Friday, April 17, 2009

Whither BC

Premier Gordo issued the BC provincial election writ this past Tuesday, and as the first week of campaigning draws to a lackluster close, your humble PPP scribe is herewith issuing his first and only intervention into the political debate about who should form the next government. In fact, my intervention is largely aimed at explaining why, after 17 years in the province, four general elections, and various by-elections, I will be withdrawing my once loyal support from the NDP.

Very simply, it has to do with their promise to revoke the carbon tax instituted by the Liberals this past summer. No matter the relative merits of the NDP’s plan to institute instead a cap and trade system on industry, my position largely has to do with the cynical sop to northern and rural voters that leader Carole James is engaging in with this kind of old-school politicking. That’s the same kind of thinking that has led to the situation we’re currently in with the North American automotive sector. For years, when governments should have been pouring money into electric and alternative fuel cars, to rebuilding cities and expanding public transit, and to retraining workers for the new post-industrial economy, they kept shilling for votes in the easiest way possible: by promising to safeguard obcelesent jobs. Except that now we’re past the point even of obcelesence. I’m no fan of the BC Liberals, who have managed to pick up where the Social Credit Party left off very nicely; however, by whatever route it has come into place, I do support BC’s carbon tax, and I think, with the clock ticking down on meaningful action to combat climate change, it is politically and morally irresponsible for a party and a leader to declare that, if elected, they would repeal any form of pro-environmental legislation. Moreover, at a time when most pundits are saying that Canada needs to get its act together and get on side (quite literally, in terms of our shared border) with the aggressive environmental policies President Obama is championing, to jettison unilaterally the country’s only existing carbon tax just looks plain stupid.

And it’s not just me who is saying this. A host of prominent BC environmentalists, from David Suzuki onwards, has condemned the NDP policy. Just yesterday the doyenne of Clayoquot herself, Tzeporah Berman, sent an open letter to Carole James deploring the move, and withdrawing her support from the party. Like Berman, my own position should by no means be read as an endorsement of the Liberals. In fact, I will be voting Green this election. The Greens support both local carbon taxes and a global cap and trade system on petroleum emissions; as they say, one can have both rather than either or! The Greens have also taken a stronger position than either of the other parties on protecting the Agricultural Land Reserve, and to providing legislative encouragement to local food production and processing. Finally, leader Jane Sterk has made a somewhat provocative and controversial (others have said loony) pledge to replace the RCMP in the province with a new provincial force, and to ban outright the use of tasers. Given what we’ve been hearing at the Braidwood Inquiry looking into the death of Robert Dziekanski these past few months, I’m inclined to support anyone who seeks to muzzle the trigger-happy Mounties with selective memory recall who police our airports.

However, if I want my vote to count at all (even if only in a future election), I guess that means I should also vote Yes to the referendum recommending implementation of a new Single Transferable Voting system. Not sure how I feel about that exactly, and must study the issue a bit more carefully, I think.

One novel thing this time around in terms of the practicalities of casting my vote is that, as I will be away for both election day and all three advance voting days, I shall have to cast my vote by mail, or else visit my local district electoral office and present some credible id. In an election where the outcome is already pretty much a foregone conclusion (it looks like another four years of old “DUI-Paul Kinsella-back slapping-I-just-want-to-wave-that-Olympic-flag” Campbell, I’m afraid), this will likely be my only excitement.

Finally, a clarification regarding a previous post from this month: in the course description I included along with my discussion of ECT's Studies in Motion, I implied that Robert Lepage was coming to town with his latest theatrical creation, The Blue Dragon, this fall. In fact, it will be February 2010, an event that will coincide with the 2010 Cultural Olympiad, and that will inaugurate the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at the new SFU Contemporary Arts Woodward's site. This was officially announced this past Wednesday by the President of SFU, Michael Stevenson, and by the Director of the School for the Contemporary Arts, Martin Gotfrit, at a morning press conference/celebration in Gastown to which I was invited. Lots of back-slapping and promises about how SFU's presence at Woodward's is going to help revitalize the area, and about the cultural and community partnerships the University and School are committed to realizing. Let's hope there's follow-through on that. At the very least, judging by the animated 3-D tour we were provided of the new facilities, the venue itself looks impressive.


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