NDP leadership candidate Mike Farnworth has unveiled a far-reaching environmental platform. If he is elected leader this April, it may persuade some Green voters to back the NDP in the next provincial election.
In a news release issued today (February 22), Farnworth has promised to repeal the Significant Projects Streamlining Act, which gives the provincial government the power to overrule local zoning decisions.
Premier Gordon Campbell enacted this law so he could ram through megaprojects in spite of opposition from local governments. B.C. Liberal leadership candidates have been silent on this issue.
Farnworth, as a former muncipal politician, clearly understands how antidemocratic this legislation really is.
Farnworth has also pledged to open up independent-power-purchasing agreements to scrutiny. He suggested that he might end or amend those contracts that don't serve the public interest, which will no doubt elicit howls of outrage from the independent power sector.
In addition, he's called for a moratorium on independent power projects and a “blue belt” to protect migration areas and spawning grounds for wild salmon.
Under Farnworth's plan, carbon-tax revenue would fund transit and low-carbon green initiatives. He would also force industrial carbon emitters to pay the tax.
There's no talk of forest-tenure-system reform or ending logging in watersheds among his environmental promises. But Farnworth has pledged a "massive program of reforestation" and legislation to protect groundwater. Whether that means imposing restrictions on the hydraulic fracturing for natural gas remains an open question.
In light of these promises, it's not surprising that Farnworth is supported by some environmentally minded New Democrats, such as Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming, former cabinet minister John Cashore, and former MLA Barbara Copping.
Leadership rival John Horgan has claimed that he's the environmental candidate in the race, but he hasn't gone as far as Farnworth when it comes to providing a green platform for NDP members.
Farnworth's announcement should address the concerns of some Lower Mainland environmentalists, who still remember his role as an NDP cabinet minister in killing TransLink's vehicle levy and putting the regional transporation agency on the road to financial ruin.
But without a promise to stop the road-building frenzy launched by Campbell and Kevin Falcon, Farnworth won't win all of them over.
Like other NDP candidates, Farnworth said he will enact whistle-blower protection, strengthen freedom-of-information legislation, and ban the use of cosmetic pesticides in residential and public areas.
All things considered, Farnworth has probably helped his chances with his environmental platform.
One of his chief rivals, Adrian Dix, was principal secretary to the least environmentally minded B.C. NDP premier ever elected (Glen Clark).
Meanwhile, one of the greenest NDP leadership candidates, Nicholas Simons, might be looking for someone else to endorse if he fails to gain a large amount of support after the first couple of ballots.
In his news release, Farnworth included a positive comment about his environmental platform from Norm Macdonald. He's the NDP MLA who quit as caucus chair because he couldn't stay on the job while Carole James was running the show.
However, none of the James supporters in the race (Farnworth, Horgan, and Dix) have given any strong and visible public indication that they are willing to mend fences with all members of the Baker's Dozen, including Simons, who opposed James's leadership.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.