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Historic event in British Columbia

I must admit that I am excited. After 17 years in office, the BC Liberals were denied a majority of seats in the May election. But the news got even better. The social democratic party, the NDP, also fell short of the mark. Suddenly, after more than six decades of one party dictatorship, a third party found itself holding the balance of power. It was the BC Greens, who doubled their popular vote and tripled their representation in the House. A spectacular achievement.

What followed was two weeks of negotiation, until finally—after absentee ballots were counted---the Greens announced their decision back the Official Opposition. In fact, the two parties hammered out a formal agreement.

It was a natural choice, because the Greens had much more in common with the NDP than with the Liberals, a coalition of greed, corruption and blatant bribery. The fact that the Liberals still managed to win 43 of 87 seats is testimony to the grip that they and their big money puppeteers had on the province. If they had won another term, our fate as the banana republic of the north would have been sealed. Ours would be a province of clear cut forests, mined out quarries, wild life habitats hopelessly fragmented by roads, an agricultural land reserve compromised by encroaching development , urban housing rendered even more unaffordable by the foreign investors who filled Liberal coffers, and coastal waters forever threatened with oil spills. By a hair’s breadth, we avoided certain disaster at the 11th hour. Mother Nature is breathing a sigh of relief.

I watched the entire joint press announcement of BC Green Party Andrew Weaver and NDP leader John Horgan, who was flanked by the 40 other members of his caucus.

Both men were very articulate and forceful in their remarks, which were frequently interrupted by smiles, handshakes and cheers. They stood side by side as equals. This historic accord lays the ground work for long overdue changes. Here is what it promises:

1. A system of proportional representation will be presented to voters next year.
2. An end to corporate and union donations to political parties.
3. A government resolutely determined to thwart the trans mountain pipeline agreement. That is, a government that will finally reflect British Columbians strong desire to protect our waters and our environment. We said no to mindless resource development and delivery of an evil product.
3. The Site C dam may also be blocked. Precious farmland will not be flooded. Thank God.
4. The province will turn away from the obsolete 20th century recipes for economic growth. There will be encouragement of renewable energy, a more vigorous climate change policy, a durable carbon tax, measures to discourage the use of automobiles, etc.
5. A change in the culture of the legislature, where parties will understand that they must work together and compromise to get things done. Instead of yelling at each other, our elected politicians will have to sit down together and listen.

I am also looking forward to an aggressive opposition to fish farms, an end to the export of raw logs and a negative attitude to coal exports. As Dr. Weaver said many years ago, all things being equal BC coal was contributing more to global warming than Alberta’s tar sands oil. 15 times as much as a matter of fact.

Don't get me wrong. I think all of these parties are delusional, naive and ignorant about the conflict between economic growth and a healthy environment. All repeat the same line that we can have both. The Greens and the NDP and the federal Liberals do it with the use of euphemisms. They rebrand it as can "smart" growth. "Green" growth”, or "Managed" growth. But growth is growth.

Whatever growth is called, wherever it takes place, whether it consists of growth in the resource sector, or growth in the construction of infrastructure, of bridges and tunnels and highways, or growth in mass transit or growth in efficient technology, it still involves throughput. Metals, minerals and fuels will continue to be extracted, delivered and processed. Solar panels, windmills, dams, transmission towers, light rail cars, and buses are not made of fairy dust.

I believe that there is no environmentally benign form of industrialism, and that ultimately it doesn't matter if industrialism is under capitalist, socialist or social-democratic management. I also believe 'renewable energy" cannot be scaled up to meet the needs of a growing economy and a growing population---which all parties accept and promote. The "Green Economy" will depend on natural non-renewable resources that will soon not be affordably accessible. So despite my short-term excitement, I am still a doomster.

But I also understand that no political party that doesn’t want to commit suicide can call for de-growth----even if they understood that it is an imperative. Which they clearly don't.

So the only question is, which party or coalition of parties is less inclined to pursue reckless growth at a frentic pace? In B.C., it is the NDP-Green alliance. That is why I have a smile on my face.


PS NDP Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, in her defiant assurance that the trans mountain pipeline is a done-deal and that there is nothing that the new government can do about it , demonstrates how exceptional our province and its people are. Notley's sharply petulant reaction should remind us that there is nothing in NDP ideology that indicates an understanding of limits to growth. When the late NDP leader Jack Layton remarked that the only problem with growth is that its benefits are not fairly distributed, he was giving voice to standard social democratic thinking. But the BC NDP is a different animal. The Notley-Layton mentality lives in the BC NDP, but this perspective is counter-balanced by a strong green wing that echoes the sentiments of most British Columbians. More so on Vancouver Island. We live here because of its stunning natural beauty, and we want to keep it that way.

What Andrew Weaver and the Green Party have done is to tip the balance of power within the BC NDP toward its green faction. Terrific. I voted strategically this time, for the NDP, especially after Captain Paul Watson instructed Green voters to do the same. But I was extremely happy to learn that the Greens did well enough to be king makers. They saved the day.

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