Friday, December 19, 2014

In Sudbury By-Election, the Only Vote for Change is a Vote for the Green Party

Sudbury has a chance to make history in 2015 – by electing the first Green Member of Provincial Parliament to the Ontario legislature in the upcoming by-election. Sending a Green to Queen's Park would be a bold statement from Sudburians that it's time we had real change in the business as usual approach of the old-line political parties. Sudburians would be acknowledging Ontario's growing desire to have other voices heard in our legislatures, a desire mirrored throughout Canada as shown by the election of Elizabeth May to the federal House of Commons, and when B.C.'ers and New Brunswickers sent Andrew Weaver and David Coon to their provincial legislatures.

Sounds simple enough – but a number of factors really need to come together to make this a reality. First and foremost, Greens need to give Sudburians compelling reasons to take up the torch of this historic opportunity. The good news is that there are lots of reasons for Sudburians to consider voting for the Green Party in the upcoming by-election. For those voters interested in change, a vote for the Green Party will certainly deliver.

A Focus on Mining and the Ring of Fire

Many in this community believe that the Green Party, perceived as a party of the environment, would be a poor fit for a City which relies heavily on the mining industry for its prosperity. I believe that a lot of the anxiety about this matter has stemmed from partisan machinations from the other political parties who try to portray the Greens as anti-development (or at least anti-resource development).

Of course, I don't see it that way – in fact, here in the Sudbury and Nickel Belt ridings, Greens have asked geologist and former INCO and Falconbridge employee Fred Twilley to carry our banner in 3 campaigns (in Nickel Belt provincially in 2006, federally in 2008 and in Sudbury federally in 2011). And recently, the man who was instrumental in inventing the concept of the “mining cluster”, Laurentian University's Dr. David Robinson, has announced that he'll be seeking the Sudbury nomination for the upcoming federal election. Dr. Robinson has been writing about mining and the economy for a decade, and is one of only a few individuals to have their own hyperlink at Stan Sudol's Republic of Mining of website.

And then there's me. I've been a strong supporter of developing Northern Ontario's Ring of Fire for quite some time – although my support has sometimes been translated by partisans as being in opposition to development. Northing could be further from the truth. Greens like me understand that development of our natural resources isn't going to magically come to a halt – and nor should it. What we ought to be doing, however, is making longer-term sustainability an intrinsic part of resource development – and industries located here in Northern Ontario which extract base metals and rare earth metals are prime for the sorts of innovations which would see the our mining sector become a leader in sustainable development and net-zero practices.

We’re in a very critical time for the Ring of Fire. Plans for development are moving forward, but they don’t appear to be based on a comprehensive analysis of baseline data. It’s unclear whether appropriate assessments are going to occur, or whether the provincial and federal governments are going to take seriously their requirements for nation-to-nation negotiations with the indigenous peoples who call this part of our province home.

This circumstance cries out for a Green voice to be on the frontlines of any discussion. Only a Green will prompt our governments to consider a complete range of impacts as part of a comprehensive assessment of the entirety of the $27 billion industrial enterprise. Climate change, impacts on threatened and endangered species, and water quality and quantity concerns must be at the heart of any physical assessment – yet none of the old-line parties are calling for anything but finding a way forward to get the resources out of the ground as quickly as possible. Increasingly, citizens are coming to the conclusion that the old ways of doing business simply aren’t working – we can’t leap before we look. We’ve got one chance to get it right in the Ring of Fire, and a Green voice in our legislature is needed to amplify that message to our elected decision-makers.

Saying No to Corporate Campaign Donations & Influence

Greens will be sure to hold the line on social and environmental issues related to development of the Ring of Fire – because Greens will be working with the interests of Ontario’s and Canada’s citizens first and foremost. We are not in the pockets of multinational corporations whose bottom lines are often more important that the health and well-being of people who live in communities affected by resource extraction.

The other old-line parties don’t understand this. Despite federal legislative changes made more than a decade ago, banning corporate and union donations to partisan political campaigns, our elected officials in their wisdom in this province have taken no such action. Money continues to speak louder than words at Queen’s Park, and New Democrats, Liberals and PC’s are all on the take.

Greens understand that in a democracy, decisions should be made by real people, without the outside influences of corporate power and money. Only people are allowed to vote in our elections – why is it then that those seeking office line their campaign pockets with donations from corporate entities? We all intuitively understand that accepting money from corporations and unions opens the door to access, abuse and corruption. Why, then, do the other parties continue to accept money from corporations?

Over the last week, we’ve had a front-row view in Sudbury regarding how backroom dealings, fuelled by promises of money and patronage, are corrupting our democracy. Greens understand that the very foundations of our democracy at all levels of government are being shaken by a level of corruption not seen before in this country. To that end, Greens will again be challenging all provincial by-election candidates to come clean with Sudburians about who is ponying up the money for their campaigns – we’ll be challenging candidates to just say no to corporate and union influence, and refuse campaign donations from anybody but a human. And should they continue to pocket corporate money, we’ll be reminding them that it’s a sorry excuse to say they’re simply “playing by the rules” when the question is really one of morality, and not just adhering to the letter of the law.

Prioritizing Local Businesses and Labour Rights

Yes, I’m certain that our Green candidate will be subject to accusations from New Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives that our stance on corporate and union donations makes us “anti-business” or “anti-labour”. It’ll be easy to hurl these accusations without a shred of evidence – it’s certainly what the old-line parties do at every opportunity they get. We’ll have to be prepared to show Sudburians that the Green agenda is one friendly to business and will help give rise to economic prosperity throughout the province – and especially here in Northern Ontario, where we understand the value of putting community ahead of enriching foreign multinationals. Sudburians understand the importance of good, well-paying local jobs, and the need to defend the rights of workers.

And we’ll need to tell those involved in the labour movement that they’ve nothing to fear from we Greens. Labour rights are human rights, and Greens understand that the bedrock of true prosperity has to include social equity and environmental sustainability. It’s unfortunate that the other parties seem to be doing what they can to move us backwards on one or both of these foundational issues, yet successive PC and Liberal governments have lowered the bar on both, creating the social and economic conditions to grow the gap between the rich and the rest of us, much to our detriment. New Democrats, too, seem to be confused about a way forward, especially with regards to environmental sustainability – a concept they like to talk about, but one which they clearly fail to grasp.

There are compelling reasons for Sudburians to give the Green Party a chance in the upcoming by-election. Sudburians know that Greens are coming from a place quite different than that of the other parties – that Greens are looking ahead towards the future to answer the hard questions of today, rather than back at the past as the old-line parties are doing. Greens understand that tomorrow isn’t going to be like today, and at a time of scarce resources, income inequality and climate change, more than ever we need to plan for tomorrow in a fiscally responsible way. Solutions which may have worked in the past are not necessarily the right ones for the future.

Saying No to the Status Quo

We’ll be making a strong case to Sudbury voters that it’s time to put away partisan differences, and vote for real change to our democratic discourse. Those who have in the past cast ballots for New Democrats, Liberals and Progressive Conservatives will be heartened to know that this time voting Green won’t be perceived as a “wasted vote”. Sending another New Democrat or Liberal to Queen’s Park isn’t going to change anything – it will only perpetuate the status quo. Electing a lone Green to Queen’s Park, however, will change the complexion of the political conversation around many issues which are important to Sudburians, including fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency, the Ring of Fire, climate change and creating a better, truly sustainable economy for all of Ontario.

We Greens have long committed to doing politics differently. It's time to show Sudbury what this really means. Watch us.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Party of Canada)

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