Wednesday, April 17, 2019

For the NDP, it's 1 Down and 1 To Go

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley's resounding defeat at the polls last night may just be the breakthrough that New Democrats need to get back into the game that the 2019 federal election is shaping up to be.  With Alberta's New Democrats being banished to the purgatory of the Opposition benches, where, for the next four years, they'll sit and watch a Conservative government dismantle the good work that they had been doing, Jagmeet Singh's federal New Democrats will finally be free of the shackles that Rachel Notley had put on him.

There will be no more talk of promoting pipelines from Singh or the NDP from here on in.  With Notley going down in flames last night, so too did the last remaining support in the New Democratic Party for the Trans Mountain pipeline.  Notley and the New Democrats are likely finished in Alberta for the conceivable future - similar to what happened to the NDP in Ontario after a single term in power under Bob Rae in the early 1990s.  The NDP's win in 2015 was a complete aberration anyway - ending 40 years of conservative rule in Alberta - and likely primarily because of a divided right and a scandal-plagued PC Party.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

Anyway, Notley is done - and good riddance to her, I say.  I suspect that it might still take some time for New Democrats to share my sentiment about her departure, but I am quite optimistic that in time they will.

Greens vs. Browns

It was Notley, after all, who famously opposed the surge of reformist 'green' New Democrats who gathered in Edmonton in 2016.  While the reformers won out over the old-guard browns on the question of whether Tom Mulcair should continue to lead their Party, thanks in part to Notley's vehement hate for the Leap Manifesto, the green reformers lost that more important battle (see: "Notley repudiates Leap Manifesto but Alberta NDP will stick with federal party," the Calgary Herald, April 11, 2016).  Instead of acceptance of Leap as a guide for policy, New Democrats walked away from Edmonton only with a promise to study it at the Electoral District level. 

Three years later, no one is talking about Leap any more - but everyone is talking about it still.  Leap has been embraced south of the border by green reformers in the Democratic Party led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (a.k.a. "AOC" - presumably because so many Republicans mangle her non-anglo name that it's not always clear just whom their speaking of when they're slagging her).  Leap has been rebranded as "the Green New Deal" and we can expect to hear a lot more about that as Democratic Presidential nominees battle it out continuously for the next year and a half.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ("AOC")

And in Canada, the Leap people might just finally get what they want: a New Democratic Party that is openly embracing Leap, er, the Green New Deal.  Putting partisanship over the planet, Avi Lewis - a dyed-in-the-wool New Democrat, and Naomi Klein have both been able to steer Leap away from the one political Party in Canada that supported Leap the day it came out (see: "2015 Green Party Platform Reflects Leap Manifesto Policy," Green Party of Canada, press release originally issued September 15, 2015, and have continued to pine away for a time when the New Democrats were ready to hop on board.  

Climate Hypocrisy

When it comes to taking action on climate change, the hypocrisy of Leap has been astounding - matched perhaps only by the New Democratic Party itself, which has tried to sell itself to Canadians as a positive force on the environmental front, but whose actions continue to contradict this point in a very serious way.  Notley's demands that the Trans Mountain pipeline get built - right the f now - were but the most obvious example.  The NDP has consistently fought against real action on climate change over the years.  In B.C., New Democrats opposed the Liberal Party's carbon tax (see: "NDP vote against carbon tax," the Globe and Mail, May 30, 2008).  And along with embracing Trans Mountain, the Alberta NDP devised a disingenuous "climate plan" that would see emissions double from  an expanded tar sands (see: "Alberta's climate plan stands in the way of Canada's," Gordon Laxer, the Edmonton Journal, December 3, 2015).

Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein

One might suggest that was all in the past.  But what's not in the past for New Democrats is B.C. Premier John Horgan's on-going support for creating a completely new massive fossil enterprise around fracked natural gas.  In what is being called a "generational sell-out," Horgan's NDP - along with Canada's Liberal government - are pouring billions of taxpayer's dollars into this new LNG initiative  (see: "Billions in subsidies undermine BC's ability to meet climate targets," the Sierra Club, March 25, 2019).
B.C. Premier John Horgan

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh presently supports Horgan and the climate-destroying LNG initiative - and initiative which some are calling worse than the tar sands when it comes to emissions (see: "LNG Industry Could Make B.C. Canada’s Worst Actor on Climate," the Narwhal, June 24, 2016). Only a small number of New Democrats have had the courage to speak out against their own Party's hypocrisy.  On the campaign trail with Jagmeet Singh in the recent Burnaby by-election, Svend Robinson came out of retirement with guns blazing, taking an opposing view to Singh on LNG and new fossil infrastructure (see: "NDP candidate doubles down on LNG opposition despite leader’s support," CTV, January 27, 2019).  After a week of headlines that made Singh and the NDP look like the climate hypocrites they are, Robinson hasn't been heard from again. 
Svend Robinson

But Robinson's silence isn't going to last - and you can bet that he's going to be joined by others now that Rachel Notley is out of the picture.  There has long been a nascent movement for reform in the New Democratic Party - one that has been thwarted by status quo-supporting browns (see: "Irreconcilible Differences: For the NDP, "Schism" Is The Word," Sudbury Steve May, April 16, 2016).  The browns have had the upper hand, but that's all starting to change.  

A New Opportunity for New Democrats

For federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, this poses both a challenge and an opportunity. Singh has never been a part of the NDP's status-quo power base.  When Singh ran to become Party leader, he had some rather progressive things to say about UNDRIP and climate change (see: "Jagmeet Singh unveils climate plan, takes stance against Kinder Morgan pipeline," CTV, June 18, 2017) - some of which he has since backed away from once the reality of dueling New Democratic Premiers in Alberta and B.C. to see who could be the biggest emitters, hit home.

Notley's departure means that Singh and the New Democrats can now boldly oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline in the federal election campaign in all parts of Canada.  There's no need to tip-toe around the issue in Alberta and parts of B.C.  That might not seem like much - as Singh has been publicly opposed to Trans Mountain since before he became leader.  But the general silence from the NDP on the issue - for fear of upsetting Notely and the Alberta NDP on the eve of a provincial election - has been telling.  Having the NDP join - loudly and proudly - the fight against Trans Mountain could create a positive difference for a few New Democratic candidates in B.C.'s lower mainland and in Quebec.  

NDP Must Make the Leap

Horgan, however, remains a problem for Singh.  Once Horgan's been taken out of the picture, the federal NDP will be free to reverse course on LNG - and finally get with the Leap program that green reformers within the Party have been pushing for.  As long as the NDP want to be a "Liberal-lite" party, there's little hope that they're going to continue to have much relevance in the 21st Century.  The NDP's base is shifting - and either the NDP moves with them, or they risk drifting towards irrelevancy (see: "The NDP's only hope is a Green New Deal for Canada," February 26, 2019).  And I see plenty of signs that the NDP, as presently constituted, are opting for irrelevancy.  But I'm certainly not going to count them out - yet.
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh

Despite my criticism of Leap leaders, I'm a big supporter of Leap, the Green New Deal and a Just Transition for fossil sector workers (for starters see: "Youth rising up on climate," the Sudbury Star, December 29, 2018, and "Climate change crisis will need a radical new approach," the Sudbury Star, January 27, 2019).  I've been hopeful that the NDP would, at some point, rally around the Leap Manifesto as a good way forward to address the climate crisis.  For me, saving the planet is far more important than blind partisanship.

What Colour Could Green and Orange Make?

But that said, it's also been my hope that if the NDP green reformers finally took control of the reigns of party power, and implemented a suite of policies that were in keeping with Leap - then what would be the reason to have both a Green Party and a green New Democratic Party?  Sure, there is some distance between the NDP and Greens on a few other issues (the NDP's support for the Atlantic Seal Hunt is a big problem for Greens, and likely so would be the Sherbrooke Declaration - but most of the NDP's problems with Greens are mythical - meaning that they're not real.  NDP partisans like to believe that Green policy is anti-labour and right-wing - but the reality is that the NDP itself has drifted to the right over the past several years, trying to occupy the position that Liberal Party used to occupy.  The NDP's support of the war in Libya, their silence on Israeli Apartheid, and their support of investor state provisions in the Canada-South Korea trade deal are simply things that a pre-Jack Layton NDP would likely have ever contemplated.  Now they are party dogma - yet the NDP continues to perpetuate the idea that their party is somehow the bastion of progressive policy options in Canada - and the Green Party occupies a point somewhere far to their right.

It's nonsense, of course - but that's what happens when unmitigated partisanship takes hold of a party.  And at the end of the day, it's that level of intolerant hyper-partisanship that the NDP displays that is (along with weak climate policy) the biggest turn-off for Greens.

All of that is to say I remain optimistic that there might one day be a rapprochement between New Democrats and Greens - once the NDP abandons their support for new and expanded fossil fuel infrastructure.  I've been hoping for a while that this might happen sooner rather than later (see: "Jagmeet Singh's Leadership Success Points the Way Forward for Electoral Co-Operation Between Greens, NDP," Sudbury Steve May, October 3, 2017).  But the NDP keeps leaping to be champions of yesterday's economy, when they should be looking ahead to where the puck's going.

Now with Notley gone, that's one down - and just John Horgan to go - before the NDP can reverse course on their fossil foolishness.

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own, and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the Green Parties of Ontario and/or Canada)


Harvey said...

So why didn’t the oh so principled Greens if the were so upset about LNG not take down the government?

Sudbury Steve said...

The B.C. Greens voted against LNG. It was the Liberals that voted with the NDP on this new fossil enterprise.