Friday, February 5, 2010

Vision Green 2010: A Full-On Assault on the Existing Political Culture of Apathy

Over the past little while, I’ve been reading articles from various mainstream media, and watching journalists on TV lament the current state of affairs amongst Canada’s top parties. Particularly, journalists and pundits have been crying that the major parties lack direction and vision, and really have nothing to offer the Canadian electorate, aside from defining themselves as who they are not. The Liberal Party under Michael Ignatieff’s leadership has particularly been singled out as not really standing for much of anything, except as a Party not led by Stephen Harper. Some have speculated that the Liberal’s lack of direction and vision is the result of a "safe" plan of attack for the next election. The theory goes that Stephane Dion released too much information into the public realm regarding what he would do differently if he were made Prime Minister, which left him open to attacks from the Conservatives. And attack they surely did.

Maybe there is some merit to keeping silent. However, it has been really frustrating to watch the Liberals refrain from speaking out about much of anything, and using non-binding weasel words most often when they do deign to speak. Sure, maybe the pundits have it right, and this is part of an election strategy. But don’t Canadians deserve better?

Jack Layton has been a little more forthcoming with what the NDP would do differently if they formed government, but even these pronouncements leave one scratching their head regarding what the NDP’s true vision of a future Canada is. The NDP under Layton have become a political chameleon, changing their skin when it best suits them. Witness Layton’s decision to have his party support the Harper government on a fall confidence vote, reversing years-long policy of non-support for the benefit of passing a flawed Employment Insurance bill which was but a shadow of what Layton said he’d previously support. Yes, it put off having an election which people didn’t want, but it gave us more of Stephen Harper, a commodity that a lot of us would also rather do without.

The NDP have flip-flopped on all sorts of principled issues, especially those pertaining to climate change. Instead of embracing a form of carbon pricing which experts throughout the world acknowledge as being workable and successful in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the NDP remain opposed to a carbon tax, and have instead embraced an industry-friendly cap and trade scheme which is sure to keep the price of carbon hidden from consumers, and punish the least vulnerable in our society. Even today, the NDP continues to maintain that a carbon tax is the wrong way of pricing carbon; look no further than the attack on the B.C. Liberal’s during the spring provincial election.

No, the NDP don’t offer a whole lot when it comes to vision for this country, but at least they have shown a few of their cards, unlike the Liberals, who may not even be holding any cards.

And if the Liberals and NDP are bad, well, the Conservatives want you to think that you’re living in a fantasy-land where economic recovery will do away with structural deficits, where taxes need never be raised, and only redundant programs are cut. The Conservative’s approach is actually worse than that of the Liberals and NDP: rather than saying next to nothing, they’re selling Canadians a fairy-tale story.

Where, then, is a vision for a realistic future for which Canadians can cast their ballots? If the current way of thinking about elections is to say as little as possible about what your party would do when in power for fear of being skewered by your opponents, or standing up for your principles only when they don’t conflict with polling, or whistling "Don’t Worry, Be Happy", what is a Canadian to do?

Well, keeping true to its principles, and not worrying about being attacked for its vision, yesterday the Green Party of Canada released "Vision Green 2010", a powerful and comprehensive document of where the Greens would take Canada given the opportunity. This updated document addresses issues important to Canadians, putting everything the Greens have to offer on the table, and telling the other Parties to go ahead and find fault. This is not some glossy picture-laden "Red Book" of promises not to be kept; it’s a full-on assault on the current culture of apathy which exists in our Federal system.

Vision Green 2010 calls for over-riding and fundamental changes to Canada based on the shared values of Canadians. For too long, our government has been beholden to special interests who do not have our best interests first and foremost in their minds. We have tolerated environmental, economic and social destruction at the expense of increasing profits. To mitigate, we’ve talked about sustainable development as a "nice to have", rather than a fundamental over-riding principle for decision-making.

The Green Party understands that the course Canada is on is perilous in the extreme, and without fundamental changes to the way in which our government conducts its business, the interests of the majority will never be paramount. Instead, the casino economy created by the biggest and wealthiest players will continue to jeopardize our future and that of our children. Without recognition that there are limits to growth, our current system is headed for disaster. Yet the other political parties aren’t telling you any of this.

I was very pleased to see that some of the updates made to Vision Green are based on the notion that the end of inexpensive fossil fuels is upon us. This is the reality in which we are living; yet you’re not hearing Harper, Layton or Ignatieff discuss peak oil and what that means for our communities, industries and our lifestyle built around a culture of cars. Whether we like it or not, our situation is changing, and we should proactively plan for change, rather than react when it is thrust upon us.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Vision Green 2010 is a heavy read. But it’s also presents an incredibly enlightened and optimistic view of Canada’s future, if only the wherewithal to actually implement these necessary changes could be found. Yes, Greens will undoubtedly be bashed for many of the bold initiatives proposed in Vision Green 2010. Certainly there are those out there who are opposed to change, and who will continue to insist that it doesn’t have to happen. That point of view, however, is not grounded in our current reality, and should be dismissed. So let the dinosaurs bash away.

If the pundits are looking for bold vision and initiative, here it is. Yes, it’s the little Green Party who has the strongest, most comprehensive vision for Canada, and that might surprise many. I hope that more and more people take a look for themselves. I hope that they will see that a bright and sustainable future is within our grasp if we have the courage to initiate truly fundamental changes, starting with our taxation system. Getting the price right, eliminating corporate subsidies for the biggest players, and finally putting a price on pollution, are the starting points to creating a sustainable Canada.

Go and take a look for yourself. Browse through the Table of Contents and find a few issues which are important to you. Take a look and see what Greens would do differently. You may be excited about what you read.

Steve May, CEO Sudbury Federal Green Party Association

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