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Archive for the ‘Green Party’ Category

“Greens support a referendum on how we fund transit”

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The title is a tweet by @Vangreens. I am a member of the Vancouver Green Party and I have supported their current campaign – although as I did not pay $100 or more, that does not show up in their public declaration. This blog post is my response to the tweet, simply because there isn’t a way to say this diplomatically in 140 characters.

I do NOT support a referendum for transit. On the whole the move towards more direct democracy has been used by right wing ideologues who think that voters hate paying taxes and will vote them down. Seattle, of course, is now being cited as a success. Indeed of the transit questions on the US ballots in the most recent midterm elections, voters said Yes on 65% of them. That’s not bad, but I do not take a lot of comfort from it.

As many people have pointed out, there was no suggestion of a referendum for the widening of Highway#1, Port Mann Bridge, SFPR package. Nor will there be one for the replacement of the Massey Tunnel. There wasn’t going to be a referendum on BC Ferries either, but I was very impressed indeed with the speed with which Todd Stone moved to quash the idea that the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo might be cancelled. And that after the BC Liberals had tried to pretend that making the organisation a company rather than a crown corporation would reduce political interference. Which, of course, is still rampant at BC Hydro and ICBC which have both been used as (regressive) revenue sources to replace fairer taxes.

It seems to have been generally accepted in the mainstream media than “money is tight”. For instance, CBC tv news a few nights ago was looking at why school playgrounds must be paid for through PAC fundraising and not taxes. Money is not tight at all. We are so flush with it that we are paying over the odds for money borrowed for infrastructure projects. BC bonds would pay 4%: going through the P3 process means we now pay 7%. The Auditor General is not impressed.

The terms of the “transit” referendum have not yet been announced, although the Mayors have set out in detail what the funds would be spent on. We also know that the Province has been busy making sure the question will conform to their policy straight jacket. So the carbon tax is out. The province continues to push for more property tax as well.

If the use of referenda were more widespread and the questions more open, I might be more inclined to support them. But I do not think that it is a good way to increase participation in politics. The questions have to reduced to sound bites, and populism is more likely to win than policy analysis. Not that in our system politicians pay much attention to that, even when they have set up the system themselves (see BC Ferris above).

The need for this region is much more transit. The referendum will be about much more than that. Translink is a transportation agency, which means the province was able to lumber it with a number of problem structures – Patullo, Knight Street and Canoe Pass bridges – all of which were in need of expensive upgrades. The Major Road Network was devised as a way to get support for the new agency from suburban Mayors who were going to get provincial highways downloaded onto them anyway. Some of the questions that got turned down in the US had significant road measures tacked onto the transit elements in an attempt to make them more acceptable to the sort of people who vote. I am afraid that what we have seen so far is that inevitably the referendum will be a way to pass judgement on Translink. Just as the midterms were used to pass judgement on POTUS even though his name was not on any ballot.

I think that in BC we need to see a fairer tax system which extracts more from large corporations and the exceedingly wealthy individuals who have done so well from the tax cuts of recent years. I would like to a general roll back of flat fees and charges for public services, to be replaced by a truly progressive income tax system. Those who can afford to pay should pay more than those who have little. It is time to reset the balance. Inequality has become extreme nearly everywhere. The few countries that have resisted the pressure of the Chicago school have done better economically as a result.

I do not accept that there is no money for transit in Greater Vancouver. I do understand that it is unpopular in a political system where constituencies outside the Lower Mainland have far more electoral power than we do. I also understand that politicians who repeat the mantras of the right will get better treatment in the mainstream media and thus from voters. It does not make them right. There ought NOT to be a referendum and I oppose it. But since there is going to be one anyway, we Greens had better make sure that we get over the pass mark. Note too that there was a referendum, not so long ago, on a better voting system. That followed a remarkable public consultation process, and was supported by more people than opposed it. Just not quite enough to get the supermajority required by those who benefitted most from ignoring both sense and popularity.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 6, 2014 at 11:24 am

Conservatives vote against helping Canadians save on home energy costs

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This is actually a Green Party of Canada Press Release. My expectation is that this topic is unlikely to get much coverage in the mainstream media.

I have to say as well that I did try to take advantage of the ecoEnergy Home Retrofit program, despite its somewhat cumbersome requirements. I did not get a penny from it. The simple reason being that while it was available it was almost impossible to get hold of tradespeople, who in any event at that time were also very much occupied on fitting out new build housing which was flooding the market. So when I bought an older townhouse in Richmond I got a new high efficiency gas furnace. I had to replace the hot water tank too and found there was no realistic alternative to like for like (tankless systems being only viable for larger households). I was then told by a City of Richmond gas inspector that if I installed a sealed system gas fire – to replace the negative efficiency open flame one – he would insist on the installation of a totally unnecessary air brick in an outside wall. This was because he did not understand the words  “coxial flue” and thought the new gas fire would need an additional supply of combustion air. At that point I gave up on a campaign with the strata council to speed up replacement of the windows and doors identified by the mandatory house inspection required by the ecoEnergy program which disqualified me from all rebates. And having replaced the extractor fans in both bathrooms I was not in a hurry to go back into the loft and add insulation up there.

Even so, and recognising that there is much more energy to be saved by cutting transportation emissions, I still think that retrofitting homes is a sensible thing to do, as the payback periods are shorten when energy costs rise. Of course the current glut of natural gas due to excessive fracking is not helping there either.


(Ottawa) September 25, 2014– In a House vote on September 24, 2014, Green Party Leader and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands Elizabeth May and Green Deputy Leader Bruce Hyer, MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, voted in favour of a motion to have the government establish a program to support energy efficient home renovation.  

Once again, the Harper Conservatives put partisanships ahead of good policy and voted it down.
“Canada wastes more than half the energy we use,” said Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and MP for Saanich–Gulf Islands. “Heating the outdoors in the winter and then cooling it in the summer just doesn’t make any sense. I am stunned that the ecoEnergy program was cancelled by the Conservatives in 2012, at a huge cost to homeowners.  This motion would have brought the program back – yet sadly, the Conservatives voted against saving Canadians thousands of dollars in energy costs.”

NDP MP François Choquette’s motion M-497 stated that an energy efficiency program would help to combat climate change while reducing Canadians’ energy bills and creating jobs.

“It was disappointing, if not unexpected, to watch almost every Conservative MP in the House stand against a proposal that could have restored the successful energy efficient home retrofit program,” Hyer said. “This motion was a no brainer. The Conservatives could have killed two birds with one stone – creating jobs while lowering carbon emissions. It’s beyond me why any government would oppose it.”

In 2012, the Conservatives cancelled their own ecoEnergy Home Retrofit program without warning. The ecoEnergy program gave out grants of up to $5,000 to homeowners to help pay for energy efficient upgrades like replacing furnaces, improving insulation and sealing windows and doors.

The program helped over 750,000 Canadians during its five years, saving users an average of 20% on their home energy bills every year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and adding up to $4 billion to the Canadian economy. It increased government revenue and created thousands of jobs.

“EcoEnergy brought huge benefits to the environment, the economy and the average Canadian.  It was particularly significant in Northwestern Ontario, where the cost of home heating is rising rapidly,” concluded Hyer.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 25, 2014 at 11:29 am

A message from the Green Party of Canada

Green Party of Canada
www.greenparty.ca/true-democracyAdd Your Name

Written by Stephen Rees

February 13, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Adrian Dix Leaving Good News for Greens

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I must admit I was a bit surprised by the announcement yesterday that he was stepping down – as soon as they can find a new leader. I expected him to soldier on, especially since his caucus had been so quiet.  He is speaking at UBCM as I am writing this and the coincidence of a couple of tweets  inspired this post

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 9.10.05 AM Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 9.09.35 AM

The link on the image won’t work so here it is in working condition Insight West Poll on Fracking 

He is also reported to be trying to distinguish NDP on LNG from BC Liberals on LNG, but the point is that LNG is a fossil fuel that has to stay in the ground. For one thing gas extraction always leads to leaks of methane, and that is a far more powerful gas than carbon dioxide. But secondly it is not a “transition fuel” as the industry claims. It is a fuel that locks in existing technologies and thus slows the introduction of renewable sources of energy and also slows the introduction of greater energy efficiency. But the really important linkage is that these LNG plants rely on fracked gas. There is no way that conventional gas wells can produce more – most are in decline, and the new resources being discovered are now nearly all “tight gas” requiring fracking. And the opposition to fracking is based on concerns about local environmental impacts – especially the effect on water supplies – rather than understanding the ghg implications of its development. The gas industry has been very clever to emphasize how “clean” gas is, without making clear what they are comparing it to. Probably coal.

The Green Party on the other hand has made its position clear “economic suicide”  and “a pipe dream“. While Dix and the NDP would like to present themselves as defenders of the environment, they cannot do that credibly while supporting expansion of fossil fuel extraction for export.

It has also caught my eye that Thomas Mulcair the leader of the NDP nationally is not in favour of increasing taxes on the super-rich.  Which suggests to me that he is really out of touch with the roots of the NDP and the need for far greater equality. Although other NDP members do not agree with him. It reminds me forcefully of the conversation I had with Geoff Meggs just before the provincial election, when he said the NDP if elected would not be raising provincial income tax rates for the wealthy. (Meggs bio on the Vancouver City web site does not mention his NDP link directly but does say “He served as Director of Communications in the Office of the Premier under Premier Glen Clark, and later served as Director of Communications and Executive Director of the BC Federation of Labour.”)

Just in case you have not read them here are our Ten Core Principles, which all Greens adhere to.  Sustainability and social justice are numbers 1 and 2 respectively.

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One way to do that would be to abandon LNG entirely and embrace progressive taxation policies. I do not expect either – from Dix or the NDP. If you agree we need both then you should join the Green Party.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 19, 2013 at 9:48 am

“Doing Enbridge’s homework” by Elizabeth May MP September 12, 2013

This post appears today on Island Tides and her own web site. Because of its significance I am copying it here in its entirety, but closing comments. 

Elizabeth May MP

The very idea that the federal government, having slashed scientific research into climate change, freshwater science, ozone depletion and contamination of marine mammals (to provide an incomplete list) would be running a gold-plated research project called “the Northern Gateway project” is a stunner. The fact that $78 million is to be spent in 2013-14 on research as to how bitumen mixed with diluent will disperse in the marine environment, as well as better weather forecasting along proposed tanker routes in and out of Kitimat, with $42 million set for next year was shocking. The documents leaked from sources inside the federal government included numbers never made public.

I suppose I should not have been surprised that the response from Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was to say that somehow Dr Andrew Weaver, Green MLA from Oak Bay–Gordon Head and I had simply missed a public announcement of the funding.

It is marginally better than denying that what we revealed to the press was true. Instead, Oliver said we had not done our homework. He claimed this was all in the public domain, announced on March 18, 2013. I remember that press conference vividly. Natural Resources minister Joe Oliver and then Transport Minister Denis Lebel stood against the background of the Vancouver waterfront to announce their ‘World-Class Tanker Safety System.’ I actually watched their whole press conference on CPAC and had gone through the Natural Resources website to correct errors. It was bizarre to hear Joe Oliver claim that we had simply missed that the federal government was spending over $100 million on something called ‘the Northern Gateway project.’

I went back and reviewed that file. True, the press release said that ‘The government will conduct scientific research on non-conventional petroleum products, such as diluted bitumen, to enhance understanding of these substances and how they behave when spilled in the marine environment.’ In fact, the only substance they are studying is dilbit in the research programme called the Northern Gateway project – no ‘such as’ about it. The research is essentially a disguised subsidy to Enbridge which was supposed to have done this work and presented it to the Joint Review Panel. The key reason that the BC government submitted its objections to the project in the hearings was the failure of Enbridge to provide any evidence of the environmental fate and persistence of dilbit, either in a pipeline (terrestrial) or tanker (marine) spills.

Oliver managed to get a good chunk of media to accept that we were scandalized by something that was well-known. Nothing in the Vancouver event this spring suggested to those of us paying the most attention that the federal government was trying to fill the gaps in Enbridge’s evidence.

Nor was there anything in the announcement to suggest infrastructure investments in better weather forecasting for tanker traffic routes in and out of Kitimat.

We have placed the key documents on the Green Party of Canada website. I hope that people will go to the original documents and decide for themselves if this was something we all knew.

Hansard: June 6th, 2013

To the contrary, I asked very directly in the House if the Prime Minister planned to push the Enbridge project through:

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP): Mr. Speaker, in 2001, the Prime Minister wrote a famous letter to the former premier of Alberta in which he urged him to act “to limit the extent to which an aggressive and hostile federal government can encroach upon legitimate provincial jurisdiction”. Six days ago, the provincial government of British Columbia said no to the Enbridge project. It said that Enbridge had completely failed to demonstrate any evidence that it knew how to clean up a spill or even knew what would happen with the bitumen and diluent.

Will the Prime Minister confirm that under no circumstances will the federal government become the aggressive and hostile government that approves a project as long British Columbians say no?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the project in question, of course, is subject to a joint review panel process. Obviously, we believe in the rule of law and in adjudicating these things based on scientific and policy concerns. The government will obviously withhold its decision on the matter until we see the results of the panel and its work.

Many may conclude it was only prudent of the federal government to spend over $100 million on ‘world class’ work in support of a project which is subject to a review process not yet completed. On the other hand, I think Stephen Harper’s claim that (as he said twice) “obviously” he will wait for the panel recommendation before deciding about Enbridge is undermined by this spending. When one follows the money, it all leads to supporting Enbridge.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 12, 2013 at 8:18 am

Green Party of BC AGM

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At the Vancouver Public Library today.

I have created a storify of this event to compensate for my lack of note taking and photography.  I am grateful to Carrie McLaren for her permission to use a few of her photos here

I wanted to record my impressions of the event, while it was still fresh in my mind. This is not intended to be a record – there are places for that and it’s not here. I did not run in the last election, but like everyone in the Green Party I was very encouraged by our showing and especially electing the first ever Green MLA. In fact the first Green in any Canadian provincial legislature. There are now also Green Party representatives in parliament and Vancouver City Council. In fact these are all three different but overlapping parties.  I have a feeling that the withdrawal of federal funding based on votes cast may well herald a closer relationship between federal and provincial parties. There have also, apparently, been dirty deeds at the municipal level, where some have tried to limit Green influence by joining the municipal party under a false flag. So the first thing I did was sign up for the vangreens. I have also paid my dues to the feds too.

I was not the only one present to note how fast the Green Party of BC is changing. This was my third AGM and the attendance was noticeably different. There were still a lot of old white guys – and they took most of the seats on Provincial Council again. But there are more females, and more visible minorities present now, and an important contribution is being made by First Nations.

Standing Ovation for Jane Sterk © photo by Carrie McLaren (GreenCarrie on flickr)

Standing Ovation for Jane Sterk
© photo by Carrie McLaren (GreenCarrie on flickr)

Jane Sterk has been a transformative leader: when she took over the party was in financial difficulty and risked de-registration. I must say as a new member and candidate I was completely unaware of those issues. A bit like a duck swimming, I could see we were making progress but I could not see the frantic paddling underneath the surface. Her speech was more than the usual acknowledgements (though they were there too). It was a sober and candid review of the last six years, with a clear analysis of why we had been successful in the last election, and what was now needed to do very much better next time. Given the paucity of resources the GPBC has compared to the two major parties, her achievement has been significant. But a tribute to her wisdom and clarity of thought is shown by her choice to quit while she was ahead.

I did scribble down some notes – which resurfaced some time after this blog post first appeared. One of the things that Jane revealed is that she has at least three job applications on the go, as well as the intent to run in the next municipal election and starting a new blog (which, as soon as I see it, will go on the blogroll).  One of the critical reforms she introduced was the notion that loans were not to be treated as donations – even if that is allowed under the Elections BC rules. She convinced the provincial council that the concept of cash flow was critical – donations tend to come in lumps but expenses stretch throughout the year. It is also essential to distinguish between “wants” and “needs”.  We currently have only two paid full time officials (Leader and Executive Director) but what we need are 15 regional organizers. We have to view ourselves as a political party, not a protest group. That means our job is to get people elected. The objective has to be not just a few MLAs but to become the official opposition then the government. The most successful Green parties in the world are those that have created partnerships with like minded parties and co-operated with them in government. That is the way that green policies get adopted. The job now is to find ways of putting our members into positions where they can do what we propose.

Jane Sterk  © photo by Carrie McLaren (Green Carrie on flickr)

Jane Sterk
© photo by Carrie McLaren (Green Carrie on flickr)

Andrew Weaver gave an inspiring speech. I hope that it becomes widely available as a transcript or video. It certainly deserves it. He observed that the job of a politician and a scientist ought not to be very different. There is a problem, which we recognize, search for evidence and then analyze that for its solution. Evidence based decision making is what ought to guide our political leaders. Far too often what happens is we have decision driven evidence research. And – far too often – not even that. He also described how he won his campaign and paid tribute to his team. There’s the difference, I thought. When I ran for MLA I did not have a team. Or even any real understanding of what is required of a campaign. That will now change as there is, it turns out, quite a lot of Green Party experience on how to do such things and we will get much better at running campaigns in future. For other candidates, I might add. Not me.

The real difference between 2009 and 2013 was that the Green Party did not try to recruit a candidate for every riding. The intention was to concentrate resources – very much in the way that the national party had concentrated on getting Elizabeth May elected. That did give rise to some discontent. People feel they have the right to vote Green – even if that means the candidate is simply a name on a ballot. There could have been more candidates if more had volunteered, and there was some local organization to back them. But the reason that there was no Green Party name on so many ballots is that neither candidates nor local organization were in place. That should change now as a lot of effort is going into building regional organizations to galvanize Green Party support in groups of ridings.

Adriane Carr  © photo by Carrie McLaren (Green Carrie on flickr)

Adriane Carr
© photo by Carrie McLaren (Green Carrie on flickr)

Adriane Carr was one of the founders of the provincial Green Party – and its leader on two separate occasions. She is one of the party’s better orators, and got the room on its feet. She is also clearly enjoying her time as a Vancouver City Councillor. She had some very wise words to say about the importance of starting the campaign now: not just for next year’s municipal elections but for the next provincial and federal elections. We cannot expect to elect anyone who has only run a two week campaign.

Sjeng Derkx © photo by Carrie McLaren (Green Carrie on flickr)

Sjeng Derkx
© photo by Carrie McLaren (Green Carrie on flickr)

There was also a very remarkable speech by Sjeng Derkx. The Greens in general are always positive in presenting policy and election strategy. His was the first public assault I had heard on the NDP. Firstly on their dismal election record in BC, and secondly on their readiness to blame others for their own failings. The myth of vote splitting had already been very effectively dealt with by others: in ridings where there was no Green candidate running, those votes went mainly to the Liberals, not the NDP. “They haven’t had a new thought since Tommy Douglas!” got a round of applause. As it happens, I think we will do much better when we stop worrying about NDP voters, and try to get those people who do not vote at all to vote Green as we are not like the other parties. Far too often all politicians are lumped together: “they’re all the same” is a refrain heard all the time on the campaign trail as the reason for not voting. It is significant that Jane Sterk was the only party leader where the majority of those polled chose “trust” over “distrust”.

Much attention should be paid to a motion – that was approved without dissent – to review Green Party “branding”. At one time the use of terms like “brand” or “marketing” would have been anathema to a grass roots party born of protests in the woods. The people now coming to the party understand what is meant by those terms, and why it is much more important to understand how voters perceive the Green Party than what we have in our policy manual. Which has always been about a lot more than just environmental issues, though you would not know that from the mainstream media.  At the very least you, reader of this blog, ought to be aware of the Ten Core Principles.

Andrew Weaver pointed out that the current government “plan” to expand LNG is simply not feasible. It makes no sense to “go all in and then double down” on a market that is already oversupplied and by places much better positioned to serve that demand. This is no longer the party that thinks first of lying down in front of logging trucks. Sure we object to the wasteful and damaging extraction and over exploitation of resources. But we have very good reasons for thinking that no responsible government, that claims to be the best steward of our province, could possibly deliver on the present “promises”. And we also happen to have a very much better alternative based on a locally vibrant economy. Not just “digging up BC and selling it to China” as Jane put it.

I really enjoyed this meeting. Perhaps the high spot was the good natured joshing between Adam Olsen and Andrew Weaver. Which became moving when Adam presented Andrew with a traditional blanket – that Andrew was asked to put in his office at the leg. to remind him that “this family” [the Green Party of BC] is behind him to support and protect him from the inevitable storms he will have to face.

Adam Olsen - now Interim Leader - and Andrew Weaver MLA © photo by Carrie McLaren (Green Carrie on flickr)

Adam Olsen – now Interim Leader – and Andrew Weaver MLA
© photo by Carrie McLaren (Green Carrie on flickr)

I left feeling optimistic. There is hope. Things can change. Just because the BC electorate was once again fooled by advertising and slick communications, does not mean that we are on this path indefinitely. There is indeed a different way to run this province, and it does not have to be a choice between capitalism or socialism, between the economy and the environment, or between Tweedledum and Tweedledummer. We can and will do better. We must. The alternative is too awful to contemplate.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 24, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Posted in Green Party, politics

Why voting Green DOESN’T “split the vote”

no-vote-split-novic-600

Written by Stephen Rees

May 7, 2013 at 9:57 am

Posted in Green Party, politics