Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Is This All That Stands in the Way of NDP-Green Electoral Co-operation?

Canada's political ground is shifting - and the upheaval is largely as a result of Canadians' growing awareness of, and concerns over climate change.  Here's what I'm seeing:

  • Greens recently won big in PEI, and took an important by-election in Nanaimo-Ladysmith - a riding previously held by the NDP.
  • Elizabeth May remains a far more popular leader than Jagmeet Singh, according to the polls
  • Those same polls show the Green Party polling in double digits for the first time - and they have the NDP mired between 15-20%
  • Jagmeet Singh is not very well-known by Canadians.  He's also not particularly well-loved by many in his Party.
  • The Conservative Party is polling in majority government territory.
  • Both the NDP and the Green Party are generally supportive of a Green New Deal - whatever that turns out to be.
  • The Liberals are pretending to be climate champions, but they bought a bitumen pipeline and are lining up to spend upwards of $8 billion to increase greenhouse gas emissions. They're not actually serious about climate change.
  • After losing the Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election, former NDP MP Svend Robinson urged his party to learn from the defeat.  The message appears to have sunk in.  Jagmeet Singh announced yesterday that he no longer supports fracked natural gas - which presumably means that he no longer supports BC's LNG enterprise, as it will liquify fracked natural gas.
  • Singh is moving his party closer to the Green Party on climate change.  That threatens Greens - but really it's a victory for the Green Party, Canada and the planet: the more partners we have who are serious about taking climate action, the better off we all are.
  • Macleans magazine recently floated a trial balloon about an NDP-Green merger, and how it could lead to greater success for both parties.  While partisans in both parties have been incredibly resistant to the idea, the idea of a merger appears to be somewhat popular with Canadians.

But there is no time for the NDP and Green parties to merge - even if it were a desirable thing.  There's an election coming up in the fall, and both parties have to put all of our energies into electing MP's.

And yet, there's really very little stopping New Democrats and Greens getting together and co-operating for the chance of greater electoral success.  With the two parties clearly moving towards one another's positions and policies in a way that we never have before, a conversation about electoral co-operation is necessary.

It's necessary not just because the electoral stakes are so very high - although that's the case.  A Conservative victory in the fall would be epically disastrous for Canada and the planet. At a time when Canada should be acting as a climate leader, the Conservatives will fight the tide of history, undo a lot of the good that the Liberals have done, and take Canada backwards.  That's bad news for my children.  We can't let that happen.

But the conversation is also necessary because it's going to happen anyway.  There is no way that the Green Party is going to be able to reign in all of the Electoral District Associations that want to explore some sort of co-operative agreement.  It happened in 2015 in a couple of ridings - and it will happen in even more ridings in 2019.  

That Which Divides Us

So what's standing in the way of the Green Party's leadership exploring the possibility of co-operation with the NDP?  From where I sit, not a whole lot.  But I will say this: partisan Greens and partisan New Democrats seem hell-bent on nixing anything that would see our two parties co-operate pre-election.  Too many believe that there is a significant divide - one that can't be overcome - between Greens and New Democrats.

I don't think the divide is that significant, and I see strong evidence that it's shrinking.

In this blogpost, I'm going to explore those points of contention that appear to exist between our two parties.  Some of these issues are real - but others are more about perception than policy.  Examples here are taken from my years of observing politics, writing about the NDP and Green parties, and from comments being made by New Democrats and Greens on social media about one another. 

Ultimately, although the list appears to be lengthy, it's not particularly extensive, in my opinion.  

And it's not nearly as extensive as the points of agreement that Greens and New Democrats can find with one another.  And since the climate crisis really should be driving our decision-making at this time, I don't think we can let these few minor points of contention stand between us and co-operation.  I sincerely believe that our leaders need to sit down with one another with an eye to identifying what is possible between now and September.  Electing MP's that will stand for action on climate change should be paramount for both of our parties - whether those MP's are Greens or New Democrats.

Because, frankly, as this post will show, there's really not a whole lot of difference between a Green and a New Democrat any more.

Greens Complaints About New Democrats

NDP Doesn't Take Climate Change Seriously

Without question, this is the biggest concern for Greens: the NDP's lack of commitment to serious climate action.  Just about every point below feeds into this perception.  And it is true that New Democrats have a significant history with standing in the way of climate solutions.  Greens won't forget that the NDP campaigned against a carbon tax in British Columbia.  We can't forget that federal NDP Leader Jack Layton pulled the plug on Paul Martin's minority government, paving the way for a decade of Stephen Harper and climate inaction - at a time when Canada was hosting the United Nations Conference of the Parties in Montreal.  The Alberta NDP's massive support for doubling the tar sands production and the B.C. NDP's support for fracked natural gas - all of this feeds into the perception that the NDP have been actively hostile to climate action.

But that's not what the federal NDP under Jagmeet Singh is talking about now.  Singh just introduced a motion to the House to have the government declare a climate emergency.  Through considerable poking and prodding, the federal NDP has seriously shifted its policies away from promoting fossil fuels and towards sustainability.  The gap which has divided us is closing - and Greens need to recognize this.

Fracking / LNG

With NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh's announcement yesterday pulling NDP support for fracking, this one is now off the table.  Greens and New Democrats will head into the election with both parties opposed to fracking and to the B.C. LNG scheme - which is supported by the federal Liberals.

Leap and a Green New Deal

The Manifesto calls for boldness and decisiveness. I encourage every Canadians to read it and sign it. But don’t just sign it: vote for it. The platform the Green Party ... offers signatories a chance to vote for what they believe in.” -Green Leader Elizabeth May, September 15, 2015.

The NDP hemmed and hawed about support for the Leap Manifesto in 2016, whereas the Green Party issued a press release offering support on the day that Leap was released.  Despite commitments to discuss Leap at the EDA level, the NDP continues to prevaricate on Leap. 

But that hasn't stopped Jagmeet Singh and other prominent New Democrats from talking up the New Green Deal.  The NDP appears poised to adopt some form of the Green New Deal as a central tenet of its election platform.  Whatever the "Green New Deal" is, it's a great marketing tool for which ever party decides to publicly buy in to it.  This may sound crass, but the specifics won't matter as much to voters as the packaging.  The media says that a Green New Deal is good for the environment - and that might just be enough.

I understand that there are Greens who say that the Green New Deal doesn't go far enough - and that our Vision Green offers a better approach.  I happen to be one of those Greens.  But poll your friends and family and find out how many of them have ever heard of Vision Green vs. the Green New Deal.  

Let's not let the perfect stand in the way of uniting behind something that's really good - and the Green New Deal - however it eventually manifests itself in Canada - will surely include numerous points of agreement for New Democrats and Greens - and likely very little that divides us.

Expanding the Tar Sands / Support for new Bitumen Pipelines

Rachel Notley's NDP government's "Climate Action Plan" put Alberta on course to almost double production in the tar sands by 2030.  It centred around getting Alberta bitumen to tidewater, through a new pipeline.  It was a plan to significantly increase emissions - and to put the heavy lifting of meeting Canada's emissions reduction targets on the other provinces.  The federal Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bought into this plan, leading Ontario Premier Doug Ford to declare that Ontario has already done enough to reduce emissions.

Notley's climate change plan was just not serious, and Greens could see right through it.  

And so could New Democrats.  In B.C., Premier John Horgan's government continues to oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline.  And under Jagmeet Singh, the federal NDP's position has been to oppose it as well.

Now that Rachel Notley is gone, the federal NDP have free reign to heal this division within their own party.  Clearly they are moving away from supporting tar sands expansion and towards sustainability.  They have moved closer to the Green Party than ever before - so much so that on Trans Mountain and tar sands expansion, Greens and New Democrats are on the same page.

Support for Big Oil

As with the Trans Mountain issue, now that Rachel Notley is out of the picture, subsidies for Big Oil are off the table.  Singh has made it very clear recently: the NDP will no longer support subsidies for fossil fuels.  Greens should take him at his word - at least to get us through the coming election.

Concerns about the NDP being in the pocket of Big Oil-loving unions are overblown.  I'll discuss that further below.

Capping Gasoline Prices

Every now and then, particularly at the provincial level, the idea of capping gasoline prices to make driving more affordable for people of modest means, comes up.  It came up again just recently in the Ontario election in 2018 - and I've seen New Democrat MPP's taking issue with the Conservative budget in Ontario for not doing enough to drive down gasoline prices.

Of course for Greens, the idea that we should make driving cheaper is madness.  Yes, we recognize that people still have to drive, and rising gasoline prices adversely impact the least well off car owners.  Greens support targeted relief (somewhat akin to what the federal Liberals are doing with rural homeowners) rather than broad-brush approaches that provide an incentive for the rich to continue to use fossil fuels in a profligate manner.

At the end of the day, though, this is largely a provincial issue.  Further, both parties recognize that the issue of rising energy prices and how they effect the least well off among us is real and requires policy and programs to address.  Down the road, I suspect that Greens and New Democrats at all levels will find common ground to address that issue - and I think the Green New Deal will be the rallying point.

Commitment to Green Values

What binds Green parties throughout the world is a commitment to certain core values.  Those values are: Non-Violence; Social Justice; Participatory Democracy; Sustainability; Ecological Wisdom; and, Respect for Diversity.

Greens are very worried that New Democrats don't share these values.  Further, Greens are concerned that the NDP doesn't actually appear to have any values beyond the desire to get elected at all costs.  Greens are pointing to Singh's recent environmental shifts as just further evidence that the NDP will do and say anything if they think it will help them get elected.

The NDP's disposable values are certainly something that has long troubled me - even longer than I've been a member of the Green Party.  The lack of values of the Party is a real problem for the Party.

But the suggestion that New Democrats largely don't support the Green Party's core values is one that lacks evidence (besides, perhaps, the commitment to Non-Violence - something even sitting Greens have had some trouble wrestling with at times).  

On the contrary, I suspect that a lot of New Democrats would be surprised to discover that Greens identify as a core value a commitment to social justice and participatory democracy.  Members of both parties can find a lot of common ground among these core values.  Instead of keeping us apart, they can and should unite us.

Representative Democracy and Whipped Votes

Greens believe that the NDP lack of strong commitment to representative democracy.  This probably comes as a surprise to many New Democrats who believe the same about Greens.  Greens views are informed by a couple of things: the NDP leader selection process that gives votes to unions; and, vote whipping in legislatures.  Let's look at each in turn.

The NDP shifted to a one-member, one-vote process to elect leaders during the leadership election that saw Tom Mulcair take his party's mantle.  That was back in 2012.  Prior to the Mulcair election, it is true that for NDP leadership votes, not all votes were considered equal, and the Party did give organizations like unions the ability to vote for leaders in the same way that delegates to the convention could vote.  I know that's weird for Greens (frankly, it's just weird - unions aren't people, why are they voting?).  And the NDP appears to have recognized this, and dealt with it. Years ago.

Vote whipping is a problem in that it does not allow MP's to fully represent the interests of their constituents in parliament. Greens like to characterize our commitment to not whipping votes as "putting people ahead of party".  The NDP sees it differently: if MP's aren't speaking with a united voice, it waters down support or opposition.  A divided party is problematic as well from a media-management perspective.  There are good reasons why votes should be whipped.

If we were talking about a merger of the two parties, in my mind, whipped votes might be the biggest issue that divides us.  But for electoral co-operation this really should be a non-starter - each party's culture is not going to be effected at this time.  Let's just get it together on the big picture items.  We can deal with this later if we head down the road towards a merger.  We've got bigger fish to fry right now.

Corporate Political Donations

As a rule, Greens don't take corporate political donations.  It's part of our commitment to Representative Democracy.  Corporations - and unions - aren't people.  They don't vote.  They should not be influencing electoral outcomes.

The NDP has a history of taking donations from corporations and unions.  This will continue to be an area that divides us.

But it need not divide us at the federal level in 2019.  Federal rules prohibit corporate and union donations to political parties and candidates.  That makes this a complete non-issue.

Lack of Support for Proportional Representation / Electoral Reform

Both the NDP and the Green Party claim to be in favour of electoral reform - and specifically to moving from a First Past the Post electoral system to some form of Proportional Representation.  Greens, however, continue to have serious doubts about the NDP's commitments, given the NDP's actions at the provincial levels.

New Democrats have been in majority government situations in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia - and not one of those governments have ever followed through on enacting PR.  In my opinion, Greens are justified in our serious doubt that New Democrats really are committed to PR.  That probably bristles with many New Democrats, but there's really no denying the evidence.

But the reality in 2019 at the federal level is this: our differences, real or otherwise, on electoral reform do not matter.  It is doubtful that an NDP/Green alliance of any sort would form government.  Heck, an "alliance" need not even be on the table as part of a pre-election co-operation agreement.  What we do know is that the Liberals and Conservatives absolutely will not be moving on PR.  Are Greens any worse off if we support the NDP and their lukewarm commitment to PR? Not at all.  

This sticking point for Greens simply does not matter for electoral co-operation.

Support for Investor State Dispute Provisions in Free Trade Deals

I see that in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election, Green candidate (now MP) Paul Manly reached deep down into the bag of wedge issues and brought this one out.  It is true that the NDP voted in favour of the Canada-South Korea Free Trade deal, even though it included investor state dispute resolutions - something which Greens and New Democrats tend not to support.  And except for that one time, the NDP has been consistent on investor state provisions.

Look, it happened in the past. It's not likely to happen in the future (especially with the new NAFTA or whatever we're calling it) because Donald Trump isn't a fan of these provisions either.  

This happened in the past. Let's all move on and not let this get in the way of electoral co-operation.

Bombing Libya

Equally, this too happened in the past. Yes, Elizabeth May was the lone MP to stand up against everyone else in parliament over the decision of whether Canada should participate in the bombing of Libya.  I get that it calls into question whether the NDP really is committed to non-violence.  

But I remind Greens that our Party hasn't exactly done an exemplary job around non-violence either, with half the Green caucus voting with the Conservatives to go to war with ISIS in Syria (see: "Canada at war: Vote to launch combat mission against ISIS passes 157-134 in House of Commons," National Post, October 7, 2014).

So let's not be smug about this - and let's move on.

The Seal Hunt

Oh boy.  Along with vote-whipping, this might be one of the biggest issues that divides our Parties.  The Green Party has a nuanced position on seal hunting - with policies that treat the commercial and aboriginal hunts differently (which is actually upsetting to many Greens who favour an outright end to all seal hunting).  The NDP supports the seal hunt without reservation (which actually upsets many New Democrats who favour an outright end to seal hunting).

My advice here is for everyone to keep our eye on the ball.  The climate crisis is the issue. The seal hunt - while an important issue to many - is one we can table for now.  

NDP Beholden to Unions

Greens are concerned that unions have an outsized impact on NDP policy direction and platform.  They look at the NDP's historic opposition to climate action and see how some unions have been fueling it.

The truth is that union influence in the NDP has been diminishing for years.  Unions no longer vote directly for leaders.  They no longer contribute financially to the Party at the federal level.  Many unions - like LIUNA - have shifted away from the NDP over the NDP's cautious approach to environmentalism.  Others, like Unifor, have themselves shifted to what can only be described as a pro-environment position.  

If there are any outsized impacts here, I would suggest that they are on Greens perceptions of the NDP.  Singh's movement towards climate action actually shows that the climate delayers in the labour movement are not now ascendant - and are being ignored.

As a Green, I think we need to put our bias aside here.  That the NDP and some unions remain in alliance (or at least in loose affiliation) with one another is not a reason to delay climate action further by opposing one another.  

Site C

Yes, the NDP in B.C. blundered on Site C.  

It was a provincial issue.  It's done.  Greens at the federal level need to move on.

Sherebrooke Declaration

The federal NDP believes that a simple majority of voters in a referendum to break up the country should be enough to initiate a conversation around how it will happen.  Greens favour the approach mandated by the government via the Clarity Act.  And if any of this still sounds like it ought to be a sticking point for our two parties in 2019 - I'd suggest that being stuck in the past on the Sherbrooke Declaration isn't in anybody's best interests when we've got a climate crisis to tackle.

Ring of Fire

The NDP - at least in Ontario - has long argued that the government needs to move faster to develop resources in the Ring of Fire - an isolated region in Northwestern Ontario that contains significant chromite deposits along with rare earth metals and lithium.  Greens believe that development should only occur with the free and prior informed consent of indigenous people who live in the area - and if this takes time, so be it.

While there is some cross-over between provincial and federal jurisdictions here, Greens should acknowledge that at least federally, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has been clear that he wants resource development to respect UNDRIP.  Singh and the Greens are on the same page here - even if the provincial NDP isn't (and they're not).

Culture of Hypocrisy

Greens just don't trust the NDP to do what they say they're going to do.  Greens look at the NDP and see a party motivated by gaining power.  Policy positions are focus group-based rather than values-based.  They often conflict with one another in terms of outcomes (example: wanting to reduce emissions while making it easier for people to drive by capping gasoline prices or removing road tolls).

I acknowledge these concerns and share them.  What I can say is that it appears to me that under Jagmeet Singh, the NDP is finally starting to get their act together.  Whether that's because of some moral, values-based approach to policy has suddenly infused the NDP, or because focus groups are telling them they need to be more like the Greens if they want to win - you know what? I don't care which it is.  The NDP is moving towards us - let's call it a victory for Greens, embrace it for what it is, and work with them to elect similarly-minded MP's in October.

If we're looking beyond electoral co-operation after October, no doubt a new political party arising out of the existing parties will have carte blanche to determine how policies and positions will be adopted and adhered to.

NDP too Right-wing

Many Greens believe the NDP has drifted too far to the right side of the political spectrum.  The media narrative that Justin Trudeau ran to the left of the NDP in 2015 remains powerfully convincing - especially since Tom Mulcair committed to not running deficits (Greens here may conveniently forget that Elizabeth May made the same commitment as Mulcair).

The NDP's shift to Tony Blair's 'third way' for labour under Jack Layton can't be ignored.  Many New Democrats will scoff at the idea that Greens should be concerned about their right-ward drift - but few will deny that it's happened.  

This left/right political stuff sometimes wears me down.  Frankly, it's far less important for me to define where, specifially or relatively, one party sits on this spectrum when compared to another.  Right now, the question ought to be, do we agree on the big stuff?  And the answer is clear: we do agree.  Let's not let a 19th Century political paradigm stand in the way of progress.  If we want to hash out who's less "right-wing" after the election then let's do that - but honestly, it seems a pretty pointless exercise to me.

Jagmeet Singh

And finally, many Greens have been loud and clear that they just can't support Jagmeet Singh.  What they've been less clear on is why.  Some of what I've seen suggests that Singh is too weak; he's not committed to climate action; he's touchy-feely; he doesn't use evidence and fact to inform himself; he's a johnny-come-lately to the climate crisis.  Maybe these are good points - I don't know.  But he's what the NDP has - are we really going to let this stand in our way?

One thing I think Greens and New Democrats can agree on is that Singh is a good man, possessed of an abundance of integrity - someone who wants to see Canada prosper.  He's a good man.  Let's not tear him down for his slight imperfections.

New Democrat's Complaints About the Green Party

Unfriendly to Labour

"[We] believe in the rights of workers to organize and in the free collective bargaining process. Labour rights are human rights. We believe in pay equity for women, in the equal treatment of organized and non-organized workers, and in workers’ right to fair wages, healthy and safe working conditions, and working hours compatible with a good quality of life." -from Section 1.8 of Vision Green

The overwhelming complaint about Greens that I've seen from New Democrats centres around the perception that Greens are unfriendly to labour and are not committed to social justice.

As identified above, a strong commitment to Social Justice is one of the Green Party's core values.  And as such, with regards to labour issues, the Green Party actually has a fairly robust suite of policies.  Is it on par with the NDP?  Maybe, maybe not - but I think that New Democrats are likely to find nothing objectionable about labour in Vision Green.

But there is something to the notion that Greens can be more than a little "anti-union" - and that stems from our value in Representative Democracy, and the notion that unions - because they are not people - ought not to be treated as if they were.  This does not diminish the fact that most Greens recognize the importance of unions. But Greens and green ideas have for long been opposed by unions and neither Greens nor New Democrats can really deny that unions have at times stood in the way of climate action.

Are Greens really unfriendly to Labour?  I think New Democrats should take a look at our policies - start with Vision Green.  It may not be everything that New Democrats want to see, but I think in looking, New Democrats will see that the Green Party is a firm supporter of the labour movement and recognizes the importance of labour - especially as a component of a just transition for fossil energy workers - which is a part of any Green New Deal.

Support for Back to Work Legislation

I agree with New Democrats on the one instance that I know of where an elected Green supported pre-emptive back-to-work legislation.  Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner did this in December, voting with the Conservatives to prevent a strike at Ontario Power Generation.  

I acknowledge that a lot of potential good will between Greens and New Democrats was lost because of this vote.  It's a real problem - the vote brings into serious question whether Greens will have the backs of labour.

In my opinion, it was a mistake - for a number of reasons.  

But in the face of the climate crisis, this is really small potatoes.  It happened.  We acknowledge it happened.  Can we move on and look at the big picture?

Rules for Joining Unions

Equally, a vote in British Columbia has left New Democrats there wondering whether Greens really have labour's back.  In B.C., Greens voted with the Liberals around provisions deemed unfriendly to labour for unionizing workplaces.  Greens in B.C. were following the recommendations of a provincial expert.  It still might not have been the right thing to do.

But again, in the face of the climate crisis, this is small potatoes.  For the purpose of working together for electoral co-operation at the federal level, this kind of thing really should not stand in our way.  The stakes are just too high.

Social Justice

New Democrats believe that the Greens commitment to social justice issues is thin. Some even say that Greens have only recently developed policies around housing, health care, indigenous rights.  Those who say that clearly have not investigated the Green Party.

Greens commitment to social justice forms one of our core values - as it does for all Green Parties.  Greens have long had a robust policy agenda on social justice issues - one that has often been far out in front of the NDP on many issues (like a guaranteed income, for example).  I believe that our social justice policies are, on the whole, more robust than those of the NDP at the federal level - because they interlinked with policies related to environmental justice.  That's just me, though.  I don't think it benefits either of our parties at this time to quibble about who's got the best policies when the fact is that both of our parties have extremely good policies.

Social justice issues should actually be an area of agreement between our two parties.  New Democrats who continue to believe that Greens are behind the times here are mistaken.

Carbon Rebates

Why on earth would a government collect a carbon tax and just give it away? That money could be invested into achieving low carbon outcomes.  The Greens support of a carbon fee and dividend approach to pollution pricing is madness!

I acknowledge that this is an issue that divides our two parties - and may very well be a roadblock. But I think it's something that ought to be tabled for the 2019 election.

First of all, we don't know which form of pollution pricing New Democrats are going to champion in this election.  There's been no consistency on this, unlike with the Green Party.  But chances are the NDP will settle for a carbon tax that sees revenues invested in green projects - something that the Ontario Liberals were doing with revenues generated from Cap and Trade.

In Ontario, the Liberals insisted that revenues worked 4x as hard this way - as they worked towards driving emissions down by initially making prices higher, and then, through investment in green projects, they further reduced emissions.  And there is something to that for sure.

Greens, though, have long suggested that the sorts of investments that the Ontario Liberals were making should have been happening anyway - and that the revenues from Cap and Trade should not have been the only funding mechanisms used.  Greens would evaluate all government expenses through the lens of climate change, and not just treat "green projects" as "nice to haves" dependent for funding on pollution pricing.

I understand the debate around returning money to consumers - many New Democrats clearly think that money ought to be invested in green projects.  But the reality is that consumers are going to need relief as prices start to climb as pollution pricing begins to approach actual costs.  Right now, there is significant resistance in Canada to a carbon tax of $20 per tonne on fossil outputs.  In part, resistance is offset by seeing this money returned to consumers - many of whom will actually come out ahead when everything is tallied up.

Can you imagine what level of resistance there would be at $50 per tonne if nothing were being returned to consumers?  And now imagine the rioting in the streets that would take place at $150 per tonne - a carbon price that is more in line with the actual costs of carbon pollution.

Yes, this one will be hard to square for New Democrats and Greens - but not impossible.  And with carbon pollution now priced at just $20 per tonne, it's not something that I think Greens and New Democrats should let stand in the way of electoral co-operation.

Greens are Weak on Polluters (regulation vs. marketplace)

Some New Democrats believe that the Green Party's position on carbon rebates vs. regulating makes Green weak on polluters.  This is, of course, ludicrous - and frankly to me it seems to be nothing more than a talking point for ultra-partisans. 

The idea that one Green Party policy can be looked at in isolation - without looking at the entirety of the Party's vision - is just dumb. Greens are not weak on polluters.  Yes, we want to see a market-based mechanism used to reduce carbon emissions - but please, that's just one form of pollution.  

And even with regards to carbon pollution, there is evidence form B.C. to suggest that a market-based approach works.  Economist William Nordhaus just won a Nobel Prize for his research into market-based solutions to the pollution.  That market-based approaches are the more efficient than regulation should be a reason why New Democrats would support them.  New Democrats, after all, are always looking for ways not to waste taxpayer's money, given how NDP governments are always under the microscope on this.

Sorry, the idea that the Green Party is weak on polluters is just not reality-based.


Some New Democrats oppose working with the Green Party because Greens support capitalism and capitalist responses to significant issues, like climate change.  I can't help but think those same New Democrats would be surprised that the NDP too supports capitalism and capitalist responses to significant issues, like climate change.  And I can only imagine their surprise in discovering that the Green New Deal does the same thing.

Look, I get that there are serious concerns about capitalism. I often express these in my blog.  But they system is the system - and until we are in a position of power to change the system, it's one we are resigned to working in.  Anti-capitalist New Democrats should be a little introspective here, given that the NDP hardly transformed Ontario, Nova Scotia, Manitoba or British Columbia (much less Alberta) into havens of socialism when the NDP was in power there.

But those New Democrats should take heart in discovering that many of the conversations they've been having in their own parties around the need to reform capitalism have been going on for a long time in the Green Party.  And if anything, they probably have more legs with Greens, given our lack of commitment to the growth paradigm that capitalism needs in order to be a thing.

There is common ground to be found here and NDP partisans on the left should look for those things which bring us together.  It's an important conversation to have, going forward.  But both of our parties tentative support for capitalism - and our policy and programming offerings made within that context - should bring us together in electoral co-operation.  We are not divided on this issue.

BDS / Palestine

But we are divided on this one.  The NDP have long been opposed to anything resembling tentative support for Palestinians over Israelis.  If I may say, this has been an entirely cowardly position for New Democrats to adopt - and I know a lot of New Democrats feel the same way.  Nevertheless, NDP elites who run the Party have a good point about this one - even if the grassroots thinks its crap.  Support for BDS in any form is not a vote-winner and is far too easily misconstrued by political opponents as being anti-semitic.

Greens know this first hand.  And for New Democrats, this might actually be the issue that sinks electoral co-operation.  The NDP might not want to associate with the Green Party due to our stance on BDS.

But this is such a minor thing in the face of the climate crisis.  The Green Party's platform almost certainly will be silent on BDS.  But if it becomes the only sticking point for electoral co-operation, with all due respect to the suffering people of Palestine, your interests will be better served by a Canada that becomes a world leader on taking global action on the climate crisis than it would be by having a fourth-party support boycotts that will never happen.  If the NDP makes a stink here, Greens need to give on this one.

Greens too Right-wing

New Democrats have a false impression that the Green Party is right wing because some of our solutions to the climate crisis are market-based - and because when push comes to shove, we haven't exactly had the backs of unions. I'd suggest that neither of these inherently makes Greens a right-wing party - although clearly there are real concerns about the labour issue, which I've addressed above.

As I indicated earlier, Greens express the same concerns about New Democrats - they're too far to the right.  But for Greens, leftist credentials aren't nearly as important as they are for the NDP.  Here I can only suggest that critical New Democrats take a close look at Green policy - maybe even to the point of identifying which policies are "too far to the right" for the NDP.  I've asked some of my NDP 'friends' to undertake this exercise in the past, but no one ever does - or at least they never get back to me and tell me which policies they have an issue with.

The issue of who is furthest to the left should not get in the way of electoral co-operation.  In the fact of the climate crisis it's really a pretty petty thing for both of our parties to be strutting around, trying to own.

Elizabeth May

As with concerns that Greens have with Jagmeet Singh, New Democrats who are not fond of Elizabeth May can probably agree that she is a woman of integrity who has the best interests of her nation and planet at heart.  Electoral co-operation with the Greens does not mean that May is going to lead a merged party.  

And frankly, I don't think that May would even want to.  Let's face it: May's been leader of the Greens now for over a decade.  She just got married for goodness sake.  Although Greens aren't talking about it (maybe out of denial), this is likely to be May's last election as leader.  New Democrats should take heart that if we are to go forward beyond electoral co-operation, it is very unlikely that May will offer herself up as leader of some kind of alliance or merged party.

That Which Divides Us, Revisited

And that's what divides us.  It's not especially significant.  Or insurmountable.  Especially if we are just talking about electoral co-operation.  Yes, I understand that both of our Parties have provisions in our constitutions that require running candidates in all of Canada's ridings.  So what?  Let's overlook them. Let the complainers complain - we have bigger fish to fry.  

A Conservative victory in October will set Canada back a decade or more in our fight against the climate crisis.  That's time that we simply can't afford.  That which divides us is not especially significant in the face of this reality.  But that which unites us - our desire for real action on the climate crisis, in an equitable and just manner - let that be what brings New Democrats and Greens together before September.

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

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