Strange what power does to people, and to political parties. Even a taste of power, a glimpse of power.
This past weekend the NDP held the Rally for Change with Tom Mulcair. I couldn’t make the event because my team and I were having a community BBQ with our volunteers and local supporters in Strathcona. Both the NDP and Liberals are running on a predictable change platform, and yes, we all want change, we all want Harper out. The truth is, a lot of change has already happened, and it has been within the NDP itself over the past few years and even the past few weeks.
Let me preface this all by stating once again that in my perfect world, come October 19th the NDP is in position to form a minority government supported by several more Green MPs who can be collaborative partners – but also a critical “Green conscience” of that NDP government. It wasn’t very long ago, 1995, that the NDP was the Little Guy with just 9 seats in Parliament, but in the time since much has happened within Canada and within the NDP. As a recent Martyn Brown article in the Georgia Straight cautions:
The trouble with being on the cusp of power—as the NDP now is, in lockstep with the Liberals and Conservatives—is that the power game becomes the only thing that really matters.
In the pursuit of power, a party that fought staunchly against NAFTA 20 years ago, is now embracing neoliberal free trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), as it rebrands itself as “vigorously pro-free trade”. Like NAFTA, the TPP includes an Investor State Dispute System that will see hundreds of millions of Canadian taxpayers’ dollars being sucked directly into the offshore bank accounts of foreign multinational corporations. These corporations have successfully sued our government more than any other country according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, because (what’s left of) our environmental regulations stand in the way of their unfettered profit and ability to extract our resources. That’s a change worth noting.
If you claim to have a sound environmental plank you cannot also support free trade agreements like the TPP. At least not without negotiating hard to ensure that those agreements respect our sovereignty and the rights of First Nations - which they don’t – just ask the Hupacasath who are fighting another free trade agreement to all our benefit. Brenda Sayers, a Hupacasath woman leading that fight against FIPA is now running as a Green Candidate in her riding of North Island - Powell River. I'm proud to be a candidate alongside her and others who walk the walk when it comes to defending this coast.
The NDP candidate here in Vancouver East, veteran MLA Jenny Kwan, stayed on a few extra weeks in Victoria after winning her federal nomination only to quit just before the important Petronas LNG vote. That to me doesn't send a strong message that she's willing to defend this coast or communities concerned about climate change and the impacts of extractive industries.
In the pursuit of power, a party that began in the living rooms, kitchens and fields of independent prairie farmers fed up by elite career politicians in Ottawa now supports corporate pipelines that threaten farmland and freshwater from coast to coast to coast. These pipelines will take scarce resources that we will need in order to transition to a clean, renewable energy economy, only to be burned in traffic jams, clogging up our atmosphere one grueling kilometre at a time. They will benefit foreign corporations over local economies and our own domestic needs. But in order to not look “soft on the economy” once again the NDP under Mulcair has become increasingly vague or in some cases outright enthusiastic about these pipelines as a “win, win win” for Canada. But as Toronto350 points out, it is in fact a "fail, fail, fail" on the economics, the environment and climate.
And now economists who have studied the NDP business tax cuts have concluded that it is a plan to "make the rich, richer".
This party is not what you think it is. It is not the vanguard of social justice. This is straight up brokerage, populist politics, and YES it will be better than having Harper in charge, we so badly want Harper and his government replaced, but will it be by an NDP that has become increasingly similar to it, as it embraces free trade and pipelines and joins Harper in boycotting leaders debates and promoting austerity forcing balanced budgets, while trying to cut taxes for the wealthiest?
There are other economic visions for this country beyond being an extractive resource colony for global corporations. Just recently in the televised Leaders' Debate, Elizabeth May was praised by Canadian Business Magazine as being the only leader to articulate a reasonable and invigorating economic alternative to Harper's thinking.
Under Mulcair the NDP are not only weak on the economy, they are unoriginal on the economy, nor do they have a sound environmental plank or the ability to clearly articulate what a just transition to a green, environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economy looks like. That's something Greens would like to work with them on. That's something that has been my career for the past several years in East Van.
Putting the needs of the party, multinational corporations and global trade deals over local communities, over our country, over our planet, is not the NDP I grew up with. But it’s the NDP that is now closer than it’s ever been in the history of our country to forming government. The further and further both the Conservatives and Liberals lean to the right I suppose the further right the centre stands, and it appears that the NDP under Tom Mulcair is very much trying to play the centre and the right with some kind of calculated brokerage politics. We need Greens in this next Parliament to be that voice that reminds the NDP where it came from, that it too used to be the little guy. That it can't forget the little guy, it can't sell the little guy down the river. The little guy is us, it is the communities we love.
Too often overtures of change from political parties turn into more of the same after the election. If the NDP is in the position to form government this fall but needs a few extra seats to make it happen, as a Green Party MP I will stand in full support. However, to make sure the change we get this fall is the change the people want, we need to remain actively engaged after the election to hold them to account. Green MPs will lead this charge from the frontlines, working everyday in Parliament to make sure the progressive Canadian voice stays strong should the NDP drift into the new and complicated territory of being the party in power. While doing so, the Green Party will always put people and the planet above political ambition.
Photo: Change? (c) SomeDriftwood, CC 2.0