s plan to fight climate change”, ipolitics, June 15, 2015), a riding which the Green Party has been pretty clear that it is contesting with the nomination of star candidate, veteran CBC journalist Joanne Roberts (see: “Greens going after Victoria with‘all we’ve got’”, ipolitics, April 10, 2015).

Green Audacity to Run Candidates, Contest Election

Victoria is currently held by NDP MP Murray Rankin, who narrowly defeated former Green Party candidate professor Donald Galloway in a 2012 by-election.  Rankin, who came to the NDP with some pretty impressive environmental credentials (Wikipedia identifies him as an “internationally recognized expert on environmental and public law”), is that Party’s Health Critic (an extremely important portfolio for the NDP).  Many partisan Rankin supporters have taken the Green Party to task for having the audacity to oppose a man with such “green” credentials (for an example, see: “Greens disappoint with candidate decision”, Victoria Times-Colonist, January 28, 2015).

Of course, this criticism of the Green Party from the NDP is not only self-serving (the above letter was authored by Lynn Hunter, a former NDP MP, although her affiliation is not referenced in her letter to the editor) – it completely defies logic.  But Hunter is far from the only New Democrat to insinuate that something “sinister” is at play in Victoria.  NDP supporter Nicholas Ellan imagines a much broader, Green-Liberal conspiracy, based on his bizarre analysis of the sequence of the Green Party’s candidate nominations, which fail to consider that the Green Party has publicly insisted it will be running candidates in all 338 ridings (see: “Nicholas Ellan: Why Greens target NDP ridingsand Elizabeth May’s decade of Liberal deal-making”, the Georgia Straight, January 23, 2015).  Of course, in Ellan’s parochial worldview, certain parties “own” certain ridings, and parties with similar interests shouldn’t challenge one another there.  Nevermind that it’s actually the voters who get to decide whom they are going to support.  For Ellan and the NDP, Victoria and ridings like it would be declared off-limits for Greens, except for that unholy pact the Green Party has made with the Liberals!

Battleground B.C.

But seriously, why wouldn’t the Green Party contest the Victoria riding?  If Green Party members and supporters, those who have presumably come together because they share similar, if not identical values – one of which is quite likely a desire for clear and immediate action on climate change – why wouldn’t Greens want to defeat a sitting member of the New Democratic Party?  After all, the NDP has no credible plan to tackle climate change.  Rankin himself might have some really good ideas – but as an NDP member of parliament, he will do as he’s told by the Party leadership and vote in accordance with the paper instructions he’s given every day.  Rankin will have to parrot his party’s line, no matter how he might feel personally about a particular issue.  The NDP is the most whipped party in all of parliament, so looking at individual NDP MP’s as akin to interchangeable parts under the instructions of the leadership is quite appropriate. 

Rankin and other NDP candidates running in and around Vancouver and on Vancouver Island obviously see the Green Party as a threat.  In the 2013 provincial election, Greens did well in this part of B.C., electing MLA Andrew Weaver in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, and finishing a strong second place in two other ridings.  NDP insiders were critical of the Green Party in their analysis of the NDP’s election-day defeat to the Christy Clark Liberals (see: “Brian Topp Reveals How NDP Plays Cynical Partisan Games WithEnvironmental Issues”, Sudbury Steve May, September 24, 2013).  With the federal Green Party now routinely polling in the mid- to high-double digits provincially (with the prevailing thought being that a lot of that provincial support is actually concentrated geographically on the lower mainland and Vancouver Island), what’s clear is that the NDP has a problem on an unexpected flank. 

NDP: Playing the Fear Card

From the NDP’s perspective, something clearly has to be done.  And since the NDP can’t take on the Green Party over climate change, they’ve instead clearly adopted a different set of tactics, which include character assassination of Greens, including leader Elizabeth May, along with implying certain things about the Green Party based on little or no evidence, or simply making things up about what Greens stand for – which includes some pretty crazy stuff that I’ve seen, such as “Greens are against renewable energy”, and “the Green Party supports the Liberal Party”.  Often, these irrational criticisms come from anonymous NDP proxies – however, the NDP is also clearly playing the fear card, which is probably its biggest weapon against the Greens, as they try to make the case that Liberals have historically tried to make against the NDP – that the presence of Green candidates will split the vote and elect Conservatives (see: “Why is ElizabethMay helping elect Conservatives?”, the Tyee, June 25, 2015).

Even environmentalist Tzeporah Berman was sucked into the fray, as she recently called for the Green Party to change its electoral strategy.  Look, the notion that the Green Party splits the progressive vote is a prolific one – especially since our archaic first past the post electoral system awards winners based on the narrowest of margins, and sees everyone else’s votes relegated to the trash.  However, what appears to be a pretty straightforward argument, one increasingly used by New Democrats in an attempt to marginalize the Green Party, is actually anything but straightforward.

In a follow-up piece to the George Ehring evidence-free rant in the Tyee, Elizabeth May provided some significant and concrete examples of how the presence of Green candidates are actually stimulating voter participation – at least in those ridings where Greens have figured out a way to build a local profile and electoral momentum (see: “May: ‘Green Party DoesNot Split the Vote’”, the Tyee, June 27, 2015).  May’s own observations were deconstructed by Christopher Majka, who revealed a pretty good picture about what really might be at play in the minds of so-called “progressive” (read here: “non-Conservative Party) voters.  Interestingly, based on Majka’s analysis, rather than calling for Green candidates to step down to prevent vote-splitting, the NDP would be better served by calling for Liberal candidates to step aside (see: “Who Splits Whose Votes”,, June 30, 2015). 

Of course, at this point, calling for the Liberals or the Greens to stand down is like King Canute calling for the tides to stop coming in.  The Green Party has already nominated candidates in over 75% of Canada’s ridings.  The NDP knows this.  But that certainly isn’t going to stop the NDP from playing on the fears of voters, because the NDP knows full well that fear sells.

NDP: The Misrepresentation Game

And if fear isn’t enough to compel voters to cast their ballots for the NDP rather than the Greens, the NDP has apparently decided that it will just make things up about Elizabeth May and the Green Party, to confuse voters into thinking that Greens stand for and support things that they don’t.  Again, this starts at the top.  Back in March, NDP leader Tom Mulcair was part of an exclusive interview with the Vancouver Sun.  Discussing, possibly for the very first time, Elizabeth May and the Green Party’s view on pipelines, Mulcair made the disingenuous leap of logic that because May and Greens are opposed to new pipelines like Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain and TransCanada’s Energy East, that Greens must also be opposed to existing pipelines, seemingly suggesting that May and the Greens are ready to rip them out of the ground (see: “TomMulcair fights the squeeze in Metro Vancouver ridings”, the Vancouver Sun, March 17, 2015). 

Other examples of the NDP distorting the Green Party’s policies and positions are rampant, especially on Twitter, where the anonymous NDP trolls have been having a field day with the #gpc hashtag, and through tweets to @ElizabethMay. 

"Progressive" Political Parties

A lot of the noise on social media has focused on whether the Green Party is a “progressive” political party.  Lately, some of that noise has been entering into the mainstream media.  In April, CUPE head Paul Moist took a swipe at both the Liberal Party and the Green party, claiming that only the NDP was a “progressive” political party (see: “CUPE slams LeadNow for encouraging Canadians to ‘Vote Together’”, HuffPost Politics, April 13, 2015).  Since then, the Green Party’s wealth redistributing carbon fee and dividend approach to carbon pricing has come under fire from the NDP – a party which, interestingly enough, supports a carbon pricing policy which will line the pockets of brokers and lawyers. 

Canadians in general have had a hard time positioning the Green Party on Canada’s left-right political spectrum.  It was the conflicting views of some in the media as to whether the Greens were a party of the right or the left which first led me to investigate the Green Party in the first place, shortly after Elizabeth May won the leadership and carried the Party’s flag in the 2006 London by-election.  After doing my own research, what became clear to me was that the problem of fitting the Green Party into the left/right spectrum wasn’t a problem for the Party – but rather, it has more to do with how the notion of left/right politics is outdated, and frankly failing Canada.

NDP Entitlement

The NDP doesn’t see it this way (despite recent moves away from the left of the spectrum, and instead embracing populist politics).  The “progressive” mantle is one which they feel entitled to – no matter that some of the policies they champion will have outcomes which negatively impact the least well-off in our society.  And since the NDP feels entitled to the progressive mantle, they also believe that they alone have the privilege of wearing it.

The NDP is no more entitled to own the term “progressive” than any other party.  For anyone who hangs around social media for even a little while, it quickly becomes clear that the term “progressive” actually has little meaning.  Conservatives consider their party to be “progressive” because they are dismantling regulations which sand in the way of free enterprise (while simultaneously picking winners and losers through their investment decisions).  Liberals, too, seek to wear the “progressive” mantle by championing the Charter of Rights (which voting as a block for Bill C-51).  And the NDP, of course, embraces the term – but then flirts with supporting investor-state resolution mechanisms in the Canada-South Korea Free Trade deal, and wants to build more dilbit pipelines in order to expand the Alberta tar sands to the detriment of humanity.  And since I’m on the subject, even the Green Party has some issues when it comes to the term “progressive”, when one of its members votes to send Canadians off to fight in a foreign war in which the prospects for victory are murky at best.

The Progressive Mantle

But for many, the “progressive” title matters, and the NDP knows it.  That’s why they’re doing what they can to paint the Green Party as a party of the corporate elite which embraces neo-liberal economic policy.  Now I consider myself to be someone who knows a thing or two about Green policy.  To me, these accusations are completely unsupportable – and they clearly demonstrate the hypocrisy of the NDP.

Recently, blogger Michael Laxer completely disassembled the NDP’s notion that the Green Party isn’t a progressive party (see: “Greens deserve ‘progressive’ votes as much as anyone”, Michael Laxer,, June 30, 2015).  Writing from a perspective very much to the left of the NDP’s current policy position, Laxer took a critical look at the policies of both parties, and determined that when it comes to which party should wear the “progressive” mantle, that it’s a wash (followed by a big “meh” from Laxer about the relative importance of the whole “progressive” mantle debate in general).

NDP: The Ends Justify the Means

Of course, Laxer was looking at the matter of being a “progressive” political party purely in terms of policy.  What Laxer didn’t explore was the political angle – probably because an analysis of policy is more important to answer his question.  However, what is becoming increasingly apparent to many Canadians is that truly progressive political movements have to walk the talk.  They can’t rely on using the tactics of their regressive political opponents – even when those tactics are ones which work.  Accepting political donations from non-people (read: corporations and unions) to influence electoral outcomes (thankfully banned at the federal level, although not at the provincial or municipal levels in all provinces); engaging in the politics of sleaze (character assassination, fear-mongering, personal attacks); playing populist politics at the expense of good public policy; and, of course, the spending of public money in pursuit of partisan political goals – all of these are the tactics of the regressive, established political parties.  They are the tactics used by the Conservatives and the Liberals.

And they are the tactics used by the NDP.

For Canadians that are looking for more than just more of the same, at least as far as the nation’s democratic health is concerned, it’s clear that it matters how a party pursues, obtains, and holds on to power.  A party which pursues power from an ethically challenged standpoint will in all likelihood form an ethically challenged government. Now, I realize that when it comes to ethical challenges, the NDP has a ways to go to rival the Conservatives and the Liberals, but in the past 4 years, it’s clear that the NDP is making up for lost time. 

Greens in Liberal Clothing

Along with concerns being expressed by the NDP about the Green Party’s progressive credentials, the NDP has decided to adopt the Conservative Party’s tactic of claiming that the Green Party is really just an outlier of the Liberal Party.  Some may recall that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives used the Elizabeth May / Stephane Dion leader’s riding no-compete agreement back in 2008 as “evidence” that May was really a Liberal, and that she shouldn’t be allowed a coveted spot in the Broadcast Consortium’s televised Leader’s debates.  Well, in 2015, Harper has chosen to ignore those debates, and has agreed to participate largely in debates in which May hasn’t been invited.

As has NDP leader Tom Mulcair.  And unlike Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who has publicly supported May’s participation in the leader’s debates (see: “Elizabeth May gains Trudeau’s Support to Include Greens in 2015 ElectionDebate”, HuffPost Politics, April 8, 2015).  For Trudeau’s public support, May has come under fire from New Democrats who are claiming further evidence of Liberal/NDP collusion. 

NDP: The Non-Cooperation Party

In the hyper-partisan world in which the New Democrats seem to be comfortable operating in, there can be no working with other political parties, no acknowledgement that others might have good ideas.  If you’re outside of the Party, don’t look for anything akin to support.  Even when its apparent that positive comments are the only ones which can be offered, for example in circumstances where members of another party are in complete agreement with the NDP’s position, only begrudging comments are received.

For examples of the latter, look to the Ontario provincial NDP’s extremely tepid support of Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne’s desire to implement a cap & trade scheme for carbon pricing – something that the NDP have long called for (but have failed to implement in every province in which they’ve formed government).  Look at the NDP’s reaction to Justin Trudeau finally coming out in favour of reforming our electoral system.  And of course, look at the way in which the NDP has completely ignored Elizabeth May and the Green Party over early Green opposition to Bill C-51.  The NDP even took the extraordinary step of playing partisan politics, blocking Elizabeth May’s attempt to introduce amendments to Bill C-51 (see thisthread from Twitter). 

Even non-partisan fellow-travellers are taking hits.  Recently, NDP supporter Nichoals Ellan retweeted Jason Kenney’s anti-David Suzuki rant, adding that Elizabeth May and the Green Party’s Burnaby – North Seymour candidate, Lynne Quarmby, should be shamed for respecting Suzuki.  Seriously. What did Suzuki do to earn the NDP’s hostility?  Suzuki had the audacity to publicly support Quarmby in her bid to become an MP, because Suzuki believes we need more “scientifically literate MPs in parliament”.  And so the NDP have added David Suzuki to their list of targets. 

No, in the hyper-partisan world of the NDP, you can only be a New Democrat – or against New Democrats.  There is little room for a more nuanced, and frankly, a more realistic view of politics and politicking.  Elizabeth May tried to get the NDP to consider some sort of co-operative front against the Conservatives – but Mulcair and Trudeau both completely rebuffed her efforts (see: “Elizabeth May pitches electoral co-operation for next election”, CBC, July 21, 2014).  Now, May and the Greens are under attack by the NDP for having the audacity to democratically contest an election. 

Liberal Party Climate Policy

More recently, anonymous NDP trolls have jumped all over a tweet from Green Party of British Columbia MLA Andrew Weaver, in which he praised Justin Trudeau for releasing a much more substantive climate change plan than the non-plan Trudeau had earlier been talking up.  Unfortunately, Weaver, always the pragmatist, and not much of a partisan (a badge of honour he wears proudly!), might have went a little too far for my liking, suggesting that voters should consider casting ballots for the Liberals in ridings where Greens aren’t going to be competitive.

First, let me be clear: I’m not a fan of Weaver’s message. Frankly, I think it’s unhelpful to the Green Party.  But Weaver, who has been taken to task by the NDP over his implied support of the pro-Bill C-51 Liberal Party, was offering a nuanced and, I’m sure what he would consider pragmatic view of politics.  At the end of the day, Weaver isn’t in the political game to advance what are primarily partisan interests.  He’s concerned about the climate crisis – full stop.  And as much as I’m sure he’d like to pretend that Greens are going to be elected by the dozens and hundreds across Canada in October, his realpolitick worldview suggests that might not be the case, so Canada would benefit from a “second best” approach to fighting the climate crisis.  As a climate scientist, Weaver recognizes that the Green Party has by the far the best set of policies on climate change – and now he believes the Liberals have pole-vaulted into second place, over the NDP – a party which has put little thought into the issue.

I don’t agree with Weaver’s assessment either, by the way.  I remain concerned with the Liberals previous track record on climate change, as well as Trudeau’s earlier plan to abdicate federal leadership and let the provinces sort things out. I realize that Trudeau has pulled a complete 180, yanked some policy from the Green Party’s Vision Green and 2008 Platform – but given the business interests that the Liberals will, I believe, fail to stand up to, I can’t help but be cynical that when push comes to shove, the Liberals will fold like a cheap suit.  Of course, that’s not a rationale or evidence-based argument.  I realize that.  Perhaps I, like Weaver, should be evaluating the Liberals on what they say they’re going to do, rather than what I think they’ll do.  But since the Liberals have a pretty poor track record of doing what they say, it’s difficult for me at least to see beyond that.

NDP Misdirection - Canada Deserves Better

So the NDP is using Weaver’s words to tar the Green Party of Canada – even though Weaver is not a candidate for the Green Party of Canada, and nor does he hold any other position with the Party beyond that of “member”.  But since Weaver is a Green MLA at the provincial level, to the NDP it makes no difference.  Of course, one might expect that sort of reaction from political party partisans who make you pay for two memberships – one federal, one provincial – every time a new member wants to join.

The NDP have, of course, tried to smear Weaver this way in the past – by insisting that he supported Northern Gateway and building refineries at Kitimat and allowing tankers to navigate the B.C.'s pristine coasts.  In that incident, Weaver again took a nuanced position, arguing that there’s a “best” approach to tar sands development (which amounts to “leave it in the ground”), and what others might perceive as perhaps a more realistic, if undesirable approach (if it’s going to be mined, ship it by pipeline to B.C. and refine it in Canada).  But fervent NDP partisans, some in B.C.’s legislature, continued to insist that Weaver supports pipelines and tar sands – despite the facts.

Of course, the NDP know that if you repeat a lie often enough, some people will come to believe it.

Of course, the people know that if you repeat lies often enough, people will eventually stop believing in you.

The NDP appears to be hoping that their day of reckoning will be delayed until sometime after October 19th.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)