Making sense of election promises

The media keeps on calling to get my take on which party has the best environmental policy. The short answer is that they are all fundamentally flawed, though the Green Party less so.

There has been a lot of partisan finger-pointing and misinformation surrounding Dogwood Initiative’s position in this election. Dogwood Initiative is non-partisan and works with all the parties to move issues important to the communities and First Nations we work with. That said we do have opinions on the platforms and promises that each party makes on the issues we work on. I will share our thoughts with you here.

Global warming

Global warming is a game changer. It is an existential issue.  The choices our present leaders make over the next few years will determine whether our children have a relatively stable future, or face one filled with chaos and political and environmental instability.  To avoid this latter increasingly likely scenario we need all hands on deck. We need leaders that will compete in a battle for the top, not a race for the bottom. Unfortunately our current political leaders are letting us down.

Climate scientists are telling us that we need to immediately ratchet down our emissions to nearly zero, yet both the BC Liberals and the NDP’s continue to believe that we can grow our way out of the current economic crisis. This is the fundamental flaw which undermines all other promises they make. Only the Green Party promises tomove to a steady state economy. And the only the Green Party commits to asignificant shift away from fossil fuel transportation.

The Green’s have the most thorough and consistent policies on climate change with the most rigorous emission reductions targets, and the most aggressive measures to reign in emissions from the oil and gas industry and to transform our transportation and urban infrastructures to low emission systems.

The NDP and Liberals platforms are full of contradictions. The NDP plan is a patchwork of one-off promises that collectively will not reduce emissions as quickly or comprehensively as needed. And to make matters worse the NDP leadership has paralyzed debate and confused the public with their “axe the tax” campaign.

Gordon Campbell has been widely praised for being amongst the first leaders in North America to bring in emissions reductions targets and pricing mechanism. These actions were not popular with his party or many of his supporters and he deserves praise for pushing them through. However Campbell’s attempts to curb Global Warming is undermined by his party’s almost universal promotion of the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Coal mines, coalbed methane drilling, shale gas, and tar sands pipelines are all being promoted, fast-tracked and frequently subsidized by the Liberal government.

The wackiest environmental statement I thought I would ever hear was when President Reagan quipped that trees cause pollution, however, Gordon Campbell’s statement that twinning the Port Mann Bridge and expanding freeways would reduce pollution comes a close second.

Oil and gas

The NDP and the Green Party both have strong stances on the coastal oil and gas issues Dogwood Initiative campaigns on. Both the NDP and the Greens support continuing the moratorium against oil and gas drilling on our coast and a ban on oil tankers in the north. The BC Liberals continue their support for all things fossil fuel by promoting coast drilling, an Energy Corridor that would bisect BC with oil and gas pipeline to a new oil port in Kitimat.

The Green Party has the strongest position (a permanent ban) on coalbed methane and shale gas, while the NDP would stop all coalbed methane projects until they undergo a “proper environmental assessment’ and “full community consultation.) Again the Liberals are big promoters of coalbed methane and shale gas, although they did initiate a 2-4 year moratorium in the Sacred Headwaters.

The major parties diverge on subsidizing heavy polluters in mining and the oil and gas industries. The Green Party leads the pack, by promising to end subsidies to both the mining and oil and gas industries. The NDP position is convoluted; it is silent on subsidies generally, but despite campaigning to “Axe the Tax” they will essentially put a carbon tax on oil and gas wells that flare heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. At the same time the NDP promises to “make new investments in…mining” and extend ‘tax credits for ‘flow-through mining shares.” Although there is little detail, these sound like new subsidies to us.

The BC Liberals keep on ratcheting up direct and indirect subsidies to carbon intensive polluting industries. Despite a promise in their 2001 platform to ‘end subsidies to business’, the subsidies continue to rise under their watch. In their current budget they promise to increase subsidies to oil and gas by 57% amounting to $1.5 billion over next three years. This obviously is a major contradiction with their attempt to be a leader on global warming

Protecting forestlands and forests

The NDP has the most aggressive approach to resolving the controversy over Western Forest Products (WFP) former forest lands near Jordan River that the Liberal government allowed to be put up for development. If the NDP win they have promised to acquire 12,000ha of land from WFP (almost all of the lands that were taken out of previous Tree Farm Licence 25) and split up the lands into protected areas, forestry lands, lands to settle First Nation’s claims and other uses compatible with the rural and forest character of the area.

The BC Liberals have made few public commitments about these lands, but recently have begun exploring options for negotiating a process to resolve the controversy. The Green Party hasn’t taken a stance, although the Green candidate in the riding has stated the controversial “lands should remain largely undeveloped…[and that Greens would] seek to return them to public ownership and limit future development.”

Campaign finance reform

Dogwood Initiative believes we need to get the big money out of politics by banning all donations from entities not eligible to vote such as corporations and unions. The various parties have widely differing positions on this fundamental issue of democracy.

The BC Liberals are happy with the current rules (or should I say lack of rules in BC) for financing the political process. Why wouldn’t they be happy? – when they out fundraise the other parties by a wide margin.

The breakdown of contributions from 2008 tells the story. The BC Liberals raised $7.5 million overall (with $4.7 million (62%) coming from corporations). In contrast the NDP raised $2.9 million overall (with $0.62 million (21%) coming from Trade U
nions). The Green Party raised an embarrassingly low $136,871 in 2008.

The NDP has promised to ban corporate and trade-union contributions to political parties if it forms a government after the May 12 provincial election. Last year by NDP Leader Carole James introduced a private Members Bill that only allows individuals to make contributions to political parties. The Green Party also supports campaign finance reform. They promise to “eliminate corporate and union donations, to cap the amount of individual donations, and to restrict individual donations to residents of BC.

Go vote

We hope this helps you make your choice of who to vote for on May 12th. Voting is a fundamental responsibility of democracy so regardless of who you support please go vote. The world belongs to those that show up.

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