As we get closer to the summer and then the Fall election, the pressure is starting to ramp up on the various parties in Ottawa. For each party, that pressure is very different, from the pressure of potentially forming government to the pressure of mere survival beyond this campaign. And for each party, that pressure brings about different responses, some good, some bad and some out of panicking fear. Yesterday we saw the New Democrats response to some of that pressure, a response that was very telling of the Orange Teams state:
As a life-long New Democrat, what happened yesterday is what I have been dreading for a few years. Yesterdays announcement came off to me as an abandon of any pretense of what the NDP has been traditionally; a balance between urban lefties/environmental movement and rural, unionized, resource sector and industrial workers. For as long as I can remember, the NDP has walked that line, trying to balance two important constituencies in a way that benefits both. That is never easy, and if you’re all about ideological purity, it’s not emotionally satisfying. But it gets better results, results that the vast majority of people can sign onto and bring people along.
But yesterday, with the words that were used, a signal was sent that left me cold. And while I’ve feared that this might come over the past year or so, it was a comment a few weeks ago from Jagmeet Singh that had me on high alert, one that if it was an honest slip of the tongue would have been walked back:
Offensive? Offensive? Any sector that pollutes is “offensive? Therefore, the jobs that they create, those good, unionized jobs, are “offensive” too? I was gobsmacked when I read that and given Singh’s tendency to sometimes go with a bit more rhetorical flourish and go too far, I hoped that would be walked back. Yet there was radio silence on that topic until yesterday, when he stated that “I don’t believe any energy source that’s carbon-based is the future for Canada.” What a panic move.
And what is the panic about? The lost by-election in Nanaimo-Ladysmith where the Greens, who ran a very strong campaign there last time, elected the son of a former NDP MP. As I have said previously here, the result of that by-election was not a harbinger of anything more serious and was very based around local concerns and issues. The important thing was not to panic or overreact. Yet we saw former MP and now candidate Svend Robinson out there doing his best Chicken Little impression, yelling to every media outlet that would hear him out that the sky was falling. And how did Jagmeet Singh react to that yesterday? He joined Svend’s chorus, a fatal mistake as any to be made.
At this point it should be noted that the NDP did run a leadership campaign just 18 months ago and the candidate who ran on this approach dropped out and was running last place, mostly because of that policy. Singh, on the other hand, didn’t take that approach or support that policy during that race, which rejected that approach out of hand. That’s not what many people who voted for Singh voted for, and that will leave many with questions too.
The fact is that the vast majority of New Democrats, including folks like Rachel Notley, Ryan Meili and John Horgan, support a transition to clean energy. The key word there is “transition”, because a transition takes many steps and takes time. It’s not a simply “A to B” proposition. That means having to work with everyone to help make that transition happen and yes, that even includes energy companies that have oil and gas holdings. The fact is that LNG might not be the long-term solution to GHG emissions, but it is an intermediate step that can help us get there, taking coal out of electricity production and diesel out of transportation. We’ve seen a great example of this in British Columbia where BC Ferries has started replacing diesel power with LNG to run their ferries. Using LNG on just one of their ferries will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 12,500 tonnes every year, the equivalent of taking 2,500 cars off the road. Folks, that’s progress, that’s making progress. Yet with Singh’s announcement yesterday, projects like that wouldn’t happen because for the NDP now, LNG is verboten.
Another example of this is orphaned wells in Alberta. There are many old oil wells just sitting there, orphaned, as the companies that owned them have gone into bankruptcy. This is leaving an awful environmental legacy, causing great problems for those who live near them. A simple solution to this problem would be to have the federal government help fund the clean up, especially given that those wells that are now orphaned are legally the concern of the province and not a company that no longer exists. Doing that clean up of the over 100,000 wells that need it would help put oil and gas workers to work, be a part of the solution, and some of those old wells could even be retrofitted for geothermal heat or energy production. That’s a real win-win, right? Well that would also be a no-no thanks to Singh’s announcement yesterday because that’s somehow a subsidy to companies that no longer exist.
I could go on and on with examples of this but it really all boils down to one big point: We need all hands on deck and all options on the table to reach our climate goals, period. We need to engage everyone, every sector and not leave any options out of consideration to make this work. There is no silver bullet to solving climate change, no single solution out there. It will take various approaches, various tactics and very technologies. It will also require the co-operation and some collaboration with the oil and gas sector. Therefore, if your position is that that sector must be the whipping boy for the ideological set, to salvage your party, you’re officially not part of any solution. You’re irrelevant.
And in my estimation, that’s what the NDP just did to itself yesterday, as much as it pains me deeply to say it. If you don’t have a practical, achievable plan of any sort, you don’t have a plan. Right now the NDP, with what it announced yesterday, has no plan. It’s decided to try to “out Green the Greens” instead of doing the hard work of coming up with a policy that helped everyone be a part of the solution. They’ve decided to try to set up certain industries that pollute, like oil and gas, as the enemy while leaving other industries that pollute, like the auto sector, alone. They’ve decided to take one industry that needs to be and can be a part of the solution and attack them, while supporting another industry that needs to be and can be a part of the solution. Ahhh, what consistency.
I still hold out some hope that the NDP and this leadership will correct course but I’ll admit it is a faint one. It seems that the NDP has chosen its path, one of irrelevance and of a party that’s not seeking to govern at all. It’s chosen the path of purity and personally pleasing rhetoric, which is one that runs far away from ever actually getting elected to government to make any progress. Yesterday was a sad day for many of us, one that marks the end of an era.