Why the NDP has Failed its Supporters

The New Democratic Party has made a vital contribution to both Canada and British Columbia. Once considered to be the "social conscience" of politics, pushing for more progressive policies that benefit workers and the general population. Our national health care system and other notable services came into existence largely through its initiative.

As more of us became aware that we utterly rely on a healthy planetary home, the NDP began to include this in its messaging. Eventually the NDP became a coalition of sorts, bringing together its labour wing with its environmental wing. While its labour wing has always been more important for financial and other reasons, many earth-friendly people supported or voted for the NDP, claiming that voting Green was "splitting the vote." As it turns out this is about as true as believing the earth is flat. But it is a belief that has been propagated by the mainstream parties, especially the sometimes acrimonious members of the NDP.

In the 2017 election many NDP candidates of what would become Mr. Horgan's cabinet promised to cancel the Site C dam, kill the subsidies to the LNG industry and promote earth-friendly policies.

Understandably many NDP supporters became disillusioned and angered by the NDP government's decisions to proceed with the controversial Site C dam, a project started by the previous Liberal government, to support the LNG industry with its highly toxic fracking process, and to fail to lay charges against the owners of the Mount Polley mine, one of the worst environmental disasters in Canadian history. Latterly, members have become alarmed by reports that almost all of the old growth forests in B.C. have been decimated, falling at an even faster rate than when the Liberal government was in power.

While many provincial members cling to their past memories of the NDP in the hope that it would return to its grass roots, increasing numbers have understandably shifted their allegiance to the Green Party.

Why would the provincial NDP do such a poor job at managing B.C.'s natural beauty and its air & water quality, and find ways of maintaining a healthy diversity of its flora and fauna?

Sure, the NDP has close ties to organised labour. It made sense that the Premier would cave in to labour's demands to finish building the Site C dam. But the reason for continuing runs much deeper than this.

The newly minted Premier Horgan soon made a decision that would lay the path to his government's continuation of the Liberal energy legacy. He retained the services of a former director of the very right-wing Fraser Institute, an outspoken promoter of oil and gas development, by the name of Fazil Mihlar. Mr. Mihlar is also notable as a Vancouver Sun columnist who opposed minimum wages, unions and public ownership. In other words, Mr. Horgan elected to retain an advisor whose views were, and are, diametrically opposite of traditional NDP values.

Why Mr. Horgan would make this decision is not known to me or most. But it certainly does give us the context to all subsequent decisions pertaining to energy, for you see the purpose for building the Site C dam was to provide cheap (subsidised) power for the LNG industry, not power electric vehicles. Recall that Mr. Mihlar is a strong proponent of fossil fuels. This also explains why Mr. Horgan's government (backed by the provincial Liberals) actually increased the public subsidy to the LNG industry. The three Green MLA's were the only ones who voted against this give-away.

Meanwhile, the LNG industry is in deep trouble. International prices for this fossil fuel are at rock bottom. Other suppliers, such as in Russia and Australia, are producing the product at lower cost than is possible in British Columbia. All energy experts (except, of course, those friendly to the industry) report that it is fool-hearty for B.C. to proceed. As with the troubled Site C dam, Mr. Horgan and his ministers only seem to listen to industry spokespeople.

Mr. Horgan's administration has also pushed for pipelines, quickly granting permits for the Trans Mountain oil pipeline from Alberta, as well as for gas pipelines and terminals.

When the Covid-19 pandemic was messing with people and economies everywhere, the BC NDP government began plans for the $1.5 billion economic recovery. Their popular deputy minister of the environment and climate change strategy, Mark Zacharias, was abruptly canned by the Premier's office -evidently over the protest of the Environment Minister, George Heyman.

Why would the supposedly 'green' NDP can one of their best? When money is being spent by individuals or governments that which has the highest priority, what best fits our values, is most likely to rise to the top of our budget. In the struggle between two competing interests in the BC government of Mr. Horgan the environmental one lost out to the economic one (as if these can be separated). The Climate Solutions Council was pushed aside when the Economic Recovery Task Force was given top priority. Turns out this Task Force lacks anyone who would champion low-carbon, community-driven, projects. It is stacked with  those representing heavy industry. This move represents the final blow to any pretense the NDP government had toward the environment. (More details are available at this Tyee article.)

In the meantime the Site C dam is way over budget, and it is in trouble. As has been known for a few decades, one slope is inherently unstable, ironically made even more-so because of local fracking operations that create destabilising earthquakes. It is likely the NDP called the election when they did because they wanted to avoid the public embarrassment of this failed (or extremely expensive) project. With growing opposition to this mega-dam Mr. Horgan and all candidates in the 2020 snap election have said nothing, except to blame the Liberals for starting the project -even though the NDP ignored the B.C. Utilities Commission and arms-length large-project advisors that recommended against the project.

I do want to note that Mr. Horgan is extremely good at providing PR spin, citing the (ignored) Clean Energy Act, pushing the (false) belief that natural gas is cleaner than coal, ignoring the highly toxic chemicals being pumped into the ground (fracking), the lost prime agricultural land and treaty rights in the Peace River, and offering mere trinkets of programs to help homeowners save energy. Their transportation policies, outside of the lower mainland, are largely car-centric. Not very visionary.

While the NDP government has done much that is good, certainly improving in the care of people when compared to the former Liberal government of Christy Clark, it is difficult to imagine what good these services are going to be once British Columbia has been levelled by industrialisation and Mother Earth is no longer able to sustain human life.

With the increasing frequency of forest fires, rising sea-levels (that will submerge most of Vancouver), the devastation of wild fisheries and the rest of nature, there is no time to waste in shifting to a clean-energy economy, a 21st century transportation network, an empowering Guaranteed Livable Income, measures to save the wild fish and whale populations, a more robust and free mental health approach, and other measures being offered only by the Green Party of B.C.

For these and many other reasons (including the collaborative and compassionate Sonia Furstenau, the leader of the B.C. Greens) increasing numbers of NDP'ers are turning to the enlightened Green Party. And, for these as well as solid economic reasons, so are many disenchanted Liberals.

Most tellingly, the Green candidates who continue to be elected receive a large number of votes from the half of the electorate who otherwise have given up on the traditional parties. They sense that Greens alone cannot be bought by big industry and their unions, but actually say what they intend to do, and best represent their interests.

I hope that the NDP continues. It offers a valuable perspective. It will, once again, need to return to its roots. And learn how to work with other MLA's as it was largely doing when responding to the pandemic --before abruptly terminating its government-stabilising agreement with the Greens.





Comments

  1. yes, Horgan and the brown wing turned its back on the green movement that looks now to disappoint them. What arises from your statement for me is that while the greens have been doing a lot of work trying to give assistance and options for working people caught in this climate change/financial/energy mess, showing that good jobs are available without destroying the sustainability of the province, the Browns can't be bothered to even discuss the harm being done to the planet by their ongoing quest for a resource extraction job.

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