Why aren’t the NDP climate and environmental champions?

It is generally held that the existence of this socialist tradition allows governments in Canada to play a larger role than in the United States. As noted above, however, pollution regulation in this country has imposed costs on industry that are only one-third of those imposed by American governments. Despite their much more vocal commitment to the virtues of free enterprise, Americans have been much more willing to see governments intervene to protect the environment than have Canadians.

Perhaps of more significance is the fact that this socialist tradition led to creation of the CCF in 1932 and the New Democratic Party in 1961. Environmentalism has always been seen as part of the progressive agenda and therefore it might be assumed that environmentalists form a natural constituency for the NDP.

In fact, however, the NDP has been no more successful than either of the other two parties in articulating environmental policy and NDP governments have not been particularly noted for action on the issue. It would be difficult to argue that British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, in which NDP governments have held power, have introduced more stringent pollution control measures than Ontario, where, until 1990, the NDP had not formed a government. A 1985 review of the record of NDP governments in Manitoba since it assumed power in 1982 reached this conclusion: “Changes in [environmental] legal arrangements and institutions have also been minimal; not one change seems to strike environmentalists as having great significance.”

The question is not whether the socialist foundations of the NDP will lead that party automatically to environmentalism, since they will not, but whether environmentalists can draw on that party’s concern for fairness and social justice as they work to put in place policies based on fairness and justice for the natural world.

Macdonald, Doug. The Politics of Pollution. McClelland & Steward; Toronto. 1991. p. 50–1


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.

3 thoughts on “Why aren’t the NDP climate and environmental champions?”

  1. UCP and NDP environmental policies will remain industry-friendly, despite the wildfires burning across the province.

    Robert Houle said the UCP climate policy is status quo, and they will continue to spend public money fighting Ottawa on environmental policies needed to avoid future disasters.

    The NDP, Houle said, “are still committed to continuing with the resource industry as it stands.”

    Williams said the UCP will continue “being a champion of energy and the image at least of balancing energy and the environment will not be the emphasis by the looks of things so far.”

    Jutt said UCP climate policy is laughable.

    “Their net-zero goals are ridiculous,” he said, “They mean nothing.”

    “All of the large corporations in oil and gas have net-zero targets, which mean nothing,” he said. “They have made no efforts to hit any of them.”

    The UCP retained almost all of Notley’s climate action plan, Williams said.

    The NDP knows climate action is a hard sell in Alberta, Jutt said. “That is why the NDP has moved further right on the portfolios of climate and energy.”


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