By Kevin Liang
The federal election may feel like déjà vu in B.C.: barely a year ago, the province's minority government jumped into a snap election spurred on by favourable polls shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The current election has been justified by similar duplicitous rhetoric: talk of a needed mandate to speed recovery from the pandemic hiding a desire for the absolute power of a majority government.
The lure of a majority government in our first-past-the-post system seems too tempting for any politician to pass by.
Two elections in consecutive years may increase political cynicism, but I believe this is a critical opportunity for British Columbians to compel action on the climate crisis.
Since the B.C. NDP's election to a majority government, our province's critical need for climate action has been mired in inertia. Instead of using his newfound mandate to pass progressive legislation, Premier Horgan has doubled down on the party's support for the carbon-intensive LNG industry, recommitted to the destructive Site C dam, and dithered on old-growth logging.
In response to a summer battered by unprecedented heat and wildfires, Horgan hid behind his CleanBC plan and resisted concrete, evidence-based climate action (while pandering to Shell Canada by funding more “research”).
The B.C. NDP's tight grip on its most progressive members is dismaying. Former environmental activists and leaders have become eerily quiet since taking office.
Nearly two years ago, Minister of State for Infrastructure Bowinn Ma called for a need to escape "the systemic clutches of oil and gas" industries, a step fundamental to reining in planetary heating. She was quickly silenced by a fierce internal backlash.
Nevertheless, this federal election, while seemingly unnecessary, presents a critical opportunity for us to fight back against the B.C. NDP's hell-bent path toward environmental and climate degradation.
The NDP's federal and provincial/territorial parties are more integrated than either the Liberals or Conservatives. Members of the provincial wing are also members of its federal party, and crosstalk between each jurisdiction is common, often resulting in a cohesive front.
While B.C. NDP members have been muted, those in the federal wing are challenging their provincial counterparts and starting to break down Horgan's unwavering support of the fossil-fuel industry.
From acknowledging the sweeping impact of climate change across health, the economy, Indigenous rights, and more, fierce critics of Premier Horgan's government are emerging.
Two notable individuals stand out. Anjali Appadurai, the NDP candidate running in Vancouver-Granville, is a longtime climate activist. She recently called out the "unconscionable" actions happening at Fairy Creek. Avi Lewis, a filmmaker and journalist running in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast, signed the 350 Canada pledge to "call for an immediate moratorium on new fossil fuel approvals and a freeze on all fossil fuel expansion projects under construction". Other federal NDP members may have refused to sign this pledge, but Lewis's signature signals direct opposition to B.C.'s growing fracking industry.
We must leverage these two candidates' voices and the NDP's unique party structure to drastically alter B.C.'s climate-change approach. They both possess environmental credibility and the potential to shape their party's platform.
Appadurai and Lewis have a substantial chance of being elected, but they are running in ridings that have traditionally voted for other parties. This is why, over the coming month, I will be actively volunteering to help elect them both.
The effects of climate change do not distinguish between provincial or federal jurisdictions. The climate crisis is not a partisan issue: it is an existential threat that demands action.
If the effect of blanketing smoke from B.C.’s wildfires drifts as far as Ottawa, candidates elected and serving there will undoubtedly shape political decision-making in Victoria.