Saturday, May 9, 2009

NDP: No Damned Principles?

The Globe and Mail's Patrick Brethour reported today that the British Columbia New Democratic Party, in the wake of a "forceful" debate performance by party leader Carole James, is in a statistical tie with the currently governing Liberal Party - only two percentage points separate the two as of the latest poll. Should they win, it would not be the NDP's first time at the levers of power in Victoria; their latest term ended in 2001 with an implosion of popular support. It appears as if James is poised to make good that defeat.

Personally, I hope she loses, and loses hard.

It's not out of any love for the BC Liberals - truth is, I don't know all that much about them. Come on, I'm a Torontonian - I'm hardly aware of anything that happens north of Eglinton, and Sheppard Avenue may well be the northern frontier of civilization itself. No, it's because of what Carole James has herself said. The NDP, upon gaining power, would scrap the carbon tax.

For the record, I am completely in favor of a carbon tax, and one of my great wishes is that the Ontario provincial government would find the balls and the backbone to introduce one here. For most of a century we've built our civilization around the idea of the ubiquitous automobile, and now that the dangers of such reliance are becoming apparent the time has come to step away from the poisoned wellspring of the 20th century. A carbon tax is one of the better ways to discourage automobile use where unnecessary to stimulate use of better practices.

As the BC NDP has been in opposition for a while, it's no surprise they've also been against the carbon tax for a while, as it was a Liberal program - they started pulling down the low-hanging fruit last summer, when the Baldwin Street-like rise in in oil prices propelled the cost of gas into the stratosphere. Gasoline may be cheaper now, but Carole James and the BC NDP haven't let go of those apples.

A look at the BC NDP platform tells the story well enough. The very first plank they present is "scrapping [BC Premier] Gordon Campbell's unfair and ineffective gas tax." The only thing unfair and ineffective here is the degree of misdirection this party is delivering to the people of British Columbia. That they frame the carbon tax as a simple "gas tax" speaks volumes as to the degree that Carole James appears to hold the environment and the pro-environmental principles of the New Democratic Party in contempt.

Last year, James wrote in The Province that it was "time for him to stop, listen to people, and axe the tax," and decried Premier Campbell for the "secret" development of the carbon tax and the manner in which "he shut down debate and rammed it through the legislature." As antidemocratic as those allegations, if true, may be, the fact remains that in politics as in life, sometimes it really is better to beg forgiveness than ask permission. While initiatives such as carbon taxes are necessary in order to make carbon pollution reflect its true cost, the people must be dragged kicking and screaming to the cash register. We have become accustomed, as a civilization, to the assumption that the sky is infinite and whatever we pump into it just goes *poof* and away forever.

Ladies and germs, it just ain't that simple.

Carole James and the British Columbia New Democratic Party claim to care about the environment, and claim to recognize the need to address climate change. Actions speak louder than words. If the BC NDP gets into power and does eliminate this tax, it will have destroyed one of the few active programs in Canada dedicated to mitigate climate change.

The BC carbon tax is not onerous; should it survive until 2012, it will only add 7.2 cents per liter to the price of gas, and if your habits are such that an extra 7.2 cents per liter are an unluggable burden, the problem is with your habits and not the tax. That's not even taking into consideration the planned reduction of income taxes to see to it that British Columbians aren't paying any more, in the grand scheme.

What's obvious by the BC NDP's actions is that it's got the scent of power, and it's not about to let any pesky "principles" get in its way.

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