Tuesday, May 14, 2019

On transitions

I'll offer a reply to Cam's knee-jerk response to the federal NDP's long-overdue push for the basic necessities of responsible economic and environmental policy - including real carbon emission reductions and an actual transition away from fossil fuel dependence.

Simply put, there's no reason to read every word of the announcement with the type of misleading spin we'd expect from our political rivals. And on a fair reading, the NDP's stance on averting a climate crisis is exactly what we should be hoping for.

To be clear, I'll agree that the NDP's focus should be on a just transition. But the essence of a transition is moving from point A (dependence on dirty energy for both domestic use and export) to point B (converting to a clean and sustainable economy on all fronts) - not looking for excuses to stay in place.

Contrary to what Cam claims, a just transition is entirely consistent with cleaning up the mess from the status quo, which should fully assuage any concern about dealing with abandoned well sites. And it's also consistent with ensuring income security and new opportunities for workers who have come to depend on the system which needs to be replaced.

But the concept of a just transition is entirely incompatible with using our limited resources to sustain and expand the broken system which we know needs to be wound down. And so a bright line of no subsidies for fossil fuel expansion and operation (as distinct from the transition away from them) makes eminent sense.

Indeed, the Libs have already let down both their 2015 supporters and a younger generation of new voters by not only breaking their promise to end fossil fuel subsidies, but instead pouring billions into expanding the dirty energy sector. And so there's a massive opportunity for the NDP to offer a genuine alternative.

Meanwhile, as I've pointed out, we've also been offered a cautionary tale about the folly of trying to out-cheerlead corporate parties when it comes to further enriching the oil industry. While making progress on many other fronts, Rachel Notley tried desperately to limit Jason Kenney's ability to argue with any credibility that he and his party would be more friendly to oil barons. But ultimately, Notley succeeded largely in leaving Alberta voters with the impression that their ballot question should be who was in fact more subservient to the sector.

That's not an argument the NDP can expect to win. Nor is it one worth pursuing.

Instead, the NDP at all levels needs to offer the means to actually meet our responsibility to maintain a liveable planet while respecting the interests of workers and citizens generally - not follow down the Trudeau path of delaying and triangulating in the face of an existential crisis. And the key next step will be to make sure voters understand how we can all benefit from accomplishing that goal, rather than allowing the Cons and their oil industry backers to convince the electorate that it can't be done.


  1. Sub-Boreal8:24 a.m.

    Thanks for this careful dissection of a perfect example of why the NDP - both federally and in most provincial sections - is in so much trouble.

    In BC, there have been only imperceptible changes to energy and environmental policies since 2017. And it's hardly surprising - the new government largely retained the senior Liberal public service. So it's no surprise that we got Site C, LNG, more fracking, no endangered species protection, and an out-of-control BC Timber Sales continuing to loot the last unprotected old growth in southern BC.

    So it's no wonder that the party did so badly in the recent Nanaimo byelection. If I lived there, I would have held my nose and voted Green too.