Martyn Brown: The Leap in B.C. that Naomi Klein & friends should support

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      Calling Naomi Klein & friends.

      The Leap that you have so publicly advocated may be a leap too far for most Canadians, but its most important message and recommended policy shifts could get a big jump from an NDP-Green minority government in British Columbia.

      Strange, then, that most of the Leap’s authors have not been more vocal thus far in urging John Horgan’s New Democrats and Andrew Weaver’s Greens to stand united. Both to form the next government, if at all possible, and equally, to emphatically oppose the Clark government, come what may.

      Whatever reservations or disagreements the NDP and Green party may have with certain aspects of the Leap Manifesto, they both stand aligned, as I do, with its fundamental appeal for a more sustainable, fairer, and more compassionate vision for our planet and our communities.

      Only the B.C. Liberals hope to continue a climate-be-damned rush to unsustainable development that is even more dependent on Big Oil, by dint of a razor-thin majority or a minority government. One that can only prevail for long with the other parties’ active support or acquiescence.

      The world is watching.

      The moment is ripe for British Columbia to lead once again on climate action, as it was doing before Premier Christy Clark eviscerated her predecessor’s climate action strategy.

      The time has come for British Columbia to embrace a new vision for sustainable growth that is as demonstrably progressive as it is economically, environmentally, and socially responsible. A vision that can be realized if the stars align to produce a workable NDP minority government, working together with the Greens.

      That is the “jump” that some 57 percent of our province’s citizens voted for, in repudiation of the status quo.

      It is the political leap away from the unethical and uncaring modus operandi that Clark’s B.C. Liberals have exploited for partisan gain, in betrayal of the public trust and utterly beholden to Big Money, Big Oil, and a broken campaign finance system.

      For months before the election, that party’s corporate surrogates spent millions trying to scare British Columbians about the NDP’s supposed dedication to the Leap Manifesto.

      I hope they choke on their “dark money”.

      Most of it was surely funnelled from the oil and gas industry, to spread fear and lies about Horgan in an effort to buy the election for its puppet premier and for the governing party that is so deeply in its pocket.

      With one vote, the vast majority of British Columbians said “screw you” to those agents of fear who are so clearly only concerned with lining their industry pockets through ongoing government subsidies, handouts, tax concessions, regulatory favours, and enviromentally reckless development.

      David Suzuki not only endorsed Andrew Weaver and the Greens, but he also put his reputation behind the Leap Manifesto.
      Kent Kallberg

      Leap Manifesto offers a hopeful vision

      Clearly neither British Columbia’s NDP nor the B.C. Green party are unqualified supporters of the Leap Manifesto, as worded. Nor am I. But I have no hesitation in saying that it offers a more hopeful and humanistic vision for our country and planet than anything any of the apologists for the status quo can offer.

      Whatever its noble sentiments, I dare say, many of its statements are simply too great a leap for most Canadians to support, at least without qualification.

      Nevertheless, it is the larger shift that that document speaks to that is really important. And for the most part, it is a shift that a sizable majority of British Columbians wholly support, including the thousands of ex-Liberals like me who voted for either the NDP or Green party.

      What is not to like about the Leap’s goal of “Shifting to an economy in balance with the earth’s limits”?

      I welcome the Leap’s call for an end to fossil fuel subsidies, as I do its urging for new financial transaction taxes, for increased resource royalties, for higher income taxes on corporations and wealthy people, and for a progressive carbon tax.

      All good stuff that a new NDP government backed by the Greens might also bring about sooner rather than later in B.C., if both parties get the political push they need to cooperate as need be.

      OK, so I do not support the Leap’s unqualified attack on “austerity” as “a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth”. Although I do support a more prudent, balanced, and caring approach to living within the taxpayers’ means, as both the NDP and Greens have advocated.

      It is not fiscal discipline that is the problem, as such. Rather, it is the choices that governments make in reinvesting their limited resources and in tapping the taxpayers’ limited capacity that have so often hurt too many people, as they have also hurt the environment and our planet.

      Regardless, I take and support the Leap point intended: our governments have generally placed too much emphasis on budgets that have been balanced on the backs of people in need, and in the interests of corporate profits liberated through unconscionable environmental degradation and inequitable distributions of personal wealth.

      Governments, including the one I so intimately served and advised, have made too many harmful cuts to crucial public services. They have made too many tax and spending choices that favour the wealthy few over the interests of the needier and cash-strapped many.

      Reversing that to some degree would be a good thing, if only by the baby steps that both the NDP and the Green party have suggested for income redistribution and for a more progressive tax system.

      That’s something that I would hope Klein and her colleagues could actively get behind, visibly and vocally, to advance what is most important about the initiative that they have so ardently championed in so many forums.

      I would hope they would stand up boldly and loudly to support the situation now unfolding in B.C. as something of an acid test for their movement. Which is to say, it is time for them to use their bully pulpit to drive the actual policy outcomes they seek, by helping to affect a meeting of the minds between B.C.’s two social democratic parties.

      The Leap Manifesto calls for a rapid transition to an economy powered by renewable energy.

      Greens and NDP agree on several Leap points

      Unlike the Clark government, B.C.’s New Democrats and Greens both support the Leap’s push to expand “the sectors of our economy that are already low carbon: caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest media”.

      They also likely both agree that “a national childcare program is long past due”, as the Leap Manifesto proposes.

      The NDP campaigned on phasing in a $10-a-day childcare program in British Columbia. The Greens ran on a commitment to introduce up to 25 hours of free early childhood education for three- and four-year olds, and free daycare for working parents with children up to age three.

      Are those not also values and concrete commitments that the likes of Klein and her Leap colleagues should be globally applauding?

      Are those not significant advances worth actively fighting for, by throwing their considerable profile behind an NDP/Green partnership in British Columbia, whether as a minority government or as a formal coalition?

      Of course they are. Ditto for electoral reform and for campaign finance reform.

      Both of those parties are four-square behind the Leap’s cry for “working swiftly towards a system in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns”.

      They both want to introduce some form of proportional representation and to ban big money in B.C. politics. A new government will deliver on those priorities, to give all British Columbians a direct say on how their votes should be counted, and to immediately outlaw corporate and union political donations.

      Both the NDP and Green party also wholly support the Leap’s core call for a new future of partnership, predicated on reconciliation with Canada’s “third solitude”, aboriginal Canadians.

      Both of the left-leaning parties that are now on the cusp of taking back power from the right-wing Clark government in B.C. unequivocally support this passage from the Leap document.

      “This leap must begin by respecting the inherent rights and title of the original caretakers of this land. Indigenous communities have been at the forefront of protecting rivers, coasts, forests and lands from out-of-control industrial activity. We can bolster this role, and reset our relationship, by fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

      Will the Leap’s authors now help to advance that shift? Will they call on both the New Democrats and Greens to stand together in bringing that change about, starting with a common commitment to change the government that has resisted that new relationship?

      I call upon them to take up that mantle, which at least one of those authors has done—namely, Seth Klein, from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

      John Horgan has not endorsed the Leap Manifesto's call for higher resource royalties.

      NDP recognizes Leap's political risks

      The NDP has had a love-hate relationship with the Leap, born of its feared political consequences. I get it. That’s understandable, if also regrettable.

      Like Horgan, I can’t support the Leap’s unqualified statement that “There is no longer an excuse for building new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future.”

      British Columbian’s economy and jobs depend on natural resource development that is in turn dependent on infrastructure projects that invite increased extraction activities. We can’t simply stop all of that activity dead in its tracks. Nor can we pretend that mining or even natural gas extraction activities are not vital parts of our economy.

      Yet we can and should start the shift to a cleaner, more sustainable economy that is ever less reliant on those types of activities that could indeed be largely supplanted by 2050 with sufficient political will. Horgan and Weaver are both emphatic on that point.

      We can and should stop the Kinder Morgan oilsands pipeline expansion project. It would increase oil tanker traffic by seven-fold in Burrard Inlet and the Strait of Juan de Fuca and would turn Metro Vancouver into a super-tanker port for heavy tar sands oil bound largely to China.

      Both the Greens and NDP are resolutely opposed to that project, as they should be. Both have rightly pledged to fight it tooth and nail as government, if given the chance to do so.

      What greater contribution could the Leap’s authors make to their vision for fighting the expansion of Canada’s emissions intensive oilsands industry than to fight for a new government in B.C. that might help to realize that objective?

      We can and should stop the Pacific Northwest LNG project, as both the NDP and Greens have argued, as currently proposed. Surely that is something worth fighting for, for anyone who supports the Leap’s core shift to a nonpolluting economy.

      One thing is certain. The Liberals do not support the Leap’s contention that “Moving to a far more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system would reduce reliance on fossil fuels, capture carbon in the soil, and absorb sudden shocks in the global supply—as well as produce healthier and more affordable food for everyone.”

      An NDP/Green minority partnership or coalition would advance that vision.

      The Leap Manifesto calls “for an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects”.

      Is that too radical for the NDP? Perhaps. But the heart of that mission is sound and worthy.

      We should want to make the shift to meet our own needs, closer to home, as it were. We should not compromise on our ability to do what is right and necessary for our citizens, for our local economy, or for our environment. The NDP and Greens agree with that premise.

      For all intents and purposes, the Trans Pacific Partnership is dead anyway. NAFTA is now up for renegotiation. Free trade within Canada is closer to becoming a reality than it has in the past.

      All of those trade deals should be driven first and foremost by what is right and best for Canadians, including for British Columbians, and for their long-term economic and environmental interests.

      Only two parties support that notion in British Columbia: the NDP and the Green party.

      Their voices, moral suasion, and mission for needed change could only benefit from the Leap authors’ amplified support for a new government that both of those parties might help assure.

      The time for philosophical debate has just begun, but the moment for praxis is upon us.

      If Neil Armstrong could walk on the moon, surely the NDP and B.C. Greens can work together for environmental progress and to ban big money from provincial politics.

      The opportunity must be seized

      B.C. can be either a paragon for social progress, or it can become ever more the environmental pariah that the current government is fast rebranding our Super, Natural British Columbia.

      It is time for Naomi Klein and her colleagues, and for all of the people who support their efforts, to embrace the “Neil Armstrong approach” to giant leaps that might forever change human history.

      All eyes are on the door now opening to B.C.’s new political world.

      Real change rides on the platform now before us, as it hovers on the next steps that our elected pioneers might take for tangible progress.

      With a little luck, a lot of courage, and an abiding resolve to realize the most important objects of our dreams, the Leap that speaks to our better human nature and to our higher aspirations, is perhaps not so very far away.

      A new government is so close, we can almost touch it.

      The progressive shift we mostly want is so doable, we should all cheer it on, with all our hearts and vocal means.

      Let’s do this, if we can, British Columbia

      Let’s stand together for the new government we deserve, by standing strong against the one we don’t.

      And let’s hope beyond hope that after the dust settles—once all the 176,000 absentee ballots are counted and the recounts are done—we can all anticipate what should come next in B.C., as a meaningful step forward for the world. 

      “That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

      Armstrong said it. In each jurisdiction, we can also take it, empowered as we all are through the gift of democracy.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic advisor to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, and he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact Brown at