More principled than the Greens, more strategic than the Liberals

Monday, June 28, 2004


Written by Scott Piatkowski

With days to go before Canadians cast their ballots, there appears to still be some confusion among progressives about how to vote. Whether your vote is a principled vote (who has the best policies in a range of areas and the credibility to implement them) or a strategic vote (how to we keep Stephen Harper’s Conservatives from being elected), the NDP has earned your vote.

Let’s start with the Greens. As they read that sentence, I can guarantee you that Green Party organizers were murmuring with satisfaction with having been mentioned in such a prominent manner. Having achieved their goal of running candidates in all 308 ridings (even if a few of them have never so much as visited those ridings), the Greens have spent the entire campaign complaining about being ignored. I don’t think they should be ignored. But, I don’t think they should be supported either.

If you care about the environment, your vote should go to the NDP. It simply has the best and most comprehensive platform on environmental issues (as well as other issues). Now, I’m an NDP partisan, so my bias might cause you to question that assessment. So, let’s look at what the experts say.

Greenpeace Canada evaluated five political parties on their platforms and their answers to questions relating to energy, food, nature and peace. According to the organization, “parties were given some credibility for addressing an issue, but received higher grades for a more detailed proposal”. The NDP scored As in all four categories, while the Green Party scored two As and two Bs (still better than the Liberals and way better than the Reformatories).

The Sierra Club issued its own report card, giving the NDP and A+ and the Green Party an A. According to their report, “the Green platform is not as specific and does not make as many detailed commitments on as many topics as either the New Democrats or the Bloc Quebecois. The Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party platforms are clearly the strongest... Once the answers to the questionnaire are factored into the analysis, the strongest set of environmental promises comes from the New Democratic Party.”

Paul Muldoon of the Canadian Environmental Law Association recently appeared on CBC Radio and spoke about the parties’ environmental commitments. Asked about the NDP platform, Muldoon said: “Well, by far, it is the most sophisticated and detailed platform. It talks about energy, transportation, water, toxics, biodiversity. Two comments on what sets it apart, apart from its detail. One is that it really does integrate the environment with all the other issues -- social policy and economic issues… In fact, the documents really hard to separate the core environment from all the other issues it tries to address because it blends everything. The other thing which is quite interesting is, and that I was surprised at quite frankly, is how practical the document is. It talks about very practical things that can be done. Because one of the things that I judge it is, is it real? Can it be done?... They’re not sort of just esoteric commitments. They’re very practical things that they want done with specific targets. So you know, in terms of sophistication, that document -- and I think it probably reflects the background and experience of Jack Layton, who has a long history of advocating for green issues.”

On the other hand, Muldoon that this to say about the Green platform: “To me it lacked detail... It lacked the sophistication and reality check that I looked for... They commit to Kyoto, but there’s no road map, no detail. ... In effect, the NDP kind of scooped the Green Party in that way, in the degree of sophistication and detail in their platform.”

Of course, not everyone believes that they have the luxury of voting based on principle. There are many progressives who plan to vote out of fear, voting Liberal in order to keep out what Cambridge MP Janko Peric calls “the forces of darkness” (you know, those people who -- just like Peric and over forty of his Liberal caucus colleagues -- would vote against same-sex marriage and abortion rights). I have two words for those people: Dalton McGuinty. Last fall (and in the previous provincial election), hundreds of thousands of people who preferred the NDP platform voted Liberal in order to defeat Ontario’s version of Stephen Harper. Ontario voters soon learned that voting Liberal to stop the Conservatives is like cutting off your ear to combat an earache.

Moreover, the Liberals are collapsing so badly that they may not have the strength to stop a Conservative victory in many ridings. Even ridings that were solidly Liberal in 2000 are turning into Conservative-NDP races. In those ridings, a strategic vote for the Liberals will merely ensure that a Conservative gets elected. And, even if that vote does help elect a Liberal, where’s the real substantive difference between the two parties?

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