The BC NDP Platform

The election campaign is officially here. The barbs have been flying for some time now, but I thought it worth it to go through each party platform, even though I will likely vote NDP, I still think it’s important to go through everything and pick out what I like, or really don’t, as much as i can, in each platform.

I will be going through the NDP, Liberal, and Green Party platforms. Obviously these are huge, fluffy documents full of accusations and counter-accusations and plenty of promises. I will only be addressing points that I think are actually noteable improvements and or differences in policy. There is a lot of overlap….

So. Today I’m going to analyze the platform of the BC NDP party (NDP site here).

“Ratings” in (bold).

A. TAX BREAKS TO SUPPORT BUSINESS AND CONSUMERS

Scrapping the gas tax. The NDP will scrap the tax, putting $1.8 billion back into the economy over the next three years. (NO!)

Ending privatization at BC Hydro to control rising rates. BC businesses and households face increased costs of hundreds of millions of dollars because of Gordon Campbell’s drive to privatize BC Hydro and new electric power sources. (YES!)

Holding the line on ferry rate hikes… a moratorium on the BC Liberals’ scheduled 2010 and 2011 fare increases pending a full review of the privatized corporation…the future direction for BC Ferries will be based on its importance as BC’s ‘marine highway’. (YES)

Scrapping the gas tax is ludicrous. It will rob the government of much needed revenue at a time of severe recession and if anyone actually counts up the pennies they would save at the pump will realise that it will do nothing to help people pay their bills. It also speaks to the NDPs counterproductive position on Climate Change and on putting a price on Carbon. Which must be done if we are ever to limit our consumption of fossil fuels and emissions of Greenhouse Gases from transportation. I have a feeling if they did repeal the tax, it would be back with 1-3 years anyway.

The promise to reinvigorate BC Hydro is, I think, on of the top 3 reasons to vote for the NDP. What has happened to BC Hydro over the past 8 years has been nothing short of tragic in terms of the effect on electricity rates in this province in the future… as well as the “in-house” knowledge and research on advanced technologies (like wave and tidal power) that was happening at BC Hydro and has since been completely abandoned.

Much the same can be said for BC Ferries. Rising prices due to rising gas prices are inevitable, what this speaks to though is that British Columbians will have to make a choice… either we have BC Ferries for large routes that attempt to pay for a portion of the small routes… or we have big bridges and small ferries. Either one will require subsidies and massive amounts of taxpayer money to be effective and affordable and keep Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and Queen Charlottes on the map economically.

B. NEW TRANSPORTATION AND TRANSIT INVESTMENTS

Expand passenger train service between Seattle and Vancouver. (Interesting?)

Make necessary capital investments in needed bus and transit options in Metro Vancouver to cut congestion and pollution. (YES)

Tune-up TransLink. The Campbell Liberals’ approach to TransLink has resulted in expensive privatization schemes, decisions made in secret and dictated by the Campbell government. The NDP will repeal Bill 43 to restore democratic control and public accountability to local government and taxpayers. (YES)

On the rail service… I’m not sure where this is coming from… but I will also support new investment in rail. What I do *not* see is any mention by the NDP of any improvements in transit OUTSIDE the lower mainland. Victoria, Central Vancouver Island, the Southern Interior… could all use more mass transit and real research into new ways of linking populations in BC. That’s not happening.

The 2nd point is vague… but I like it because it again emphasizes bus and transit over Single Occupancy Vehicles, and that is a must.

Translink has gone from a board of squabbling… but elected… mayors… to a bunch of unelected officials doing everything in private… that process must be reversed.

C. INVESTING IN JOBS, COMMUNITIES, LOCAL ECONOMIES AND FAMILIES

Establish a new retrofit program to ensure public facilities like hospitals and schools are energy
efficient. (YES)

Establish new low-interest loan programs to help businesses and homeowners retrofit their homes and workplaces to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs. (YES)

Accelerate hospital construction and fund new community diagnostic and surgery clinics. (YES)

The first and 2nd are long overdue. Buildings are huge contributors to CO2 emissions due to heating and cooling requirements. We can’t tear everything down and start over… we must upgrade where it is too expensive to replace, and we need to start now. A new low-interest loan program for business and homeowners would be much appreciated and I would hope would be done in tandem with new incentives from people like BC Hydro, Terasen Gas, and others to encourage even more retrofitting, especially in these tough times when people need work.

The 3rd point, Hospital and diagnostic/surgery clinic, is imperative. We are still an aging population. I don’t believe this policy is much different from the Liberals in terms of platform, but I must point it out because the Liberals actual record, at least in my region, has been of closing more wards than are opened, and moving from public to private seniors care facilities. These are trends that must be reversed if our health care system is to have any hope of serving BC’ers.

D. INVEST IN PROGRAMS THAT CREATE WEALTH

Establish new local preference buying policies – Buy BC – to ensure BC small businesses, farmers and food processors, and local communities enjoy the economic benefits that flow from expenditure of provincial and local tax dollars. (YES)

This intrigues me. Not the predictable leftist protectionist talk… but rather, the mention of “farmers and food processors”. If you have been following my blog, you will know that I am quite convinced that rebuilding our local food production and distribution networks is essential to avoid the worst effects of global energy price shocks and ultimately energy decline… I hope this turns out to be a small step in that direction.

A FAIR SHARE FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES

Restoration of local autonomy. Carole James and the NDP will repeal the Significant Projects Streamlining Act, end Gordon Campbell’s requirement that all projects over $50 million be public- private partnerships, and restore local oversight of power generation. (YES)

Really… I have nothing to say about the above. It is reversing the terrible decisions and policies of the BC Liberal government.

A Green Plan for BC’s forests.

Expanded reforestation to address the massive “die-back” resulting from the pine beetle outbreak and the reforestation backlog created by the neglect of the Campbell government.

A strengthened Private Managed Forest Land Act to improve protection and management of watersheds, wildlife and public resources.

Restricting Raw Log Exports.

We have heard the promise of “expanded reforestation” before. From the BC Liberals. It never happened. Will the NDP deliver?

We must have better regulation of what happens on Private Forest Lands. This is crucial to forestry on Vancouver Island, where the former E&N land grants (fully 1/3 of the area of Vancouver Island) in the 19th Century are now biting us in the ass as giant companies remove their land from TFLs and revert back to private status, where forest practices regulations are far less stringent, export of logs is streamlined, and development is more profitable than maintaining the renewable resource or natural environment.

These policies are another top reason to vote NDP. Forestry is not a “sunset” industry, it’s simply an industry that has been heavily “offshored” and “free traded” out of BC. The resource is still being used, more than ever, and used badly. We must reverse that trend and refocus on our greatest natural resource in this province, one that could employ thousands if we made it so… and oh ya, it’s renewable.

C. INCREASING OPPORTUNITY IN BC’S AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY


This is the top reason, IMHO, to vote NDP.

Establishing a strong Buy BC and food security program building on the growing trend to buy food products that are locally produced, healthy, and linked to BC’s long-term food security needs.

Strengthening the ALR by making preservation of arable land the priority of the Agricultural Land Commission and by returning the Commission to full provincial status.

Renewing support and investment programs for food producers and processors. For years, the Campbell Liberals have cut supports and downgraded the services of the Ministry of Agriculture, hurting those industries and costing BC needed jobs.

Revitalizing and supporting food production:

• Expand school and consumer education programs to ensure British Columbians learn more about food production and food security issues.

• Restore services to help farmers get their products to markets.

• Support community agriculture, co-ops and farm organizations, including small scale farmers; expand community gardens and local farmers markets.
• Review the BC Liberals’ new Meat Inspection Regulation to support increased farm-gate sales, and ensure all producers and processors are treated fairly.
• Eliminate the BC Liberal gas tax that, in its first year alone, cost the agri-food sector $13 million.
• Review agriculture tax policy to foster investment and maintenance of productive agricultural lands.

Except for the last two (removing the gas/carbon tax)… this promised policy direction is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL. and must be a foundation of all parties platforms in the future. We will see if the Liberals or Greens will be able to match it. I don’t think the Liberals will, the Greens perhaps.

I am impressed at the emphasis on long term food-security, this at least suggests that someon in the NDP knows the challenges facing the world in the next decade. This is good.

Carole James and the NDP will create more affordable and accessible child care spaces for
families by:
• Capping fees.
• Improving recruitment and retention, and enhancing training of teachers and early
childhood education professionals.
• As finances permit, introducing all-day kindergarten for 5-year-olds and the accompanying
after school care. This will free up 10,000 spaces within existing group child care centres
and family child care providers.
• Creating targets and timelines to build an affordable, accessible, quality child care system.

I notice the caveat “as finances permit”. This tells me not to hold my breath that this would actually happen. And honestly, I believe the Liberals have promised the same thing in the past… this is not an issue that will make people decide, I don’t think, even though I am certainly one that would benefit from increased access and affordability of childcare.

From the comments: Former member of Citizens Assembly on David Schreck and BC-STV

(Anna Rankin posted this in the comments section of my previous post on BC-STV, I’ve reproduced it here for all to see)

As a former member of the Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform, I urge readers to do their own research on STV. Go to the referendum information office website for neutral information on our current system and the proposed system.

The CA was comprised of ordinary citizens selected at random to review our current electoral system and compare it to alternatives used elsewhere in the world. The CA voted 146-7 to recommend changing our system to STV. Why? Because STV beats our current system on three key points: fairness, local representation and voter choice. It is not as simple to count, but it is not hard to count. Ireland has been doing it since 1922. Ease of counting was not one of the top criteria the CA deemed important in choosing an effective electoral system.

We don’t pretend to believe that STV will fix all that ails us. But we are hopeful that the election outcomes under an STV system will produce a legislature that reflects how the electorate voted. That just seems fair.

It will also provide very effective local representation. For example the Cariboo-Thompson riding would be an amalgamation of five ridings. So each voter would still have one vote, but would influence the election of five different MLAs. Your vote is like one dollar, a few cents spent on candidates you choose. After the election is over, you would have a choice of five different MLAs to take your concerns to. We manage fine with large ridings necessary in our federal system (with only one MP). Under STV, you would have similar size ridings but with a choice of MLAs competing with each other for your vote. It will be in their interest to address your concerns.
Can you imagine going to the ballot box and actually having a choice of candidates from one party and/or selecting independents or a Green party member that might even have a chance of getting a seat? Under STV you can make much more nuanced choices. Maybe your loyalty isn’t completely with one party or the other. Instead of being forced into the black and white choices offered by our current system, you will be able to use your vote to make sophisticated choices. You can put your first and second preference down for the candidate from your favorite party, but you can also throw some support to minority parties or independent candidates. Or you can just put down a single preference. It’s up to you.

Voters will elect 85 MLAs under either system and under both systems voters get one vote. So why does David Schreck infer that somehow under STV we will have less votes? Because he wants you to scare you [sic] into voting against STV. Please do not be fooled by the fear-mongering from ex-politicians. STV puts power squarely in the hands of voters.

Anna Rankin, Quesnel

(Thank You, Anna… it is wonderful to hear from someone who was part of the process!)

I’m Voting NDP to Keep Harper out.

This may come as a bit of a surprise, considering my last post. What I did not say outright in my last post was that I really was very impressed with Ms. May, her candidate in Nanaimo-Alberni John Fryer, and her partys’ platform.

So why am I voting NDP?

Well, it is Ms. May herself who encouraged me to do so… and again, she impresses me with her honesty and realistic and effective approach to politics. She is, clearly, not your average politician. Here is a letter I just wrote to the Editor of the AV Times.

At the all candidates meeting this past Thursday night in Port Alberni I asked a question to John Fryer on how the Green Party would convince enough people to switch to the Greens and beat John Lunney. His answer was their excellent, progressive platform, unfortunately, this did not resolve the anxiety I had that following my true desire would produce an acceptable result.

I have been conflicted as I agree with so many of the Greens stated goals and policies. Not just on the Environment, but also on support for education, fiscal responsibility, and foreign policy.

Thankfully, my conflict has been resolved… not by John Fryer, but by his party leader, Elizabeth May. In an interview with the Toronto Star on Friday she said… “I’d rather have no Green seats and Stephen Harper lose, than a full caucus that stares across the floor at Stephen Harper as prime minister, because his policies are too dangerous”.

So there you have it. Even though my Green Party sign will continue to be displayed on my front lawn, it will be Zeni Maartman and the NDP that get my vote in this riding and I hope all other progressive voters, Liberal, Green and of course NDP, do the same.

So, like Danny Williams on the other side of Canada… I am voting Anything But Conservative, which in my riding means the Zeni Maartman and the NDP.

Listening to Elizabeth May in Port Alberni

I just came back from a rally for Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May and her candidate in this riding John Fryer. A little about John Fryer. His qualifications are quite good, perhaps one of the best qualified candidates that has ever run in this riding for any party and would likely be a strong member of any Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet. He currently holds the Labour portfoilio in the Greens Shadow cabinet but his experience could easily qualify him for a Finance or Foreign Affairs critic as well.

Full Disclosure: I generally vote NDP. I have voted (in a Victoria riding) strategically, once, for a Liberal candidate (in the last Paul Martin minority). I have considered voting Green in the past but always gone with the “safer” vote in the end.

However, these past couple weeks of the 2008 Federal Election, the “debate about the national tv debate“, and now todays appearance of Elizabeth May in Port Alberni has been interesting for me. If a pollster phoned me today I would say I was currently undecided, but leaning towards the Green Party.

At todays rally Green Party leader Elizabeth May was strong, articulate and passionate. Some points that she made to the roughly 100 faithful in attendance:

She told residents here that she wanted to make young people understand that debate about public policy didn’t need to be about politicians, which, she said were probably only slightly above the paparrazzi (with apologies to those cameras in attendance) but about democracy.

She told a story about how, while Asst. Deputy to Environment Minister Sheila Copps, an American company, SD Meyers of Ohio, sued the Canadian government under NAFTA for following International treaties and banning the export of PCBs to the United States while those PCBs were illegal to import into the United States… the US Company won the case and Canada also lost a review of the case in 2003. (This has also happened in reverse as well for the California Gov. and a Canadian company.)

She told us that NAFTA was supposed to limit raw log exports but has failed to do so. She would renegotiate NAFTA (to applause).

She told us that the Green Party believes in balancing “the budget” both economically and environmentally. They do not believe in running deficits and being fiscally irresponsible and she used the events in the United States, and the policies that created the crisis, as an example of what her party would not support.

She spoke very forcefully, and passionately on Canadas role in International Affairs. Relating to us how we have gone from being pioneers in Peacekeeping, to 51st in the world for peacekeepers in active missions. We recently denied a request for 4 soldiers to be sent to the Congo as part of a UN mission there because we were “overstretched”. (UPDATE): She went on and asked why we are fighting a war on terrorism. “Terrorism is not a country… terrorists are criminals”, she said. You can’t fight a war “against a noun”, she quipped. The war was more about being under the sphere of influence of the United States, and more specifically the policies of George W. Bush.

She related how Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev made huge strides to rid the world of nuclear weapons and how George Bush and Stephen Harper have negated much of that momentum by disregarding the NPT.

She explained how political parties often talked up their platforms in order to get elected, and then did nothing that they said they would do because there were “trade-offs” that had to be made for the economy. She told everyone about the Green Partys 100+ page Vision document.

She detailed how her party had a very comprehensive financial plan. They would not go into deficit in order to pay for the social and environmental changes needed. They would restore the GST to 6% and give that 1% to municipalities because “if the Federal Government went on strike would we notice… but we would if our City did”. She would tax polluters heavily. She would introduce income tax splitting for all couples (presumably gay or straight). We would pay less to EI and CPP for every paycheque ever 2 weeks. And no one earning under $20,000 would pay taxes. And finally, those in rural areas would be able to apply for full GST rebates in order to pay for transport where public transport is not an option.

And finally, she lamented how if you went back in the Hansard of Parliament to the 50s and 60s you heard politicians speaking of the common good for all Canadians, but now, those words are not uttered. Rather the focus is on competitiveness and what will win the next election.

In all, she delivered an inspiring speech for those who attended. There were many fits of enthusiastic clapping. She understands how to work a crowd, she’s humorous, and quick witted. She enjoyed our loca Edward “Tat” Tatoosh, a Hupacasath Elder, and Blues musician of 50 years who greeted her to his ancestral lands. She addressed many issues that hit home including NAFTA, sustainable forestry and agriculture, and local transportation and infrastructure.

The one thing that has always troubled me about the NDP has been its fiscal irresponsibility. To me, I see the Green Party as a combination of the NDPs social and environmental values with the small-L liberal fiscal stewardship.

I look forward to the coming debate with all five political leaders. I think it will be a turning point in Canadian Politics… or should I say, Canadian Democracy.

The Westcoaster also has coverage of the event.

Edit: Looks like Elizabeth May has won the lottery for first to speak at the leadership debate.

Oh, and finally.. this visit by Elizabeth May marked the beginning of the beginning of sorts… of her cross-country, whistlestop tour of Canada. There will be a rally in Vancouver at 4PM at the train station before they take to the rails for a cross country journey. Ostensibly, this is to show the Greens credentials as carbon savers, rail advocates, and getting back to communities in a fashion not seen since, ironically enough, Diefenbaker.

You can follow the tour at: http://www.greentrain.ca/

New Liberal Leader – First Green PM?

(cross-posted to The Oil Drum: Canada)
In a stunning victory, Stephane Dion is the new Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and has a good chance of being the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Stephane Dion
(for those not French-inclined, his name is pronounced “Stay-fan Deon”)

Todays Liberal Leadership Convension was truly something to behold. Not only was it full of odd twists and drama, it produced a result that I don’t think anyone could have predicted.

I believe what has happened here is the Political Establishment has been turned on its’ head, and in todays modern, mature, western Democracies, that is truly something to behold. I think this also signals a major shift to the Green side of the spectrum for the Liberal Party of Canada.

A little background. Stephane Dion had 3 main rivals. An academic and man-of-the-world (but not Canada), Michael Ignatieff, a former Premier of Ontario and turn-coat Left-wing New Democratic Party Leader Bob Rae, and a charismatic, but relatively unknown, Gerard Kennedy.

What appears to have happened, is that a sort of grass-roots, young, progressive force has taken over the Convention in Montreal. Both Gerard Kennedy and Stephane Dion claimed large numbers of young delegates, and after Kennedy dropped off the 3rd ballot and declared his support for Dion, it propelled Dion to victory over the other two more experienced and far-better-funded teams. Stephanes only previous claims to fame were his efforts in 1995 on the Federalists side in the Quebec Referendum, and his brief stint as Environment Minister when he most notably chaired the UN Climate Change Conference in the very same Conference Centre in Montreal.

Stephane Dion in Montreal

Normally this would be nothing more than a changing of the guard… and we could anticipate more of the same old stay-at-home politics. But with Dion, I expect something different. He is the first leader of the Liberal Party that will make the Environment as important in issue as it is to say, the NDP, or even the Green Party. If his speeches and past record as Environment Minister are anything to go by, Stephane Dion brings a level of young exuberance and political forward thinking that issues like Sustainability, Environmental Stewardship and Peak Oil need to really get the attention they deserve.

In his candidate speech before the first ballot on December 1st he said:

In the 21st Century, the countries that will succeed – that will lead – will have the strongest, most sustainable economies. These countries will be rich because they use energy efficiently. Because they use their precious natural resources wisely. Because they recycle and conserve. Because they will export their solutions to the world, and they will earn megatonnes of money with it. I want Canada to be one of these leading countries, at the front of the line.

There will be one major issue that Mr. Dion will have to address when he trumpets his environmental record and that is Canada’s inability to curb its CO2 emissions in the first years after ratifying Kyoto. However, if he can point to the concrete conservation plans (like the Millenium Plan) and other more ambitious plans that he hopefully has up his sleeve, then he should be able to deflect it very easily (especially coming from the Conservatives).

Basically though, what makes me excited is not the grand plans or the good words… ok it is… but really what it is is the possibility of change. The possibility that there will be an Official Opposition in the House of Commons who’s first priority is the environment and sustainability. The possibility that a political party will have at it’s head someone who understands the truly revolutionary times that are about to overtake this generation of voters.

Stephane Dion is both well connected and experienced in the Canadian and International field. He should have no trouble developing and maintaining the contacts that the Liberal Party of Canada and the Government of Canada already enjoys around the world.

Stephane Dion

Up until this day, I thought I’d have to continue to vote for a party that could only get it’s way in a minority environment… or worse, a party who still had to wait for a complete change of the democratic system in order to even have a whiff at the halls of power. Today, there is the possibility that Canadians will have a real choice.

Today, the Liberal Party led by Stephane Dion has, hopefully, taken a step away from the Big Business, Big Establishment past towards a Down-To-Earth, Practical and Independant future. Present Compay in image at left excluded… I only hope his actions live up to his words.

My first priority tomorrow will be to draft a letter to the new Leader of the Liberal Party to ask him his position on Peak Oil and Oil Depletion.