economic environmentalism yukon party style

Last week I predicted Premier Fentie would cruise to victory with a majority government, a prediction anyone could have made by just opening a…

Last week I predicted Premier Fentie would cruise to victory with a majority government, a prediction anyone could have made by just opening a dialogue with one’s neighbours.

Clearly, few Yukoners had any appetite for radical change.

Figuring out just why the New Democrats faired so poorly is another story altogether. Even my closest neighbours are tongue tied on this one.

The New Democrat story in the Yukon has become one of a well-meaning philosophy in search of a free-thinking public.

The futility of this is evidenced by the popular vote in which only one in every four voters felt that New Democrat values were worth supporting.

In the Kluane riding the disparity was even greater.

Here only one in eight voters went for the NDP. This is even more troubling when seen in light of the recent federal election in which one in six voters declared themselves New Democrats.

One can chose to explain the results in Kluane several ways:

The Yukon Party caught the wave of a strong economy, but Gary McRobb is always the keen campaigner who delivers for his riding.

The NDP parachuted in a wonderfully articulate candidate, well meaning and well coached but powerless to connect with her audience.

And the alternative independent turned out to be encyclopedic on issues but grossly insensitive to community values.

Whatever the case, elections are difficult to understand and they often turn on insignificant matters.

On the other hand, larger more noteworthy issues often take centre stage.

Here is my take on the downfall of the NDP in the territory.

The Yukon Party took a bold, calculating, seemingly imperceptible, but yet noticeable dance step to the left.

Their rhetoric of an economy chaperoned, if you will, by reasonable environmental checks and balances seems to have pulled the rug out from under Liberals and New Democrats alike.

This left these two opposition parties to dance, unwittingly and certainly unwillingly, with one another. And as often happens with lovers dancing late into the night, differences began to surface.

By election time the squabbles between Liberals and New Democrats had risen to the level of a full-blown estrangement.

Stepping on each other’s feet, they appeared awkward at best.

When the music was finally over, the Yukon Party had the luxury of waltzing onto the dance floor to a tune of its own choosing: ‘We have done well in the past,’ it said, ‘may we please have the next dance?’

Now the question: Can and will the Yukon Party make good on its brand of economic environmentalism?

While this remains to be seen, there will be several opportunities in the near future for sympathizers and critics alike to weigh in.

If the Yukon economy begins to overheat, take notice.

Pressing for unlimited economic growth means, for all intents and purposes, that they have accepted the notion of unlimited consumption. This of course is certain death for wilderness.

If the scale of the economy dramatically increases, take notice.

There is a solid body of evidence now being produced by both liberal and conservative institutes pointing to the many ecological, social, cultural, and bureaucratic problems that arise as scale increases disproportionably to local demand.

If the size of government increases as a result of new economic demands take notice.

Bureaucracies tend to bulge when governments fail to do all they can (or should) to encourage strong local community development.

If, over the course of the next five years, we do not see a significant increase in the promotion of and opportunities for small-scale farming, family run businesses and local lending institutions, take notice.

A conservative government, with an eye for paying down government debt, must find ways to diversify the economy while reducing the cost of transportation.

It must reduce the marketability of franchised businesses as a way of cultivating local innovation. And it must increase the potential for local businesses to finance their innovations through local lending institutions that know and respect their borrowers.

If this government does not make serious efforts to enable local communities to produce as much of their local energy as possible through wind and solar technology, take notice.

Any serious long-term economic policy must be coupled with policies, programs and incentives that reduce the use of fossil fuels.

I believe the Yukon Party, given the luxury of another five years, can make serious strides toward keeping the economy strong by keeping the environment healthy.

Premier Fentie has told us he will.

I for one believe him.