Paul Manly: Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election is voters' last chance to set the stage for change in the fall

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      By Paul Manly

      Democracies around the world are at a crossroads. Globally pervasive issues like growing inequality, technological automation, and climate change increasingly top voters’ list of concerns. Everywhere, it seems, the structural and ideological constraints of traditional parties are hindering their ability to respond in a way that makes a difference in peoples’ lives.

      In October, Canadians will have their say in response to how the Liberal government has managed these concerns. In Nanaimo-Ladysmith, where I’m running, we will get to vote sooner. Ours is the final by-election to be held in under our current government. Voters in my community have the opportunity to give all the federal parties a preview of the kind of leadership and future they want.

      So, what message will they send?

      Voters are hungry for new ideas and new types of leadership. Last week in Prince Edward Island, the Green Party won a record 30 percent of the vote. It is now the party with the second highest number of seats, and it wields considerable influence in a minority government.

      The P.E.I. Greens are an example of what is possible if we take a hopeful view of what politics can be. Their leader, Peter Bevan-Baker, is renowned for his civil and collegial conduct. The federal Green party’s leader, Elizabeth May, also embodies this style: she works hard, focuses on the issues, and treats her peers with respect. As a result, Canadians view her as the most ethical party leader.

      It says a lot that Canadians most trust Elizabeth to act based on sound moral principles. And what greater moral quandary do we face than climate change? Fundamentally, it’s a question of what world we want for our children and grandchildren.

      After decades of climate denialism, the Conservatives have shifted tactics to distract and delay. The Liberals broke a litany of provinces: to end fossil fuel subsidies, to meet our Paris climate targets, to send all new pipeline projects through a new National Energy Board process.

      The scale of the climate crisis appears lost on the NDP as well—both the provincial and federal parties support $6 billion in subsidies to the LNG industry, which emits methane that is far more detrimental to the climate in the near term than CO2. Last week, the federal government announced $291 million to build a transmission line from the Site C dam site to power LNG Canada. It appears B.C. Hydro ratepayers will also be paying on their hydro bills to subsidize industrial emitters, as well.

      Elsewhere, visionary leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are showing how climate change can be turned into an opportunity to address our other major problems, like inequality and affordability. The Green party sees it this way too. That’s why our platform has always included transformative social programs like national pharmacare, basic dental plans, and free tuition and skills training. We are also calling for the restoration of tax incentives to build energy efficient affordable housing, and a massive investment in retrofits of existing buildings.

      To realize this opportunity to transform our economy, we have to address climate change as the emergency it is. Established interests invested in the old ways of doing things are using fear mongering to avoid change. Others preach incrementalism and in the process are leaving voters confused as to what they stand for.

      Voters are right—it is unfair to ask Canadians to buy electric cars and change their light bulbs while we give industrial emitters cheap clean power. As Elizabeth says, failing slowly is still failing. Instead, Greens are showing that decisive change is hopeful and exciting.

      Canadian companies are already leading the way. Harbour Air is electrifying its fleet. Richmond-based Corvus energy is providing batteries for electric ferries that are servicing travellers in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. It’s time we started unequivocally choosing this vision for our future, because that’s how we’re going to have the best chance of succeeding as the global trends of automation, inequality, and climate change persist.

      On May 6, the voters of Nanaimo-Ladysmith have a chance to tell every single party in Ottawa that this is the kind of future they want.