Twenty-five years ago, I was a student at UBC studying engineering. The nuclear power plant in Chernobyl had exploded a couple years beforehand, creating worries over nuclear power as a substitute for coal in electric power production. This was a couple years before the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro where prime minister Brian Mulroney spoke before one of the largest UN meetings ever and pledged full support for the funding of international action to fulfill the environmental conventions. Climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions was already old news. The need for technological change for our continued prosperity was already obvious.
Decades have passed but little has changed. The fossil fuels we use and export still dominate the Canadian economy. One small advance happened: B.C. adopted a revenue-neutral carbon tax—a tax on pollution offset by reduction in other taxes. But support for the carbon tax is weak among those in government: Liberal premier Christy Clark recently offered to freeze the tax at its current low level, while the NDP were campaigning to scrap it completely only a few years ago.
At the same time, wages for average workers have remained static or declined, while the cost of housing rises. The highest paid workers have seen their income increase dramatically. And in addition our public debt increases year after year, in good times and bad.
According to the B.C. Ministry of Finance, provincial debt covered by the taxpayer will stand at $42 billion in 2013-14, up $4 billion in one year from $38 billion in 2012-13. It will take four percent of provincial income to pay the interest, despite record low interest rates. While the budget was advertised as balanced, the government’s own numbers project total provincial debt to rise over $3 billion in the next three years to $46 billion, representing 27 percent of provincial GDP.
In place of renewable energy infrastructure and industry, we have expanded fossil fuel extraction. We are leaving our children with stunted futures: massive public debt, degraded natural environment, and narrowed employment opportunities that only serve the interests of the status quo.
I now have a rewarding position as a research scientist in medical research. Despite this I decided to enter politics for one simple reason: a sense of duty to my daughters’ generation and the generations that will follow. Our governments have set policy as if re-election were the only purpose of governing: the timeline is always four years or fewer. We have oceans turning acidic and accelerating climate chaos while policy discussions of government centres on how much money in royalties we can make heading further down the same path—how much benefit our current generation can take from a one-time resource extraction with no regard for the people who will come after and deal with our mess. The transition to sustainable prosperity that will be shared by our children and their children is always left for the next government.
We need a government that understands and plans for the many challenges we face. The Green party has realistic policies for long-term prosperity based on sustainable resource use that respects local community choices and fair treatment of individuals in society—those living now and into the future. My daughters deserve the opportunity to thrive in British Columbia. They deserve a diverse and vibrant local economy that is not tied to the boom-and-bust cycles of primary resources, and not saddled with public debt and a ruined natural environment due to the irresponsibility of their elders.