Monthly Archives: October 2015

The death of a ‘value based’ democracy….

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In the 2015 Canadian General Election we are witnessing the end of ‘values based’ politics in our country.

As a nation, we’ve somehow made the #1 issue in this election, by far and away: the latest voter preference poll.  This is an unprecedented development for a G8 democracy.

Nothing best exposes this more than the recent abandonment of the Green Party by a plethora of prominent environmental entities and activists.

They did this on the eve of the election, with Trudeau headed for a majority government, the NDP campaign flagging nationwide, and the conservatives all but collapsing.  This context is made even more interesting by the fact the Greens are surging in support across BC, and challenging in many many ridings.

Apparently the Green message has legs.

One such activist, Ben West, who is publically associated with ‘The Great Climate Race’, and a ‘Tanker-Free BC’, has decided to openly support parties that have no credible plan to address climate change, and who won’t take a clear stand on either pipelines or tankers.

This, even as the Green Party of Canada has produced the most comprehensive environmental platform Canada has ever seen: a platform that states it will ban all new heavy oil pipelines to BC and make a complete reckoning of climate change domestically by 2050.

Why did they do that?  Well, the polls told them to do that.

Canadians everywhere are being told to park their values and vote based on the most recent poll.

Polls have now become the fill-in where principles, platforms and issues once reigned.

We’ve become a democracy that no longer cares about these things; we want to know what the score is, rather than be part of the game.

And that, fellow Canadians, spells the end of our ‘values based’ democratic tradition.

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It’s not as if there aren’t a great many extremely important issues to form our values around in this election.

It is, after all, the eve of the onset of catastrophic climate change, something that we’ve seen coming for 35 years.

And a time when our entire country has faced unprecedented wildfires, drought, floods, and other climate change related maladies,

When our commodities industries are on the brink of total failure,

When we’re about to enter the most difficult demographic transition in living memory,

When household debt is at an all time high,

When we’re in a technical recession,

When our dollar is on a steady decline,

When we have the lowest interest rates possible, and no growth to report,

When we’re about to hand over our very sovereignty to foreign business interests in the Trans-Pacific Partnership,

When there are over 1200 missing and murdered aboriginal women, and steadily rising.

We’ve now somehow handed our entire political process over to notoriously unreliable voter preference polls, looking to the likes of Dogwood, LeadNow and VoteTogether as our new political intelligentsia.

Even more exceptional, we’ve managed to do this, for months upon months, in an election that has featured between 20-30% undecided voters.

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It’s really been amazing to watch this all unfold as both an insider and an informed observer.

Anyone who has been involved in even a few elections knows that the ‘strategic vote’ campaign is now the regular feature of both Liberal and NDP campaigning.  They’ve been doing this for years and the pattern is crystal clear.

Both the NDP and Libs are guilty of electioneering of the highest degree, and this is now one of their main tactics.  The other chief tactic is refusing to electorally cooperate, which has turned our elections into some sick parallel of the Prometheus story.

On the progressive left, we grow our vital organs back every election, before they are ripped out once more by the unified and ‘value-driven’ Conservatives.  I feel your anger: it’s ridiculous to watch this.

What’s been even more amazing is watching the NDP slip from the lead and change, overnight, their  tactic from a full-charge strategic vote, to a ‘vote for what you want!’, ‘don’t abandon your values now!’ strategy.  It’s worthy of ridicule.

Honestly, if this election was only about strategic voting, we could have saved the $350 million and just handed this contest to Justin in the wake of his Bill C-51 debacle: because that’s the logical outcome of strategic voting if we accept it as our political ‘raison d’etre’.

I’ve been canvassing and campaigning in a variety of locations this election, I still haven’t been able to find even a handful of people that actually want to vote for either the party, platform or the leader they feel strategic voting compels them to.

They’re doing it simply out of fear of the other, and that my friends, is no way to pick a Prime Minister.

But Harper is going to win, right?

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How does Harper win, anyways?

Everybody on your social media seems to hate him, so where do all these voters come from at election time?

In a nutshell, Harper panders to the largest ‘value based’ voter base still left in Canada: Conservative Canadians.  That seems a very powerful thing to do.

Conservative voters will simply NOT abandon their vote because it’s based in a deep-rooted sense of shared values that have nothing to do with polls.

While on the progressive left we’re rapidly refreshing our poll websites to find out where our vote should go next; Conservatives are charting a 30 year trajectory through the political wilderness, unified by a common destiny.

I can’t begin to tell you how inadequate the ‘progressive’ approach has been in comparison.

We don’t know what philosophy we’re even following anymore; we just know we’re against the other guys.

Are you Green, NDP or Liberal?  Can you articulate what the differences are, or what this means for your vote?  Do you know what’s in the platforms and do you understand the character of the leaders?

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We desperately need to start to understand just how much damage ‘fear politics’ has done to our great nation.

We’ve fallen from global respect and dignity, to the laughing stock of the G8, and worldwide climate villain.

Scroll back to the top, and have a look at the condition we currently find ourselves in: that’s a terrible confluence of factors for any civil society to find itself.

When I visited the Canadian Mission to the UN in 2005, we were the most respected country in the world and held in the very highest regard in the General Assembly.

We had so many people appointed to key global positions that we were characteristically embarrassed about it.

Fast forward to 2015 and we’ve become a pariah in the very same house; exemplified by the vote that saw Canada rejected a seat on the Security Council by our GA partners.

Along the way our politics have become hi-jacked by electioneers, we’ve abandoned our values, and our democratic traditions.

We have only ourselves to blame for this precipitous decline.

As a nation we’ve become obsessed with fear politics and it shows.

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The case to never again vote NDP, Liberal or Conservative, as long as you live.

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There are plenty of juicy plots to enthrall voters in the 2015 election.

We’re familiar with lots of these stories from previous years, some new, some old.

How do we get rid of Harper?  Will there be the first NDP Government ever? Is Justin Trudeau up for the job?  Don’t let them raise your taxes! Immigrants are out to get us! Should we legalize marijuana? What is a niquab? Etc.  Truly fascinating stuff, that’s all very good for TV.

In varying shades we’ve seen this all before:

Again we get to watch and enjoy all the hyper-partisan bayoneting, until it slowly drives us insane, and then we all head to the ballots and choose a new leader.

But you’d be wrong to think this is a normal election.

The world is changing.

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Everyone seems to know that anthropogenic climate change is well underway.

We have seen all the symptoms at home and across the country.  This summer, wildfires ripped their way through Western Canada amidst record drought levels.

Municipalities, like our very own, appeared helpless as the taps ran dry and water faced severe rationing.

If you go outside and measure, the atmosphere reads a staggering 402 ppm CO2 concentration.

Additionally, we’re now adding 10 billion metric tons a year to that amount.

What this means is: by the time the next election cycle comes around, we’ll be at or near the 450 ppm international limit set for humanity to avoid ‘catastrophic climate change’.

Already, the wheels are in motion, and we’re not entirely sure how this turns out, but we have a very good idea.

The oceans are now rising by .5cm a year.  This is expected to increase, resulting in a 1-3m sea level rise by 2100, depending on which model you believe.

That is enough to make Florida disappear, along with a wide variety of heavily inhabited low-lying coastal metropolis’  turning into the lost cities of Atlantis.

We currently have 27 million climate change refugees in the world and that number is expected to grow to 250 million by 2050 (UNHCR).

Damages to the world economy are projected to exceed 400 trillion dollars.

Crop failures, super storms, ocean acidification and ecosystem decline.  We know what’s ahead.

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However, in a nutshell, we’re actually there now.

One might fairly ask: how did we get here?  Who’s responsible for this?

The mechanics of climate change have been well understood since 1980, however there has been little to no reaction from the powers that be on this planet.

I’ve said this before in previous articles that the blame for anthropogenic climate change will be shared among many.

The dynamics of international relations will certainly be at play.

Corporate leaders will certainly take a large portion of the blame.

However, the governments and voters of the world’s largest GHG emitters will likely take most of the blame.gw-graphic-pie-chart-co2-emissions-by-country-2011

They’ve consistently voted in governments that have no interest in adapting to climate change; governments that have repeatedly shown no courage to regulate, as if they forgot what their job was.

In Canada we’ve had 5 Liberal and 5 Conservative National governments since 1980.  Additionally, we’ve had 12 Provincial NDP governments.

Not one of these governments has taken the threat of climate change seriously.

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In fact, we’ve never had a government meet a greenhouse gas emissions target yet.

And still, year after year, some madness gets us out in droves to vote for parties and leaders that cannot reckon with today’s existential crisis, which is clearly: anthropogenic climate change.

It’s as if it’s 1938, and we’re content to believe, again and again, that Neville Chamberlin can give us ‘peace in our time’.

As long as we employ ‘middle class’ economics and don’t vote for the other guy, we’ll be ok, right?

Wrong.

Even the prospect of 27 million climate change refugees is enough to bankrupt the world’s governments.

250 million refugees, as are projected, along with the various other climate change maladies, represents something that even the world’s strongest nations will be powerless against.

It’s a monumental reckoning to start to think in these terms.

This is the kind of stuff that makes dust out of empires.

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Collectively, we need to start taking stock in our future.

And that begins by not voting for the ‘status-quo’ governments, around the world, that have failed to respond to this clear and present danger, repeatedly, year after year.

In each country the political dynamic is largely similar, although the names may vary:

Taken together, the Liberals, Social Democrats and Conservatives, will take the blame for not responding to climate change, for they have been in government through all of this time.

Expecting these status-quo parties to respond to climate change, is like trying to drive a car from New York to London: it’s a vehicle simply not built for the job.

These entities were only ever designed to fight elections against each other, and to compete in offering economic promises to voters.

We desperately need to re-tool our politics and remove these imposters from office.

The job of a ‘head of state’ is to respond to existential challenges on behalf of the populace, and they are simply not acting like heads of state any longer.

I foresee a future where these entities rightfully decline into obscurity, as the gross severity of their collective folly becomes fully evident.

Together, they’ve treated politics like a game, but it never was a game.

Their time is soon to be over, and that ending could not come soon enough.

Dear Mr. Murray Dobbin…..

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Dear Mr. Murray Dobbin,

I am writing to offer some comment on the recent string of vociferous anti Elizabeth May and anti Green Party of Canada articles written by you and your colleagues at The Tyee.

In these articles you are proposing that Elizabeth May is both working to elect Conservatives and lying to the Canadian public.

You admonish her, her party, and her supporters in the aims of precipitating a widespread GPC candidate withdraw, or at least some depression of their surging support across BC.  A vote for Green is a vote for Harper?  Is that what I’m reading?

That’s an interesting, although not unfamiliar, dreamscape coming forth from long-time NDP ‘beasts of burden’.

I can agree with you on your central premise: it certainly would be an amazing rout of Canadian politics if we all woke up tomorrow and found the NDP working in electoral cooperation with the Green.

That type of electoral cooperation might lead to government, both federally and provincially; all be it, a shared government.

I can assure you, Green insiders understand this reality.  That’s the central reason why, in the advance of every major election in recent memory, the Greens have extended an olive branch of electoral cooperation to the NDP.

The Greens have been rebuffed every single time.

That’s astonishing regularity, especially for politics.  In fact, this time, Tom Mulcair didn’t even offer the courtesy of returning the phone call.  Not only a major breakdown of decorum and professional respect, but also a massive insult to Green voters everywhere.

Are these the same Green voters the NDP is trying to court with their now perennial ‘vote-split’ argument?

It seems odd that no respect can be shown to these voters, especially now that they appear to be central to any concept of an NDP victory.

After all, the NDP can’t win on their own, isn’t that basically what you’re saying?

Let’s be clear about a few things:

  • The NDP has never produced a platform that addresses the sweeping range of core Green issues, i.e. climate change, pipeline expansion, proportional representation (still not in the NDP platform by the way – have a close look)
  • The NDP is beholden to the same industrial-extraction interests as all other ‘status-quo’ parties
  • Future generations require far swifter movement than what the NDP brand is offering, in order to both re-ignite our struggling economy and avoid catastrophic climate change

I’ll happily inform you once again, that until the above gets addressed, you have no credible argument as to why the Greens should be supporting the NDP base.

As I’m sure you understand, the ‘vote split’ argument applies to parties that have, more or less, a congruent platform going after the same voters, offering them two identical options.  This argument could easily be made about the Liberal and NDP platforms.

Point by point, it’s essentially the same document, except for minor nuances.  Summarily, the slogans are even the same:  ‘real change’/’ready for change’, and ‘middle-class economics’.

The same can’t be said about either the Conservative or Green platforms: they are materially very different than the near identical NDP/Liberal platforms.

At the Green Party of Canada, they’re talking about the big ideas:

  • Eliminating post-secondary tuition by 2020
  • 80% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050
  • Proportional representation and a return to community minded, principled MPs
  • Opposition to all current heavy oil pipeline projects

All contained within a fully developed comprehensive 44-page platform, with a five-year budget outlook.

There is no true vote split in discussion of this party, and what choice they represent to voters, in relation to other parties.

One should rightly be asking why the NDP/Libs are content to produce nearly identical platform documents, and go after the very same voter base, year after year, and truly split the vote in ways the Greens never have.

Should Greens suggest that NDP/Lib candidates withdraw with such indignity and disrespect that have been shown to them?  I think we’re all pretty aware that the Greens will not be levelling these baseless attacks at their fellow progressive running mates.

Greens, in ridings across Canada, including my own and your own, now have the best platform, the best candidate, and the best leader.

Why on earth would they consider voting for a lesser candidate, lesser platform, or lesser leader, in another party?

Let’s cut to the chase: you, and your colleagues’, repeated attempts to demand Green support move elsewhere are fundamentally un-democratic and disrespectful to voters.

In light of the NDP ‘shutting the door’ to any meaningful electoral cooperation with Green for decades, voters will rightly be asking hard questions about your argument.

Greens have been subject to baseless and personal attacks for far too long, and without a dignified response, or a respectable forum to discuss the charge.

I think we need to really get to the bottom of the arguments you’re proposing, and so, I offer you a challenge:

I’m inviting you to a town hall in Sechelt and Powell River held before the general vote Oct 19th, where you can make your case to the public in person, and also hear my arguments against it.

I further propose that it be a parliamentary debate, with an independent moderator.

The topic: “Why don’t the Greens Just Go away”.

We’re both sideline commentators in this Federal election, what have we got to lose?

Are you game sir?