Canada's New Democratic Party may take a LEAP into a green future

Screen capture Leap

Until the last election, the New Democratic Party was the official opposition and Tom Mulcair was touted to be the next Prime Minister. Then Justin Trudeau outflanked him on the left, promising things that the NDP didn't dare to, and crushed the NDP back to third place while forming a majority government.

This past weekend the NDP convention had to decide whether to keep Mulcair or have a convention to replace him. It had been assumed that he would probably survive but would quit if the support was not significant, like 70 percent. In fact he got crushed, getting only 48 percent support. When the announcement was made the silence was deafening; nobody could believe his support would be so low.

But as in the United States with Bernie Sanders, there is a strong desire for real change. While Rachel Notley, the NDP Premier in oil-rich Alberta, pleaded for support for her campaign to build a pipeline to tidewater, the party decided to begin a debate of the LEAP manifesto, one which might well resonate with the TreeHugger crowd. Stephen Lewis, the 78 year old patriarch of the party and one of the greatest orators in Canadian History, worked up the crowd in support of the LEAP, which happens to have been written by his son Avi and his spouse, Naomi Klein, among others.

Poor Tom Mulcair didn't have a chance, speaking after the two of them, delivering what one journalist called " a speech stunningly devoid of meaningful content — a pastiche of bromides reminiscent of the stump speech that had failed to ignite voter enthusiasm last October." So he is out, Rachel Notley stands alone and apart from the larger party, and the debate begins over a manifesto that stresses the rights of indigenous peoples, higher taxes on the wealthy and other points relevant to TreeHuggers:

  • The latest research shows we could get 100% of our electricity from renewable resources within two decades; by 2050 we could have a 100% clean economy. We demand that this shift begin now.
  • No new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard.
  • We want a universal program to build and retrofit energy efficient housing, ensuring that the lowest income communities will benefit first.
  • We want high-speed rail powered by just renewables and affordable public transit to unite every community in this country – in place of more cars, pipelines and exploding trains that endanger and divide us.
  • We need to invest in our decaying public infrastructure so that it can withstand increasingly frequent extreme weather events.
  • We must develop a more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, absorb shocks in the global supply – and produce healthier and more affordable food for everyone.

These are perhaps the energy and climate related points; read all the others here. You can sign it and support it too, along with David Suzuki, Leonard Cohen, Pamela Anderson, Ellen Page and William Gibson, among the more notable signatories.

There are some who worry that the shift to the left will doom the party. It is already being attacked on the right as "a plan for Canada to cast aside the free market in favour of a deeply protectionist, managed economy, in which the happy citizenry drive state-funded electric go-cycles fuelled by state-funded wind turbines and live in straw bale houses that don’t require heat in winter."

I am not so sure. Go to about 20 minutes 30 seconds and listen to Stephen Lewis. He is persuasive about the dangers of climate change and the importance of us actually finally doing something about it. The Leap might well resonate with a lot of people who are as worried as he is.

Canada's New Democratic Party may take a LEAP into a green future
It's controversial and probably cost the party leader his job, but there is much to like in it.

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