NDP opportunism and Conservative concealment

Perhaps the biggest disappointment in this federal election campaign is the opportunistic and irresponsible opposition of the NDP to carbon pricing. It is now extremely clear that global emissions need to fall – both in times of economic strength and weakness. Those in economies with excessive per-capita emissions need to fall soonest and fastest, and Canada has an appalling record in that regard. Cutting emissions in an economically efficient way means establishing a national price for carbon: either through a cap-and-trade scheme or a carbon tax. As such, parties that support a Canadian climate policy that is effective and internationally responsible would do well to either make such a proposal or support one already advanced by another federal party. Jack Layton may be more concerned with social welfare than with the environment, but he really needs to realize that failing to deal with climate change will produce enormous amounts of suffering and that those who will be hardest hit will be the poorest and most vulnerable in Canada, and around the world.

The other big disappointment is the failure of the Conservative Party to publish a platform. It is truly bizarre for a sitting government that is seeking an eventual majority to not publish the details of what they plan to do with the country. It leaves the opposition without the opportunity to comment, and Canadians in general without the opportunity to make an informed choice.

[Update: 9 October 2008]: The platform is out (PDF).

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

24 thoughts on “NDP opportunism and Conservative concealment”

  1. Is it just me, or is the conservative party standing on top of the highest hill and shouting, “We’re hiding something!”.

  2. At the very least, they seem to be saying:

    “We think our prospects of winning this election are better if voters don’t know what we would do in government.”

  3. Where They Stand: Climate change

    Each Monday through to election day, The Globe will try to cut through the campaign rhetoric by examining one issue — and each party’s position on it. This week: Climate change


    From Monday’s Globe and Mail

    October 6, 2008 at 12:52 AM EDT

    Way back on June 22, a public dust-up between the Prime Minister’s Office and the media foreshadowed a twist in environmental politics that helps define the current election campaign.

    Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion had launched his long-awaited Green Shift carbon-tax plan just three days earlier. Craig Oliver, who was co-hosting CTV’s Question Period, told viewers they had invited Environment Minister John Baird to appear on the Sunday program to respond to the Liberal plan, but Mr. Baird declined. So did Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

  4. The Tories just think Canadians would prefer a surprise.

    Seriously, though, it’s a matter of strategy. If they publish the kind of agenda they would govern with as a majority, they diminish their chances of winning. If they publish a compromise minority platform, they will be bound to it on the off chance they win a majority.

    Disclosing nothing boosts the odds for both outcomes, without tying their hands.

  5. Tories woo manufacturing, vow to remake Senate

    Globe and Mail Update
    October 7, 2008 at 2:56 PM EDT

    TORONTO – Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is pledging $400-million in aid for two key manufacturing sectors in Ontario and Quebec in his campaign platform unveiling today, a bid to undo the impression he’s done little as Central Canada’s economic engine has sputtered.

  6. Conservatives: Environment

    – Reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in absolute terms by 20 per cent over 2006 levels by 2020

    – Meet earlier spending commitment of $1.5-billion over the next seven years for the production of biofuels and requirement that gasoline contain 5 per cent renewable content by 2010 (2 per cent renewable content for diesel by 2012)

    – $1.48 billion over four years into incentives to produce more wind, solar, geothermal and tidal power

    – $113-million over five years for new Environmental Enforcement Action Plan, with additional $25-million annually, to provide stiffer penalties for environmental crimes, increased inspection and seizure powers

    – Ensure 90 per cent of Canadian electricity needs are provided by non-emitting sources such as hydro, nuclear, clean coal or wind power by 2020

  7. Environmentally relevant pledges

    “A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will reduce the federal
    excise tax on diesel and aviation fuel by half – from four cents per litre to two cents per
    litre – reducing the price of transportation by truck, train, plane and ship, and helping to
    bring downward pressure on consumer prices.”

    “A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will continue our support
    for strategic industries, such as the aerospace and automotive sectors. The government
    has already established two new funds – the $900-million Strategic Aerospace and
    Defence Initiative and the $250-million Automotive Innovation Fund. These funds
    emphasize leading-edge technology and innovation to ensure that Canada remains a
    world leader in these industries. Unlike previous governments, a Harper Government
    will ensure that taxpayers’ investments are repaid.”

    “The Conservative Government has made major new investments in leading-edge science
    over the past three budgets, which will increase support for science and technology by
    $850 million by 2009-10.”

    “We have also announced a $100-million, five-year program for geological mapping of
    Canada’s energy and mineral resources.”

    “We will invest $50 million in slaughterhouse capacity across the country to
    support our beef and dairy industries and other livestock producers.”

    “Our abundant natural resources, especially in our vast, untapped Arctic, have become key strategic assets as
    the world focuses more on energy and the environment.”

    “A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will make sure that
    Canada secures its strategic resources, that our energy development is clean and
    environmentally sustainable and that Canadians will be the main beneficiaries of the
    development and export of our resources.”

    “We will reaffirm the Canadian Government’s position that NAFTA cannot
    require Canada to export bulk water to other NAFTA countries. We will work
    with the provinces and territories to strengthen the current ban and ensure a
    clear legislative prohibition on bulk water removals or export from Canadian
    drainage basins.”

    “A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will help reduce
    regulatory and other barriers to increasing our pipeline network in the Far North
    in order to bring oil and gas to markets in Canada and throughout the world.”

    “A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will prevent any
    company from exporting raw bitumen (unprocessed oil from the oil sands) outside
    of Canada for upgrading in order to take advantage of lower pollution or
    greenhouse gas emissions standards elsewhere.”

    “The Conservative Government is investing $1.5 billion over the next seven
    years in the production of biofuels, and requiring gasoline to contain 5 per cent
    renewable content by 2010 (2 per cent renewable content for diesel by 2012).
    We are investing $1.48 billion over four years into incentives to produce more
    wind, solar, geothermal and tidal power – an investment that will produce over
    14 million megawatt hours of clean electricity, or enough to power a million
    homes. We will continue to make biofuels and renewable energy a key part of
    our environmental and energy strategy.”

    “As part of our Turning the Corner action plan, a re-elected Conservative
    Government will work to ensure that 90 per cent of Canadian electricity needs
    are provided by non-emitting sources such as hydro, nuclear, clean coal or wind
    power by 2020.”

    “Introduce amendments to the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to extend
    our jurisdiction over polluting vessels to the edge of Canada’s 200 mile
    exclusive economic zone.”

    “Build a world-class High Arctic Research Station that will be on the cutting
    edge of Arctic issues, including environmental science and resource

    “Canadian families are concerned about the quality of the air we breathe and
    the water we drink. They are also concerned about pollutants and chemicals
    found in our food, environment and consumer products. The Conservatives,
    led by Stephen Harper, have acted to address these concerns. We are
    establishing tough regulations on greenhouse gases and air pollution. We
    have preserved vast land and marine areas to ensure that the beauty and
    biodiversity of our country are preserved for future generations. We have
    taken measures to protect consumers by banning toxic chemicals and
    creating new truth in labelling guidelines to make sure Canadians know what
    they are getting when food products are labelled “Product of Canada” and
    “Made in Canada”.”

    “A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will do more
    to preserve our environment and protect the health and well-being of

    “A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will implement our Turning
    the Corner action plan to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in absolute terms by
    20 per cent over 2006 levels by 2020. We will work with the provinces and territories and
    our NAFTA trading partners in the United States and Mexico, at both the national and state
    levels, to develop and implement a North America-wide cap and trade system for
    greenhouse gases and air pollution, with implementation to occur between 2012 and 2015.”

    “A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will introduce a new
    Environmental Enforcement Act to strengthen and consolidate enforcement and penalty
    provisions in existing environmental legislation. This act will establish a team of
    specialized environmental prosecutors, increase inspection and seizure powers and
    increase fines and penalties for violators. We will establish a searchable database that
    tells the public the details of a corporation’s convictions for environmental crimes and we
    will require each corporation convicted of an environmental crime to notify shareholders
    of its conviction and punishment.”

    “A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will continue to adopt
    measures to conserve more of Canada’s untouched lands and waters. We will continue to
    work to complete our national parks system to ensure that all of Canada’s natural regions
    are represented. We have already announced the expansion of the Nahanni National
    Park and the creation of the Lancaster Sound Marine Conservation Area.”

    “A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will strengthen the
    Canadian Environmental Protection Act to help control or reduce the environmental and
    human health impacts of chemical substances. We are continuing to assess 200 highpriority
    chemical substances – such as Bisphenol-A, which the government recently
    banned from use in baby bottles – to determine whether they are safe and how they can be
    used safely or otherwise removed from our household products.”

  8. Jack Layton: Captain of the team to re-elect Stephen Harper
    9 Oct 08

    If Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper is re-elected next week as Canadian prime minister, he will owe the biggest vote of gratitude to the New Democratic Party and its leader Jack Layton.

    There has been comment enough about the lack-luster performance of Harper’s most dangerous opponent, Liberal leader Stephane Dion, but the Liberals aren’t losing this election because Dion lacks charisma. The Liberals are losing because the NDP has pushed tax-averse voters into Stephen Harper’s lap.

  9. “In a cynical effort that values political opportunism over sensible policy, the NDP has been attacking a provincial “Liberal” carbon tax since early this year. (For people who are not from these parts, BC Liberals are NOT the same as federal Liberals. The BC brand is a coalition of Liberals and Conservatives, who stand together to keep the NDP from power on the Left Coast.)

    When Stephane Dion’s federal Liberals found the courage to propose a carbon tax this summer, the federal NDP (which IS connected to the provincial NDP) extended the craven anti-tax attack, critically undermining support for what is – according to 230 top economists – the most promising piece of climate change policy that has ever been made available to Canadian voters.”

  10. That platform creeps me out. Why does a picture of Harper doing something Canadian and family like need to be on every page? I don’t want a Prime Minister who likes pictures of himself as much as Chairman Mao.

    And that’s to say nothing of the content of the platform. How hard can he pander? No tax on diesel! No fees for incoming unsolicited text messages! Free mars bars on Thursdays!

    Oh, and his worthless child-care tax credit will be indexed to inflation. Hallelujah! And he’s going to fulfill Canada’s promise to the Aboriginal community, one presumes by taking an actual shit on the Kelowna Accord.

    Oh, and of course, he’ll get tough on crime. Wow, I didn’t see that one coming.

  11. How about real Liberal renewal?
    By Taylor Owen

    “While acknowledging the left was instrumental in creating many of the social programs Canadians have come to trust – many of today’s emerging progressives see a left that is often loath to reform or rethink them in the face of globalization, the telecommunication revolution, and a changing citizenry. In the last election voters faced an ideological paradox. The more left the advocates, the more entrenched they were against innovation and reform, even when such reforms would serve progressive values.

    Seen this way, the NDP’s vision is in many ways a conservative one – a vision of Canada locked in the 1960s or worse, the 1930s. This conservatism of the left – even if found under one tent – will not inspire forward looking progressives, or Canadians in general.”

  12. 13 January 09

    Canada to study economic impact of climate change

    It’s hard to know whether to celebrate or to weep.

    CanWest News Services reporter Mike de Souza has learned that the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is calling for a lightning fast (eight-week), bargain basement ($40,000) report on the potential economic impacts of climate change in Canada.

    We certainly laud the Prime Minister’s sudden interest, but if this is anything more than a public relations exercise designed to lobby the anti-science cohort in his own caucus, it is an affront – so terribly inadequate to the task as to only further humiliate Canada on the international stage.

  13. The uncertain future of B.C.’s carbon tax
    Posted by Derek Pieper on March 24, 2009 at 12:22

    The Canadian province of British Columbia has a carbon tax that is not yet a year old and already it is on thin ice. First announced during the delivery of the 2008 budget and implemented July 1, 2008, British Columbia`s carbon tax policy came as a surprise to many observers in the Canadian environmental field and was considered a significant shift in policy on climate change for the Government of British Columbia. The orgin of the policy is thought to be as a result of the direct influence of Gordon Campball, Premier of British Columbia, who has been strongly influenced by the ‘green’ California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    In the short-term a scheduled provincial election on May 12, 2009 could result in a complete overturning or re-shaping of the policy should the Liberal Party of British Columbia – the incumbent party who proposed and implemented the policy – lose the election. The current opposition party, the New Democratic Party of British Columbia, has opposed the policy and the latest public opinion data suggests that a 55% majority of British Columbians oppose the carbon tax measure. Without the support of a broad, multi-party coalition, the future of the British Columbia carbon tax remains unclear in the immediate future.

  14. I really hope the NDP doesn’t eliminate the B.C. carbon tax. Doing so would be a big step backward, both from sensible climate policy and from protecting the long-term values the NDP claims to represent.

  15. Would you rather see 4 more years of the Liberals and keep the carbon tax, than have the NDP and lose it?

    That seems like a one-plank view if ever I did see. So, you’re fine with neo-liberalism so long as it imposes carbon taxes – even if those taxes are below the level where they will make a difference?

  16. I have never really seen much appeal in the NDP. Liberals are far from perfect, but they tend to be Canada’s most acceptable political option.

  17. Do you see any serious connection between the BC liberals and the Federal liberals? Official party ties were severed long before the BC liberals ever held government. The BC liberals are actually the resurrected conservative social-credit party.

    Did you like paying 5000$ tuition? Do you like the liberals forest policies – do you think those were carbon friendly? Do you like trucking subsidies? Do you support the liberals on the BC medical act which attempted to legislate away a union’s collective agreement (the Supreme Court struck down the union-busting parts of this law as unconstitutional).

    I see the federal liberals as a serious political option, but not the British Colombian “liberals”.

  18. I am certainly not saying the provincial Liberals are perfect, or even especially appealing.

    That being said, the NDP may have the worst environmental platform of any Canadian political party. I think this is the product of their political philosophy basically being a few decades old, and not having been updated significantly since climate change and the environment generally became politically salient issues.

  19. While I do support carbon taxes, the BC liberals are too slippery to think they will implement the taxes in ways that will actually reduce carbon emissions.

    BC liberal forestry policy has seriously increased Co2 emissions in that sector. Even with taxes imposed, you really need to read road subsidies for trucking as the opposite of carbon taxes – carbon anti-taxes if you will.

    The BC liberals plan to double the lions gate bridge, to double the Vancouver Port traffic by freeing up road transport will seriously increase Co2 emissions associated with transportation in BC. Whether the carbon taxes will offset that or not, it’s hard to see how they are “forward looking” if you see the big picture.

  20. It is also hard to imagine the strongly pro-labour, pro-jobs NDP cancelling any of these plans for environmental reasons.

    The NDP has yet to realize that the only way to protect the working classes in the long-term is to successfully mitigate climate change.

  21. I don’t have enough space to even list the examples of expediency trumping principle in recent political life, from the post-election defection of David Emerson to the two annual prorogations to the Oda affair. Underlying all this is a certainty, on the part of the ruling Tories, that none of it matters because they know what makes people afraid, and they know how to feed those fears. The NDP shares that populist certainty; only for them, it’s home heating bills, not crime. The Liberals, these days, seem to wish they had it.

    I once had high hopes that the Green party would do what Coyne wants his new party to do: move beyond the traditional tribalism of left and right and create smart, serious evidence-based policy. Occasionally, the Greens do that, as in 2007, when the Ontario Greens were the only party to suggest the only sensible solution to the Catholic schools debate: public schools should be secular. The Greens will champion evidencebased no-brainers that other parties won’t: the carbon tax, for example. In editorial board meetings with the Citizen, some Green candidates have even said smart things about supply management in Canadian agriculture, which Coyne raises as an example of a policy everyone knows is bad but no one with power will risk changing.

    But I’m afraid I share Coyne’s fear that the Greens aren’t serious enough to make a revolution happen. Take, for example, their recent ad criticizing attack ads. They’re on the side of the angels, as far as I’m concerned; most attack ads reflect politicians’ assumption that people are stupid about policy, and they’re on their way to becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the Green party sometimes succumbs to the knee-jerk reaction, cribbed perhaps from the NDP, that if something is bad it should be banned. It isn’t enough to mock attack ads; the Greens also want a ban on political television advertising, a form of censorship that makes no sense in the Internet age and is an undue restriction on expression.

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