The Tyee: A New, Greener NDP in British Columbia


From The Tyee – April 1, 2011

by Andrew McLeod

Even before British Columbia NDP leadership candidates headed into an April 2 debate in Vancouver centred on environmental sustainability, observers were noting the role green issues have had in the campaign.

That role provides a contrast both to the recent BC Liberal leadership race and the NDP’s own record in the 2009 election.

“They’re talking about issues unprompted by
us,” said Kevin Washbrook, a Conservation Voters of B.C. board member.
“Generally I’d say it has a place of prominence in the race. More so
than it did in the Liberal race.”

CVBC is evaluating Mike Farnworth, Adrian
Dix, John Horgan, Nicholas Simons and Dana Larsen’s positions and may or
may not endorse anyone, but won’t have that ready for at least another
week, he said.

The group Organizing for Change put a list of questions to all of the leadership candidates in both the Liberal and the NDP races.

“In the Liberal race it was like pulling teeth to get answers
to those questions,” said provincial OFC lead Lisa Matthaus. Of the
Liberals, just Mike de Jong answered, and he did so at the very end of
the campaign, she said.

“With the NDP they’ve all responded, except
for Dana Larsen,” Matthaus said. And since responding, they’ve
continued to release environmental positions. “It’s interesting to see
how much more the NDP is making the environment part of the debate among

‘Huge departure’ for NDP: Vicky Husband

All the front runners have picked up the
environmental banner, said long time environmentalist Vicky Husband, who
added she believes John Horgan is the most committed among them.

“We never saw Carole James take a strong stand on an environmental
issue,” said Husband. Comparing the race to where the NDP was in the
last election, she said, “I think it’s a huge departure. I think they
were on the wrong side, certainly on the carbon tax issue.”

While the NDP championed other important
environmental issues in the campaign, including re-evaluating
run-of-the-river hydro projects, the carbon tax position put them
offside with a large part of the environmental community, said Husband, a
past conservation chair of the Sierra Club B.C. and a veteran of
campaigns to preserve Clayoquot Sound rainforest, the Great Bear
rainforest and wild salmon fisheries.

The Pembina Institute’s Matt Horne, who was
among prominent environmentalists who denounced the NDP’s axe-the-tax
position in 2009, said the NDP candidates all support keeping the carbon
tax, though they would tweak it in various ways to make it work better.
“[It] is a significant change from where they were in the last
election,” he said.

While there’s further to go if B.C. is to meet its goals for carbon emission reductions, it’s a positive step, he said.

Platform details

John Horgan
was the first to release an environmental platform. The Juan de Fuca
MLA’s long list said he’d expand the carbon tax, invest in transit, pass
an Endangered Species Act and protect more old growth forests.

Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth’s
environmental platform includes keeping a steady amount of land in the
Agricultural Land Reserve, moving salmon farms to closed containment,
giving local governments more say on significant projects, restricting
raw log exports and planting more trees. He’d keep the carbon tax and
extend it to industrial emitters, using it to pay for transit and other
green initiatives.

Adrian Dix,
who represents Vancouver-Kingsway, would use carbon tax revenues for
transit and green infrastructure, invest in the park system and protect
endangered species and ecosystems. He’d also recreate Environmental
Youth Teams to create jobs for young people doing green work.

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About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.