Ontario Election 2007: The Parties
I was going to write a post per day on the parties in the Ontario election but our hatchet-wielding editor questioned whether the rest of the world could keep their heads up through this, so I have condensed it into one post. Read about the Liberal Party here.
Frank de Jong and the Green Party of Ontario
What's not to like about the Green Party?
Energy Policy: "Instead of squandering billions of tax dollars on expensive, heavily subsidized nuclear energy, or allowing coal-fired plants to continue to pollute the air we breathe, the Green Party believes Ontario can build a sustainable energy future through a combination of conservation, efficiency and renewable energy programs."
Sustainability:"we can restore the health and vitality of our communities by supporting each other through simple everyday actions: by buying locally produced food and other goods; by walking, cycling or riding public transit instead of driving short distances; by working in the communities where we live; and by conserving energy and resources wherever possible."Climate Change "By combining personal action with regulations, market mechanisms and incentives, Ontario will dramatically reduce greenhouse gases and start to turn back the clock on climate change. Every purchase of a toothbrush, a vegetable, an automobile or a house is an economic decision that influences climate change. Simple changes to our tax structure will make it easier for businesses and consumers to modify their lifestyles and purchasing habits. We believe this can best be achieved by shifting taxes off climate change-neutral choices and onto climate change-inducing choices.We think Ontarians should pay for what they burn, not for what they earn."
What is not to like is that the first-past-the-post electoral system makes it really hard for new parties to get members elected. The green party can get 15% of the provincial vote; if everyone lives in one riding they will get elected but spread it out and they don't. In parts of Europe and New Zealand they have a mix of proportional representation so that smaller parties can have some representation in the house, and there is a referendum on this during this election. Until such a time when one can vote for the party as well as the candidate, many will feel that a vote for the Green Party is a wasted vote. It isn't, candidates lose in every election , but it is a tough hurdle. ::Green Party of Ontario
John Tory and the Progressive Conservatives
When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they had to wander in the desert for 40 years so that nobody who was a slave in Egypt would enter the promised land. That is how a lot of people felt about the Ontario Progressive Conservatives; they can wander in the political wilderness for 40 years until every last member of their last government is dead and gone. Then the Tories went and voted in the eponymous John Tory as their leader; he seems like a nice guy and gained a lot of respect and profile in his run for mayor of Toronto.
You want to like him, but then he opens his mouth. He promises the earth but with no new taxes, saying he will "find efficiencies and eliminate fat" but his predecessor Mike Harris cut all the fat and much of the bone and muscle, and the Liberals who followed have not been exactly on a binge to put it back.
Environmental policies as stated in their "Plan for Ontario's Future" are vague. He wants to "tackle all aspects of the environmental challenge... air pollution and greenhouse gases, conserving green spaces for future generations, protecting our water supply and reducing toxic contaminants."
He promises a clean energy system- of nuclear and renewables, and coal. "Dalton McGuinty has refused to take this key environmental step, (putting scubbers on existing coal plants) insisting that he was going to close the coal plants instead – an unrealistic promise that no-one was surprised to see him break. The reality is that independent authorities tell us we’re going to be still relying on coal for a while yet."
"Look at how we can use the latest technologies being developed and used in other jurisdictions, such as gasification and carbon sequestration, to reduce those emissions and pollutants even more. Adopt a realistic plan to replace dirty coal power with clean alternatives, with the understanding that it would be irresponsible to reduce our energy capacity without a plan for its replacement. "
He also says that all new government buildings should be 30% more efficient, a very weak target, and new government vehicles will all be E-85 capable.
We like his decentralization plan, "to use great architecture to help renew and revitalize critical downtown areas across Ontario. New or renovated buildings can serve as community icons as well as community centres for business, education, arts and tourism. We’re going to build Ontario again, so let’s make it both smart and beautiful." But that is about it.
Mix clean coal fantasies with Tory's proposals for full funding of religious education and you have got a loser here. Sorry John, another 36 years of wandering is ahead. ::Ontario Progressive Conservatives read also John Lorinc's take on Tory in ::Spacing Votes.
Howard Hampton and the New Democratic Party
Well, that is a strong start. Hampton is driving around Ontario in his Escape Hybrid, saying that "Nuclear plants are expensive, unreliable and risky." and "We have a fresh idea -- a safe, clean, affordable and reliable supply of publicly owned and publicly controlled electricity, focused on an aggressive approach to renewables, energy efficiency and energy conservation. This approach worked in California where the state built the equivalent of 12 power plants with energy efficiency investments, replacing the need for 12,000 megawatts of generation capacity – or almost 50 per cent of Ontario’s peak demand on a hot summer day. We can make it work in Ontario too."
Not much information about exactly what they are going to do, perhaps more information will come during the campaign. Hampton doesn't like big oil:
"The NDP stands up for consumers. We believe in strong, effective consumer protection – safeguards only the province can provide – to make sure no big business can swindle, cheat or rip off hard-working ordinary folks." and suggests "Gas price regulation is a fresh idea that will make a real difference for drivers. It will stop gas price volatility, eliminate opportunistic price gouging and deliver fair, stable and predictable fuel prices – and lower gas prices over the long haul."
Please Howard, explain to me how "an aggressive approach to renewables, energy efficiency and energy conservation" jives with "lower gas prices over the long haul."?
The NDP started as the party of Labour, and historically has had internal conflicts between it's young green urban voters and it's support of unions and workers. The nuclear industry has shrunk to a point that it no longer worries about the nuclear workers any more, but forestry is big. When it comes to the protection of the boreal forests, some say that the NDP is supporting the industry rather than the environementalists. According to Murray Campbell in the Globe and Mail,
environmentalists see Hampton as: the paragon of green policies in the south but has a different message once he enters into Shield country.
They began thinking this way when they noticed the NDP was calling for the closing of all Ontario's coal plants - except for the one in remote Atikokan. Their displeasure deepened recently when they read the party's replies to a questionnaire sent out by a forest-industry organization.
All three parties were asked identical questions by the Ontario Forestry Coalition, which represents the industry, municipalities and labour unions. It was formed to press the government to help the forest industry, which has lost 10,000 jobs in recent years.
Environmentalists involved in boreal-forest issues judge the NDP's response to the coalition's survey as by far the brownest response of the three parties in that it reflected the forest industry's positions. ...Tim Gray, a former executive director of the Wildlands League and now program director at the Ivey Foundation, said he found the NDP's response "disturbing and surprising."
So what is a TreeHugger to do?
It used to be simple in Canada; The NDP was the natural home of the left-leaning intellectual wanting to change the world and build a new Jerusalem. I, my family and my father before me have voted NDP since the party was founded. Not once, in all those years, has my candidate actually been elected, so I am used to the sacrificial vote.
I also live in the Davenport riding, where Green Party leader Frank de Jong is competing for his seat. Being a leader usually means a higher profile and a better chance of being elected, even with a courageous if suicidal promise to end 140 years of funding for Catholic schools in a predominantly Portuguese and Italian part of town.
It has been a difficult decision. The Liberals have done a creditable job in their first four years; the Conservatives remain conservatives and are not even in the room; The NDP has been my political home all of my life. However the the political climate is changing as rapidly as the real climate; I am voting for Frank de Jong and the Green Party of Ontario.