Monday, April 13, 2009

Why the BC NDP green supporters fear they've been sold out for votes

This is not too much of a surprise. The Liberals under Ignatieff have thrown the Green Shift into the landfill and don't even seem to be interested in recycling it. Of course the NDP as the Liberals will continue from time to time to spout green sounding rhetoric and may even advance some progressive policies. But so do big corporations for that matter. However, the trend seems to be to de-emphasize environmental policies, especially if they seem to cost consumers. Thus the NDP thinks that Campbell's carbon tax unpopular because it costs consumers and that there is political profit to be made in opposing it. However, as the article points out the policy may gain a few votes at the cost of influential environmentalists who might otherwise have supported them.

Why the NDP's green supporters fear they've been sold out for votes

April 11, 2009
Once upon a time, the New Democratic Party was seen as the friend of environmentalists everywhere. But today, the NDP's green supporters in British Columbia feel like the party sold them out in the name of political expediency.
It did.
When B.C. NDP Leader Carole James unveiled her party's election platform this week, a loud pledge to abolish B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell's carbon tax was at the heart of it. Most everyone knew it was coming. As soon as the NDP realized there were votes to be gained by opposing the unpopular tax, it vowed to eliminate it if elected in the May 12 vote. So what if it was a position fundamentally at odds with the views held by a vast swath of their supporters? Or that it made a mockery of the NDP's core values?
Still, it was a little shocking to see the tax as the featured tenet of the party's campaign manifesto. Was this the best the New Democrats could do to distinguish themselves from the provincial Liberals? To demonstrate a fresh approach to governing that reflected a deep and honest understanding of the enormous environmental problems we face?
I mean, it's not like the NDP didn't have lots of time to come up with something. With a fixed election date, Carole James had four years to prepare a document that convinced voters she and her team were best able to lead in the age of melting icecaps.
Instead, the NDP came up with a policy screed that is not only shortsighted but uninspiring. And while it might gain the NDP a few votes in the north, they will come at a terrible cost elsewhere.
Already, previously NDP-friendly environmental organizations such as the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute have denounced the NDP's plan to axe the tax. And their criticisms are just the beginning of hostilities the policy has ignited.
We can leave the potential political fallout from the measure for another day. What shouldn't wait is an evaluation of the impact it will have on the environment and the economy.
One person who has already taken a look at it is Mark Jaccard, the highly regarded environmental economist and author from Simon Fraser University.
Yesterday, Mr. Jaccard released his own estimation of the damage the NDP's climate-change policies would cause.
For starters, he says the idea that the NDP will meet the province's tough emissions targets through personal accountability measures (see changing the type of light bulb you use) by the public, and an as yet-to-be conceived cap-and-trade system is heresy.
B.C. has set a goal of reducing emissions by 33 per cent from current levels by 2020.
Under the NDP plan, says Mr. Jaccard, about 65 per cent of B.C.'s emissions would be exempt from emissions pricing.
So, the only way an NDP government could meet legislated reduction targets would be by implementing severe limits on nonexempt industries.
Mr. Jaccard believes this would cause company closings and lead to the loss of 30,000 direct and 60,000 indirect jobs.
Mr. Jaccard concedes his calculations are somewhat crude. But if anything, he says, they're on the conservative side. And remember, this is not someone from the right-leaning Fraser Institute talking. He has no political axe to grind whatsoever.
He just believes, as do I along with so many others, that the NDP policy is wrongheaded and dangerous.
Unless our politicians begin putting a price on carbon, we will never make progress on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. A cap-and-trade system may one day help put a dent in the problem but it won't be enough.
Ms. James talks about reducing emissions through a cap-and-trade market, but provides no details about how it might work, when it could be up and running, how much revenue it would produce.
Beyond that, most everyone accepts that there won't be a viable North-American-wide cap-and-trade market until one is operating across the United States.
That might take five to 10 years.
Ms. James decided to oppose the carbon tax when outrage over it was at its peak. That was a year ago, not coincidentally when gas prices were at their highest and the tax was its most punitive. Today, you don't hear nearly as much complaining about it.
People adapt. And maybe a few dissenters had their minds changed by environmental organizations who have been working hard to educate the public on the merits of such an approach to fighting climate change.
The NDP didn't listen. The question now is will it cost the party on election day.

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