The Straight slate to stop Stephen Harper
Steve, as George W. Bush called him, likes cuddling pussycats as he devises climate policies that bring Canada closer to Armageddon. Jason Ransom photo.
The stakes are so high that we’re urging a vote for the candidate with the best chance of defeating Stephen Harper in your riding.
During the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign, the Democrats’ favourite phrase was: “It’s the economy, stupid.” In the 2008 Canadian federal election, party leaders have also become mesmerized by the economy, in the wake of the international credit crunch. However, the real catch phrase of this campaign should be: “It’s the energy and climate crises, stupid.”
That’s because two root causes of the financial crisis are America’s dependence on expensive foreign oil and the cost of maintaining troops in Iraq to secure future energy supplies. The Conservative government under Stephen Harper has aligned Canada closely with the United States in this competition for scarce energy resources. Harper has also taken several steps to bring Canadian economic, climate-change, and military policies in line with the debt-saddled superpower to the south. Last February, for instance, the Harper government quietly signed a deal with the Bush administration to permit U.S. troops to enter this country in an emergency.
The effects of the U.S. real-estate and financial-sector meltdown have overshadowed the election campaign in Canada, which is now the largest supplier of oil to the United States. Meanwhile, millions of lives are at risk around the world because of America’s lust for fossil fuels coupled with its reluctance to sharply reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
According to Michael T. Klare’s new book, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy (Metropolitan Books, $29), the race for energy resources is radically changing the international balance of power. America consumes almost a quarter of the world’s oil. However, its suppliers are being wooed by a long list of competitors, including China, India, Germany, and Japan.
Higher energy prices have led to a reduced standard of living for the North American middle and lower classes. Canada’s thriving petrodollar, the result of high oil prices, is hampering the competitiveness of Canadian tourism, film, manufacturing, and forest industries. The relatively high price of oil has also been the catalyst for an international investment frenzy in the Alberta tar sands, causing widespread environmental destruction. To appease the oil industry, the Harper government has provided millions of dollars in subsidies and muzzled government scientists to prevent them from commenting on the environmental effects of tar-sands developments.
Harper, the son of a former Imperial Oil executive, once described the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gases as “a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations”. The Conservatives, like their Republican counterparts in the U.S., have refused to cap greenhouse-gas emissions to curb climate change.
To the delight of tar-sands producers, Harper has instead legislated greenhouse-gas “intensity” reductions beginning in 2010. According to SFU energy researchers, the federal plan is “highly unlikely” to meet Harper’s stated goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
UVic climate scientist Andrew Weaver told the Georgia Straight last month that Harper and his cabinet did not consult with Environment Canada scientists as his government developed the plan. “It is based on ideology and what’s best for the Alberta oil-sands industry,” Weaver claimed.
At the Bali climate conference last year, the Conservative government opposed efforts by the European Union to reduce emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020. Canada adopted this position even though global warming has accelerated far faster than anticipated by any of the models presented a few years ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
When a Canadian government scientist, Mark Tushingham, wrote a novel on the theme of climate change, the Harper government prohibited him from discussing it at the National Press Club in 2006. In August, a Health Canada official revealed that the Conservative government delayed for more than a year the publication of a report on the health impacts of climate change.
Meanwhile, Harper’s Security and Prosperity Partnership with the United States and Mexico is another step along the road to continental integration. Some of Harper’s ideological friends at right-wing think tanks like the Fraser Institute have also promoted a common North American currency. Don’t be surprised if Harper moves in this direction if he wins a majority government.
In addition, the Conservatives and Liberals have extended Canadian combat operations in southern Afghanistan to 2011. This is another sop to the Americans, freeing up U.S. troops to exert control over oil-rich Iraq. Harper’s love of the military mission in Afghanistan has cost Canadian taxpayers vast sums of money, not to mention almost 100 lives. Security analyst David Perry has written a soon-to-be-published paper putting a $22-billion price tag on the Afghanistan war, according to a recent report in the Ottawa Citizen. This includes future payments to cover the cost of operations until 2012, equipment, and health care for veterans of the war.
The vast majority of Canadians don’t support Harper’s policies on the war and on climate change. Recent polls have suggested that the Conservatives might end up with around 35 percent of the vote. However, because of our “first past the post” system, Harper could still win a majority and push Canada more deeply into the orbit of the declining American empire. An Ekos tracking poll from September 30 to October 2 suggested that the Conservatives could win 152 seats. “Conservatives tantalizingly close to a majority”, Ekos stated in an October 3 news release.
For Harper’s critics, there are many reasons not to vote Conservative, beyond the cost of the Afghanistan war and the idiocy of integrating Canada more deeply into the U.S. economy. They include: the Conservative leader’s misleading use of crime statistics to make Canada appear less safe than it is; his big lie that he wouldn’t tax income trusts; his other big lie in refusing to acknowledge that a Liberal carbon tax is offset with big income-tax cuts; Harper presiding over declines in Canadian productivity; Harper’s abandonment of agreements with the provinces that would have created more daycare spaces; the Conservative government’s decision to appeal a B.C. Supreme Court ruling in favour of Vancouver’s supervised-injection site; Harper’s elimination of the Court Challenges Program and the killing of the Kelowna Accord; Harper’s stacking of a stem-cell advisory panel with opponents of embryonic stem-cell research; Harper’s $45-million cuts to the arts; and Harper’s refusal to support the United Nations goal of having developed countries donate 0.7 percent of their national incomes to international development.
Many of Harper’s policies could be fixed by future governments. But his refusal to acknowledge the severity of the climate-change crisis and his relentless march toward continental integration could have irreversible effects on Canada and the world.
The other parties have policies to address climate change. The NDP has supported a cap-and-trade system. The Liberals and the Greens have gone further, promoting cap and trade as well as a carbon tax. Although many environmentalists prefer the Liberal and Green climate-change plans, peace activists applaud the NDP’s call for immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. So there are good reasons for voting for all three parties. But splitting the votes among Harper’s opponents only increases the likelihood of a Conservative majority.
In the last federal election, there were 39 ridings in which Conservative candidates won by a margin of less than 10 percent. The majority can toss Harper out of power forever by voting strategically.
In previous elections, the Georgia Straight has recommended the best candidates in each riding. Because the stakes are so high this year, we’re joining the cross-country grassroots movement to promote strategic voting and deny Harper a majority. We have examined the polls, looked at previous voting patterns, and assessed the impact of each party’s campaign in B.C. in 2008. After doing this, we’ve recommended the candidate with the best chance of defeating the Conservative.
In some instances—such as in South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale and Vancouver Centre—we’ve overlooked outstanding candidates because we don’t think they have the best chance of winning. With crucial international climate negotiations scheduled to begin next year in Copenhagen, this is no time for vote-splitting. Harper already has the support of some of Canada’s largest media corporations. The only way he’ll be stopped is if enough responsible citizens vote strategically on Tuesday (October 14). Here are Straight recommendations for 19 Lower Mainland ridings.
Liberal Hedy Fry is in a tough race in Vancouver Centre.
Hedy Fry (Liberal)
Fry, a medical doctor, defeated NDP candidate Svend Robinson by almost 9,000 votes in 2006. Now she’s in a tougher race because Conservative Lorne Mayencourt could siphon off some of her support in the gay community. The Conservatives won this riding with high-profile candidates in three consecutive elections in the 1980s, so they can’t be ruled out this time. Meanwhile, NDP candidate Michael Byers risks losing votes to Green party deputy leader Adriane Carr because of NDP Leader Jack Layton’s refusal to support a carbon tax. All things considered, Fry remains the best bet to keep the Conservatives from taking this seat.
Libby Davies (NDP)
This is a no-brainer. It’s the one riding that the Conservatives have no chance of winning. Davies, a former city councillor, has worked exceptionally hard on behalf of her constituents since first being elected in 1997. She deserves another term.
Don Davies (NDP)
It’s not likely that the Conservatives will take Vancouver Kingsway. Davies, a lawyer and former political aide in Alberta, is hard-working, humble, and understands the legislative process. The NDP’s high standing in the polls in this region suggests it could pull off an upset in this riding if people vote strategically. In 2004, New Democrat Ian Waddell would have defeated David Emerson in Vancouver Kingsway by 1,126 votes if the anti-Emerson and anti-Conservative vote coalesced around the NDP. Davies’s main competitor, Liberal Wendy Yuan, is a businesswoman who wouldn’t be a disaster, unlike Emerson. Green candidate Doug Warkentin is earnest and knowledgeable, but probably doesn’t stand a chance of winning this time.
Joyce Murray (Liberal)
There will be voters in this riding who cannot forgive Murray for slashing environmental-protection staff and restoring the grizzly hunt as a cabinet minister in Gordon Campbell’s government. But she understands the serious dangers of climate change, unlike Harper. And Murray is the only candidate with a chance of defeating his local representative, Deborah Meredith, who lost a March by-election by a mere 151 votes.
With a united vote against Harper, Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh can easily beat the Conservatives.
Ujjal Dosanjh (Liberal)
The NDP and the Greens have no chance in this riding, which is the most multicultural constituency in the region. Dosanjh can easily defeat Conservative challenger Wai Young if those who dislike Harper don’t split their votes between the Liberals, the NDP, and the Greens. Young may attract support from many immigrant voters of Chinese descent, but she won’t make it to Parliament if all those who dislike Harper vote for Dosanjh.
In Burnaby-Douglas, a strategic voter's best bet to beat the Conservatives is the NDP's Bill Siksay.
Bill Siksay (NDP)
Siksay, an ex-constituency assistant to former MP Svend Robinson, defeated Liberal Bill Cunningham by 1,244 votes in 2006. In 2004, Siksay’s margin over Cunningham was only 934 votes. In this election, the Conservatives are running well-known Chinese-language media commentator Ronald Leung in a riding with a growing population of first-generation Chinese-speaking immigrants. The Liberals probably have no chance, given their slide in provincewide polls in this election. If Liberal and Green supporters want to stop the Conservative, the best bet is Siksay. He’s a hard-working MP and a staunch defender of arts and cultural programs.
Peter Julian (NDP)
This is the second-safest NDP riding in the region after Vancouver East. Julian is an effective MP who has been an able watchdog over Harper’s moves toward continental integration. For this, Julian deserves to be reelected.
The NDP's Dawn Black stands to gain from strategic voting.
Dawn Black (NDP)
In 2004, Conservative Paul Forseth won this riding over his NDP rival by 113 votes. The 19-year-old Green candidate attracted 2,684 votes. If the votes split in a similar way in this election, Conservative candidate Yonah Martin will be the riding’s next MP. Liberal Michelle Hassen is a good candidate, but a vote for her is only helping the Conservatives. Black, the NDP’s defence critic, is the only candidate with enough support to keep this seat out of Conservative hands.
North Vancouver Liberal Don Bell is a champion of the arts.
Don Bell (Liberal)
Bell, the former mayor of the District of North Vancouver, is in a tough fight against financier Andrew Saxton, who is running for the Conservatives. The Greens are fielding one of their strongest candidates, Jim Stephenson, whose presence on the ballot will only enhance the Conservatives’ chances. In 2004, Bell edged Conservative Ted White by 2,071 votes. In 2006, Bell defeated Conservative Cindy Silver by 3,336 votes. In Saxton, Bell is facing a stronger opponent than the two previous Conservative candidates. The NDP and the Greens collected 12,386 votes in this riding in 2006. If they match that total this time, the Conservative candidate will probably win. But if a few thousand former Green and NDP supporters vote Liberal, Bell will return to Ottawa. He has been a strong advocate of retaining the CBC Radio Orchestra. Bell also introduced a private member’s bill to boost the local film industry.
West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country
Ian Sutherland (Liberal)
West Vancouver and Whistler residents often vote Liberal, but former Conservative MP John Reynolds used to win the riding by pulling many votes from blue-collar communities like Powell River and Squamish. Ian Sutherland is the mayor of Squamish and will draw votes in areas where the Liberals have traditionally been weak. The incumbent, Green MP Blair Wilson, is his party’s best hope for a breakthrough in B.C. But with the Greens’ provincewide support declining, Wilson probably has little chance of winning. NDP candidate Bill Forst was a last-minute recruit after marijuana activist Dana Larsen withdrew. The combined Liberal-Green-NDP vote in 2006 exceeded that of the Conservatives by 17,708. Sutherland could win this riding if there’s enough strategic voting. Given Wilson’s profile, there’s no guarantee this will happen.
Raymond Chan (Liberal)
Chan, the incumbent, is the only candidate who can stop Conservative Alice Wong. Green candidate Michael Wolfe has been an outstanding advocate of preserving farmland, but he doesn’t have a hope of winning. Do Richmond’s sea-level residents want Harper giving instructions to the Canadian delegation at the climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009?
Dana L. Miller (Liberal)
In the past two federal elections, the Liberal vote far exceeded that of the NDP and the Greens in this riding. Miller, a former Green candidate, is the best bet to defeat Conservative John Cummins. However, Cummins took 48.44 percent of the vote in the 2006 election, so even if there’s a lot of strategic voting, he’ll probably win.
Rachid Arab (NDP)
NDP Leader Jack Layton’s populist bash-the-corporate-sector campaign could resonate with voters in Surrey North, which was represented by New Democrat Penny Priddy and, before that, by independent MP Chuck Cadman. Arab, an aerospace worker and Lebanese immigrant, has a chance to defeat Cadman’s widow, Dona, who is running for the Conservatives. This is a riding in which strategic voting can deprive Harper of a seat that he thought he could take back from the NDP.
Newton–North Delta New Democrat Teresa Townsley is a strong advocate for education.
Teresa Townsley (NDP)
Some proponents of strategic voting think it’s wise to go with Liberal incumbent Sukh Dhaliwal. We disagree. In 2006, Dhaliwal won this riding as the only Sikh candidate for a major party, going against two Caucasians in a riding with 50,510 residents of South Asian descent. Dhaliwal beat the NDP candidate by only 1,000 votes. This time, the Liberal and Conservative candidates are both of South Asian descent, which will split that community’s vote. Even then, many South Asians will support the NDP. Townsley, vice chair of the Delta school board and a former nurse, can also attract the support of a majority of non-South Asian residents who dislike Harper. Keep in mind that the NDP holds provincial constituencies that overlap this riding. If traditional Green supporters get behind Townsley’s candidacy, this riding will remain out of Conservative hands.
Brenda Locke (Liberal)
In Fleetwood-Port Kells in 2006, Conservative Nina Grewal defeated Liberal Brenda Locke by 828 votes. The NDP and Green candidates together collected 12,020 votes. This one is a no-brainer, notwithstanding the impressive human-rights record of NDP candidate Nao Fernando. If you want to vote for the planet, you’re going to have to get over the fact that Locke served in Gordon Campbell’s B.C. Liberal government.
South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale
Judy Higginbotham (Liberal)
The NDP candidate, Langara College political-science instructor Peter Prontzos, has impeccable credentials for public office. He has been active in the peace and environment movements. But the NDP has zero chance of winning this relatively wealthy riding. That’s why we’re recommending Surrey city councilor Judy Higginbotham as the best bet to stop the incumbent, social conservative Russ Hiebert. Last December, Hiebert told the Commons ethics committee that he didn’t think former prime minister Brian Mulroney did anything wrong by accepting $100,000 while still in office from businessman Karlheinz Schreiber. When Hiebert and Higginbotham squared off in 2004, Hiebert won by 3,149 votes. In the same campaign, NDP and Green candidates captured 10,695 votes. If enough South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale citizens vote Liberal, they could knock off a right-wing Conservative candidate and reduce the chance of Harper leading a majority government.
Andrew Claxton (NDP)
In 2006, Conservative Mark Warawa won with 52.57 percent of the vote, so no amount of strategic voting is likely to dislodge him in this election. According to the Democratic Space Web site (www.democraticspace.com/), the NDP is running second, which is why we’re recommending Andrew Claxton, an ESL teacher. (We also like the Green candidate, Patrick Meyer, who has been a strong advocate for cyclists and sustainable living.)
Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam
Zoe Royer (NDP)
As the Straight went to press, the Democratic Space Web site placed Conservative James Moore safely in the lead. The NDP was in second place, significantly ahead of the third-place Liberals and fourth-place Greens. The NDP candidate, Zoe Royer, is a health administrator who also volunteers to help the homeless. In 2006, the Green, NDP, and Liberal votes exceeded Moore’s total by 5,992. It demonstrates that if enough people vote strategically, the Conservative could be defeated in one of the party’s safest ridings in Metro Vancouver.
Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission
Mike Bocking (NDP)
Bocking, president of CEP Local 2000, has demonstrated in the past two elections that he is the only candidate who has a hope of defeating Conservative incumbent Randy Kemp. Bocking has been a forceful leader of his union and is knowledgeable on a wide range of issues. A vote for Liberal Dan Olsen or Green Mike Gildersleeve will only boost the likelihood that Harper’s climate-change policies will have another Conservative supporter in Parliament.