Since arriving in Whitehorse a year ago I have greatly enjoyed Al Pope’s column Nordicity, so it was a real disappointment to read his latest offering, on October 30th, Young Canadians Protest, Greens Grab Spotlight, in which he allows his deep NDP partisanship to overwhelm his normal commitment to integrity.
Pope seems to be upset with the Green Party and its leader Elizabeth May on two counts.
First, that the Greens presume to be more ‘pro-environment’ than the NDP (not that the Green Party considers itself the environment party Ã a misconception that sadly persists, thanks in no small part to dismissive politicians and misinformed newspaper columnists) and, second, that they are “stealing” votes that rightfully belong to the NDP.
His solution is that the Greens should disband and support the NDP.
I believe Pope is mistaken when he says that the NDP is the natural choice for the environmentally aware voter, and he is also mistaken that democracy is best served by the capitulation of the Greens.
If Canadians have learned one thing over the last 30 years of rising environmental awareness it is to turn a skeptical ear to political rhetoric and keep a close eye on government actions (or lack thereof). So let’s look at the governmental track record of Pope’s “environmentalist” party.
To the south, BC gives a good start: Glen Clark’s NDP government’s mass arrests of protesters against logging Clayoquot Sound, and his statement, “Environmentalists are the enemy of BC.”
Recently we have the BC NDP campaigning against the Liberal’s insignificant carbon tax using the same misleading arguments the federal Conservatives used successfully against Stephane Dion’s carbon tax.
More recently still, we have the Saskatchewan NDP example.
Dwain Lingenfelter, the new NDP leader, has returned to politics from a high-level position with Nexen Oil Corporation in Calgary. During the NDP leadership campaign, Lingenfelter toured the province promoting nuclear power and tarsands development.
In past cabinet positions, Lingenfelter was a key player in the decisions to cut resource royalties, cut taxes on corporations, and lower the income taxes on those in the highest income brackets. (With guys like this, who needs the Conservatives?)
Given Pope’s sterling record of support for justice and genuine democracy I was surprised and disappointed to read his recommendation that the Greens quit and join the NDP to combat vote splitting.
It seems that Pope does not recommend people voting for what they believe in, instead that they should support the least-worst alternative (Al, are you sure you’re not a Liberal?).
I can imagine some Liberal bagman, whispering in Tommy Douglas’ ear at the onset of the NDP’s success, saying, “C’mon, Tommy, you’ll never achieve anything on your own Ã join us and together we can get something done”.
He didn’t buy such snake-oil and neither should the Greens. The solution, I would suggest, is not ‘strategic voting’ but electoral reform.
The federal NDP has spoken out in favour of electoral reform. Good for them, and I hope they will continue to do so. The actions of NDP governments have been less encouraging.
Looking again at the BC NDP government, in 1996 after the NDP won more seats than the Liberal Party (which won more votes), the Liberals complained about the electoral system.
NDP Premier Glen Clark’s response? “Proportional representation is for losers.”
During the past 65 years, the NDP has been in power in Saskatchewan for 49. The public has never been invited to vote on electoral reform.
The NDP has done some good work promoting a more environmentally sustainable world and, if they could put principle before partisanship and collaborate with natural allies, they will achieve much more.
My own experience as an activist for the Green Party and for electoral reform has included successful co-operation with local NDP activists, which translated to greater respect, civility and mutual support during election time.
The mature, productive and responsible approach to new parties with whom you share some common goals is to talk and work together rather than exploit fear, misinform and snipe at their leader.
Like I said, I expected better from Pope.