Friday, April 17, 2009

Progressive Community Eats its Own

These days things are starting to heat up with the coming provincial election. Both the NDP and BC Liberals are campaigning like mad. While Gordon Campbell champions his environmental policy and economic plans in the oil and gas sector up north, Carol James is lampooning the controversial carbon tax, trying to wave it around like the red flag of a mantador in front of the bullish voter.

It's a wedge issue for many voters in rural ridings and one the NDP is hoping to exploit. They were certainly making head-way with their "Axe the Tax" campaign last year, though the boiling rage of voters of yester-year when oil prices were at all time highs and the sting of the tax was still initially being felt, has not (yet) returned.

Enter Tzeporah Berman. A well known activist and greenie, Berman was one of the key activists at Claquot Sound as well as the executive director of PowerUP Canada and a cofounder of ForestEthics. You'd think her credentials as a environmentalist couldn't be in doubt. And they weren't, at least not until Berman wrote an email to Carol James accusing the NDP of using climate change and the environment in a hypocritically political way. The response online hasn't been pretty.

Like many environmentally minded people, Berman has become quite frustrated by the NDP's attempt to capitalize on the green revolution while avoiding making any political sacrifices. The Liberals, love em or hate em, took a hit when they brought in the carbon tax, and while nobody (except the liberal spinners) say its the be all and end all, it is a big step in the right direction.

Meanwhile the NDP say they have a better idea. Cap and trade. Why? Because "working families (read: rural drivers) are bearing to much of a burden. Ok, fair enough. So bring in something in addition to the carbon tax. But don't come to a voter like me and say, its all about the environment and then in the same breath pitch me with the "axe the tax" catchphrase.

By far the worst part of all this is the fissure the environmental issue is creating in the lefty political camp. Increasingly it is becoming apparent that many in the labour movement (not all by any stretch though) don't share many of the values of the greenie urban dwellers that used to vote predominately NDP. This tension, and the frustration it has elicited, has manifested itelf in a fairly strong worded attack on Berman and her credibility, pilliaring her as an NDP traitor and sell out to Campbell, BC liberals, and even the oil/gas companies. BC's Patrick Moore has been one comparison that has been bandied around.

Unfortuntately, the reality of the situation is much more complex. Berman can be an environmentalist and a supporter of the carbon tax. The two, in fact, go quite well together. She can also be a supporter of the carbon tax and a progressive at the same time. This is something it'd be important for many to remember, particularly those hoping to take the orange and blue flag to Victoria in May.

In the end, it seems to me the more environmental measures the better. Carbon tax? Good. Cap and trade? Great. Rather than campaigning to destroy the tax, the NDP would be more diligent to campaign on augmenting it with a better system (if that's really what they want). But then, that might not play so well in the polls, now would it.


Theodora Lamb said...

Hmmmmm - so, where does this situation leave us voters? I for one am going to be taking a very close look at the Green Party this time around - we shall see.

John Horn said...

Or don't vote; it only encourages them.