Since today is election day in the federal By-Elections of Repentigny, QC and (more interestingly) London-North-Centre, ON, I decided it was appropriate to talk about what the entire blogosphere is talking about today: Elizabeth May.
Allow me to begin by stating that I am very pleased with the fact that May is starting to shift the Greens back to their roots on the left where they belong. Now many people I know will debate with me as to whether the Greens are inherently on the left or on the right. In fact, just about every Green blog that I’ve seen enjoys putting the meaningless platitude forward that the Greens are “neither left nor right: but in front”.
This is complete, unadulterated, crap!
EVERY party can be placed on a left-right spectrum and the measure of where it stands on this spectrum is simple: does it stand for safeguarding the accumulation of capital in the hands of the few or not?
Now, when I said that the Greens belong on the left, I was not making a normative statement based on my personal world-view or ideology. I make the argument that the Green Party of Canada ought to be on the left for two reasons:
#1) All green parties that are a part of the Global Greens movement (as the Green Party of Canada is) subscribe to what are called the 4 pillars. These are:
Grassroots Democracy; and
While we may disagree on whether pro-capitalist tax reforms (like a flat tax etc…) are inherently opposed to social justice, no serious person can argue that they help the cause of social justice. So at best, these tax reforms that the Green Party of Canada (and the Ontario Green Party) support, ignore one of the founding principles of the Global Greens which constitutes a significant portion of that party’s ‘soul’.
#2) The second reason why the Green Party of Canada belongs on the left is because history has shown that the most successful green parties are on the left. Take the following examples:
a) Germany: The German Greens are undoubtedly the most successful Green Party on the face of the planet. Some of their current and historic policies include:
i) Opposition to NATO military operations on German soil.
ii) Opposition to the bombing of Afghanistan by American-led coalition forces following 9/11. (Note that even the NDP in Canada supported this mission at that time, as did the Labour Party of the UK, the Democrats in the US and the Social Democrats in Germany)
b) Finland: The Finnish Green League is another one of the more successful green parties on the planet. The Green League has attacked socialism as not caring about the environment (and, understanding Finland’s historical relationship to the USSR and the Soviet’s perverse brand of “socialism” this is entirely understandable). However, what’s more important to note is that they have also criticized the free market as disastrous for the environment. Thus, while they’re not far left, they’re certainly left.
c) Belgium: Both of the green parties of Belgium – the French-speaking “Ecolo” and the Flemish “Groen!” – are firmly planted on the left and were strong left-wing voice in several coalition governments. Unfortunately these two parties have recently become much weaker.
d) New Zealand: New Zealand once had two green parties: the “Progressive Green Party” (which, despite its name was right-wing and aligned itself with the National Party) and the “Green Party” (which was left-wing). Guess which party was destroyed and guess which one is still around? C’mon, guess?
Now, what has Elizabeth May proposed as her tax plan in this by-election? You can read about them in the London Free Press here. She proposes:
“Creating senior government tax incentives and policies, including skills and trades training, to foster “green” businesses and industries.” (If you can explain what that means, then you’re smarter than I am. I do however understand what government tax incentives are: giving money to corporations as if they’re hard done by)
“Establishing a small-cities green venture capital fund”. (Supposedly, this would be geared towards small firms, however large corporations take advantage of venture capital as well.)
“Creating clusters and networks of small- and medium-sized green enterprises.” (Because, apparently, businesses have always had problems creating networks amongst themselves)
“Boosting railway links in the Windsor-Quebec City transportation corridor and reducing reliance on trucks.” (This is common sense and everybody from David Orchard to the NDP to Jean Chretien supported this)
“Creating a new pool of civic funding through a change in tax policy to allow municipal bonds to be held within RRSPs.”
Now I think some of these tax policies are good ideas. For instance, I have no strong objections to municipal bonds being held within RRSPs, nor do I oppose a beefed up Windsor to Quebec train corridor. What I do object to is that there is NOT ONE MENTION of:
2) Access to healthcare
3) Quebec-style, federally-funded daycare (to be fair, May did come out in support of daycare elsewhere by saying that she supports the Liberals’ old plan developed by Martin and Ken Dryden)
4) NAFTA and the crushing effect Free-Trade is having on both labourers and on the environment (ever heard of Bulk Water export?)
5) The decreasing standard of living in Canada
So, the question is: If I lived in London-North-Centre, would May be getting my vote?
The answer is ‘yes ‘ and the reason is because I’m a hopeless optimist and I am hopeful that maybe May just didn’t have time to develop an economic policy that spoke to the full range of issues that she (hopefully) cares about. I’m hopeful that she will continue to shift the Greens to the left, away from the dreadful legacy of her predecessor, Jim Harris. I’m hopeful that she will keep the NDP on their toes and prevent them from sliding further to the right. Lastly, I’m hopeful that she and the NDP will be able to have a serious dialogue about the negative effects of capitalism on people and the negative effects of capitalism on the environment. This is a dialogue which needs to be had in this country and I think it’s a dialogue that will show that the left-wing parties and the environmental movement have more in common than they think.
Workers and environmentalists of the world, unite!