Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Green Party, Problems and Progress

I'll admit it - my perception of the Green Party has come a long way since Peterborough, 2003, when my first encounter with them - more specifically, the Green Party of Ontario, which I know is a separate entity but nevertheless - took the form of a gaggle of twentysomethings with signs and chanting, clustered around a dude in a blue-and-white inflatable fat man costume, making their way down Simcoe Street in Peterborough. Politically speaking, 2003 may as well have been a million years ago. Since then, the concept of the Green Party has become mainstream. They've even had their own MP and everything.

A few days ago, they released their platform for the 2011 election and really tossed their hat into the ring. I do have high hopes for them; even if our painfully broken system means that the million Canadians who voted for them translates into nothing beyond vote subsidy revenue, their ideas are ideas that need to be brought into the political sphere. For too long, it's been an orthodox echo chamber. So i took a look at their platform while I mulled over where that mark on my ballot is going to fall come May 2nd.

Seeing as how the Greens support both the environment and mass transit, another photo of the cherry blossoms at Burrard Station is actually appropriate.

There's a lot in it that's honestly progressive: a program of reinvestment in national rail, municipal superfunds that include brownfield remediation and mass transit promotion, and the legalization and taxation of marijuana; that last one itself is projected to bring in $1.5 billion in revenue to the federal government by 2013-2014, a tremendous deal when you consider how many police resources are squandered in the pursuit of illegal weed. Somehow I doubt the Conservatives, with their collective hardon for law and order, would go for something that shifts something universally common out of the realm of criminality.

Likewise, I can really get behind their intention to eliminate subsidies on fossil fuels, something that, if introduced, would save the government nearly $1.5 billion in the coming fiscal year. Fossil fuel technology isn't exactly new; the internal combustion engine is only a hundred and fifty years old. If it's such an awesome and incredible fuel, if it's such an efficient way to deliver vast amounts of energy in a convenient package, shouldn't it be able to stand on its own? If not, why are we subsidizing a fuel that contributes significantly to urban pollution and carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere?

Nevertheless, there remain issues for me, stumbling blocks. The Greens also enshrine the halting of federal support for research conducted by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited - which would, it appears, leave AECL itself completely responsible for R&D and technical support of its CANDU reactor technology - and the end of federally-funded research into genetically-modified organisms. Yet, just a few lines down, they also want to "restore scientific capacity to the federal government." Truly, the way to do this is to eliminate government presence in research.

This is honestly one of the big problems I perceive in the modern environmental movement, and one of the reasons why I can never support Greenpeace in its current form: to me, it still seems to be locked into that 1960s countercultural mindset of technology somehow being bad, or distasteful. All the commitments for solar power installations can't change that basic vibe that I get from them. Honestly, I think it's reckless.

We're going to face a vast array of challenges through the twenty-first century. It's going to be difficult, in some places it's going to be devastating. The laissez-faire attitudes that got us through the twentieth century are not going to cut it anymore. I believe that we need to study, if not use, all of the tools at our disposal in order to make the ride as smoothly as possible; that includes genetic engineering just as it includes nuclear power and geoengineering, and I'm pretty sure the only reason the Green platform doesn't include statements about its opposition to geoengineering is because it's still enough of a peripheral concept that the average voter would have no idea what they were talking about.

I'd like to vote for the Greens, to give them their $2 subsidy and maybe give Ottawa a hint that some of its priorities are things that we really need to be talking about. But it's not that easy, is it? Besides, New Westminster—Coquitlam is going to be a battleground riding; in 2006, only 1,488 votes stood between the Conservatives and victory here. It's certainly a change from my old riding, Trinity—Spadina, where in 2008 there seemed to be a chance that the Greens might actually pull in more votes than the Conservatives. Here, it's between the orange and the blue, and the most important thing is to keep Harper from getting a majority.

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