Dion and May take a bold, necessary step

For those of you who’ve seen the recent film Children of Men, you’ve been granted an alarming glimpse into the world of the near future.

For those of you who’ve seen the recent film Children of Men, you’ve been granted an alarming glimpse into the world of the near future.

In this dystopian vision, the England of 2027 is a grim, decaying place where climate change has resulted in a massive influx of refugees into Britain, housed Guantanamo-style in vast wire-mesh cages.

In an interview, the set designer has described having to invent imaginary versions of British newspapers 20 years from now. Not surprisingly, climate change, economic collapse, and insecurity dominate the headlines.

This bleak (if fictional) vision has recently been echoed by Britain’s foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett.

Chairing the first-ever discussion of global warming at the United Nations Security Council, she warned that migration would occur on an “unprecedented scale because of flooding, disease and famine.”

She is also quoted as saying that drought and crop failure could cause increased competition for food, water and energy, while the economic destruction could be comparable to the Second World War or the Great Depression.

It’s against this background that April’s big political story in Canada — the decision by Stéphane Dion and Elizabeth May not to run competing candidates in the Nova Scotia riding of Central Nova — is so interesting.

Many commentators — rather predictably — have jumped all over them, calling the decision politically opportunistic and anti-democratic, among other things.

May and Dion themselves have argued that the decision is a principled one, based on their joint belief that climate change is the most critical challenge of our time, and that the urgency of the situation calls for an unorthodox approach.

Dion is quoted as saying that he and May have decided to put “progress ahead of partisanship” so that — if May wins — she’ll have a seat in the House as Green Party leader.

It’s better, they argue, that a candidate genuinely committed to grappling with climate change be elected, rather than splitting the vote.

In fact, such vote-splitting is at the heart of Conservative strategy, as the Globe and Mail noted last weekend, quoting a senior strategist from the party who says Harper will be very happy to benefit from a split vote on the left.

Such vote-splitting would allow Conservative MP Peter Mackay to win re-election in Central Nova, which is why Dion has agreed not to run a Liberal candidate in that riding.

In fact, thanks to Canada’s first-past-the-post system, vote-splitting will be a reality in a number of ridings, including Saanich-Gulf Islands, arguably the greenest riding in the country.

Because the NDP, the Liberals and the Greens are all running candidates there, Conservative MP Gary Lunn is likely to be re-elected.

Yet in the last federal election, Lunn won with just 37.2 per cent of the vote, compared to a total of 62.5 per cent for the three other parties.

How democratic is that?

Call me idealistic, but maybe it’s possible to view the Dion-May agreement on the Central Nova riding as an alternative strategy to politics-as-usual.

Their much-maligned accord can be interpreted as sending a powerful signal that, at a time when the most recent scientific evidence is reinforcing or exceeding our worst fears about climate change, unconventional or unorthodox political action may be necessary.   

 “There is no time to waste,” May is reported as saying. “Because of our electoral system, I do not have a choice. I have to collaborate.”

At times of national crisis, the normal rules of politics are suspended — witness the all-party unity government in Britain during the Second World War.

So perhaps, in fact, the Dion-May approach is extraordinarily prescient, though it’s not yet a full-fledged merger or alliance.

Perhaps a Liberal leader who has made the environment the centre of his leadership platform, and the leader of another party which owes its existence to the environmental movement, really are acting out of principle.

It’s certainly possible to argue that voluntary co-operation now may prevent, or alleviate, crisis-driven intervention further down the road.

Twenty or 30 years from now, if Beckett is right about the scope of future economic destruction, the magnitude of the threat may force both Canada and Britain (and perhaps other nations too) into all-party unity governments.

With its global reputation for progressive public policies, Canada should be taking the international lead on this file. 

It’s certainly high time, given the foot-dragging on this issue by Stephen Harper, that someone in a position of leadership did.

And Canadians support such an initiative, showing that, once again, they’re ahead of their leaders. Except — maybe — Dion and May.   

If the Dion-May approach fails, through the cynicism of both voters and the media, we may look back and lament our shortsightedness.

And our children may castigate us for squandering an opportunity to do something while we still had time.

 Patricia Robertson is a Whitehorse writer. Her new short story collection, The Goldfish Dancer, will be released in early May.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Calvin Delwisch poses for a photo inside his DIY sauna at Marsh Lake on Feb. 18.
Yukoners turning up the heat with unique DIY sauna builds

Do-it-yourselfers say a sauna built with salvaged materials is a great winter project

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Bureau of Statistics reports rising rents for Yukoners, falling revenues for businesses

The bureau has published several reports on the rental market and businesses affected by COVID-19

Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. Johnston and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn announced changes to the implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Third phase added to procurement policy implementation

Additional time added to prep for two provisions

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

Most Read