By Doug Warkentin, P.Eng, Green Party Candidate, Vancouver Kingsway
With a growing US economic collapse, a spreading international financial
market meltdown and increasing talk of widespread recession, the economy
has suddenly vaulted to centre stage with only a few days left before we go
to the polls on October 14th. So the ‘election about the environment’ is
all but forgotten, and meanwhile the Liberals are pressing hard to convince
any voters still focused on the environment to abandon the Greens for
strategic reasons. So has the Green Party suddenly become irrelevant on
the eve of what could have been its greatest success?
Hardly. We know that strategic voting will cost us votes. It always does,
and the Liberals are becoming more sophisticated at playing this game:
they promise all the appealing pieces of the NDP and Green platforms; they
are ‘the only ones who can win’; and ‘the Conservatives are really scary’ –
you know the drill. But now the issues have changed. The economy isn’t
everything, it’s the only thing. The world is in the grip of changes like
most of us have never seen, and no one (not Henry Paulson, not Alan
Greenspan and certainly not Steven Harper) knows where we are headed. In
the final days of the election, therefore, Canadian voters need to rethink
what it means to vote strategically.
Strategic voting has always been of dubious value at best for Green
supporters. In this election, for example, we are told that the
Conservatives are so bad that we must vote NDP or Liberal, whichever is
more likely to win in your riding, in order to get action on the
environment as if somehow the Liberals and NDP are equivalent. This
ignores the fact that the NDP and Conservatives have essentially the same
approach to limiting carbon emissions (cap and trade) and both assail the
idea of a carbon tax. With the newly emerging economic reality, however,
this approach makes even less sense. That’s because when it comes to the
economy the Greens are on their own.
On environmental issues the Liberals have at least promised enough pieces
of the Green platform (let’s not talk about their performance in
government) to keep a straight face while wooing Green supporters. But
when it comes to rebuilding the economy as we witness what may well be the
collapse of Free-Market Globalization, all the other parties are so far
from the Greens that the winner of this election is almost irrelevant.
The Greens have built an economic platform on the idea that we need to live
within the limits of the earth (Remember the environment? It hasn’t
actually gone away just because we stopped talking about it). Our plan
isn’t the ultimate answer to everything, and it will need a lot of
development and evolution before it really works in practice, but it is the
only plan that doesn’t just rely on more of what brought us to where we are
now. The basic idea is a focus on the local: small business and business
co-ops developing and using clean technologies, community development,
investment in municipal infrastructure, improved access to local resources
and re-investment in people at a community level. The real value of this
model is the economic and social resilience that is built into it. A
Canadian economy that is a network of many strong and relatively
self-reliant communities would be far less vulnerable to the kind of global
crisis we are currently stumbling into.
On the face of it, claiming that all the other parties are closer to each
other than to the Greens may seem strange, but it doesn’t require much
analysis to see the truth of it. They all accept the basic economic
premise of a global economy dominated by a decreasing number of corporate
giants that extract and export our resources, manufacture consumer goods
wherever they can find the cheapest labour, and then import those goods and
sell to us whether we need them or not. The only real difference in policy
is how the government should relate to those big companies:
Conservatives: Big corporations are good so we should cut taxes and
deregulate them, basically getting out of their way so their profitability
will eventually be good for everyone.
Liberals: Big corporations are OK, but we need moderate taxes and limited
regulations to keep them in line, as long as they are profitable and pay
enough taxes to support basic social programs, especially at election time.
NDP: Big corporations are bad (but the big unions whose members work for
them are good) and should be taxed and regulated heavily to allow
redistribution of wealth to the working families around the kitchen table,
as long as they don’t lay off any unionized workers.
Sure this is a little simplistic, but not by much. In a fundamental sense
the Green economic vision is the only one that strays from the status quo.
In normal economic times (at least normal up until a few weeks ago) this
kind of change would only be suitable for a party like the Greens that are
not going to form government. A party about advocating for ideas and
change that we hope will catch on before it is too late. If economic
conditions continue to follow their current path, however, we could really
use those resilient, green local economies now to soften the blow. Even
more, as the basic assumptions that underlie our economy crumble away and
we enter a new uncharted world, the Green Party’s economic platform
provides a fresh approach for rebuilding the economy from the local up.
This brings us back to the current election campaign and strategic voting.
If you don’t think our economic problems are all that serious then just
chose your favourite method of supporting the status quo. But if this
really is the beginning of the end for our global system of
over-consumption, then we need another option, and the Greens are the only
ones with something to offer. Realistically, the Greens will not win this
election, so the fastest way to move these ideas into the mainstream is for
another party (probably the Liberals) to steal them. They only do this if
there are plenty of votes in it for them, so the Greens need a very strong
showing to set the bait. We can’t afford to wait until there is no other
choice. Help us launch a better economic solution into the consciousness
of Canadians by voting Green on October 14th.