I know the perfect place to take a fog picture, but don’t how to get to it apart from taking a picture from a moving transit vehicle. Today I tried to get to the general area, only to find out that traffic prevented me from getting there before the fog in that area had entirely evaporated. Frustrated a bit, I turned around and went the opposite direction, where I took the pictures in this post. They’re not what I wanted to take today, but they still bring some pleasure.
Now that Moe Sihota and Adrian Dix have both announced their resignations, I hope the NDP will commit itself to a period of soul-searching and renewal. The party didn’t lose–contra so many simple-minded journalists–because of Adrian Dix being a sunny and positive person. Such journalists assume that voters have no memories or political tendencies of their own, but are merely sheep willing to follow the shepherd who attacks others in the most negative way possible. But I digress.
The party lost because of its leadership–a throwback to some of the worse aspects of the days of NDP power in the nineties: the days of Bingo-gate, when the party happily stole money from senior citizens while trying to turn a blind eye to it; fast ferries, the expensive and faulty boats that caused environmental damage so bad they had to all be mothballed; and then of course there was the police investigation of Glen Clark. Mr. Sihota, whom I actually like in many ways–was not himself involved in Bingogate, of course, and he wasn’t a minister in charge of Ferries, either–but he was booted from cabinet more than once under highly publicized and less than ideal circumstances. Mr. Dix’s role during this time was worse as he actually backdated a memo in the context of a police investigation of his boss. His bungling comment during the campaign that he was “only 35″ years old at the time, together with his mishandling of Kinder-Morgan, finished him and his party as far as voters were concerned.
But this leadership was chosen by the party, and it is not sufficient to blame the leaders who sought to serve their party and the people of BC by giving their time to it. The NDP rank and file, with the other elements of the leadership, needs to decide what it stands for, who its constituency is, what it wants in a leader, and how it will expand its influence with voters.
So what should the values of the NDP include? If I can be permitted to brainstorm, it would be something like this:
- a commitment to economic prosperity and growth
- a commitment to protecting the environment, especially coastal waters and rainforests
- a commitment to making BC in general and Metro Vancouver in particular more affordable
- a commitment to making intra-provincial mobility easier, cheaper, and more efficient
- a commitment to social justice, including help for the poor and lower middle classes, and respect for the rights of First Nations
Let’s take the first: commitment to economic prosperity. I am, of course, very strongly opposed to Enbridge’s proposed pipeline in particular, and am generally opposed to any increase in oil-tanker traffic along the coast north of Vancouver Island. But there’s a trade-off: if you’re going to say “no” to this source of revenue, how will you compensate? You might have a plan for natural gas, refining, increased tourism, creating more energy so as to export it, creating better IT infrastructure, etc. But if you also say that not only is Enbridge’s pipeline not suitable, but so is Kinder-Morgan’s, you’re basically saying that it’s going to be very hard to grow revenue. How to grow the economy is probably the hardest part of this whole discussion of where the NDP stands, but it’s a subject that needs to be taken up and talked about. The party should have a clear plan for economic growth–and it has to be realistic.
My second proposed value is one the provincial and federal NDP already more or less have considerable strength in. I don’t think it’s any weakness in the NDP’s respect for the environment that has caused the Green Party to grow federally and provincially (I attribute that to the general impression that the NDP is in bed with organized labour), but the NDP should continue to take strong stands on issues affecting the environment and especially any issues involving sensitive ecological areas. Given the fact that the federal government appears to be washing its hands of anything involving environmental protection, there will be continued opportunities for the NDP to speak up for BC’s interests.
My third value involves helping ordinary people. Metro Vancouver has become prohibitively expensive. I blame much of this on absentee landlords buying up units for investment purposes. With so much homelessness everywhere, and so many so close to poverty, this is wrong. It is not good for society to have a permanent under-class of virtual slaves living paycheque to paycheque and turning over all their profits to their landlords. Again, with the federal government having in place no national housing strategy–unique among the industrialized western nations, I believe–there are many opportunities for the BC NDP to take a stand in the interest of what is right for the province. In particular, I propose that the province find a way to prohibit out-of-province ownership of condo units, apartments, and houses.
If living with a roof over one’s head is the single largest expense in BC, simply moving around is the second largest expense. Whether it’s the nearly $350 for a four-week train pass from Mission to Waterfront on the West Coast Express, or the more than $200 fares for a family of four to cross the Straight of Juan de Fuca and return, or the exorbitant price of gas that makes driving from Maple Ridge to Burnaby a financial burden, it all adds up to a colossal burden that is costing the BC economy money and efficiency. Goods are delayed in shipment and people find it more affordable to vacation outside the province than in. The ones who have no money at all ride public transit for free and are then hammered by fines that seem motivated more by a spirit of meanness towards the poor than anything else. These are serious problems, and the NDP has an opportunity to speak to them. One significant solution, I believe, would be to follow the lead of the UBC research team who calculated that for the money spent on the Port Mann Bridge, a light-rail network could have been constructed from Surrey and Langley and Maple Ridge all the way to Vancouver. An ambitious public transit system could relieve traffic congestion and contribute towards increased mobility. If there’s one thing that should be clear by now, it’s that BC voters like mega-projects–something the NDP shied away from during the nineties with the exception of the Fast Ferry program. Making an affordable rapid transit transit system in the most densely populated parts of BC would certainly be preferable to continuing to widen highways (although I admit I’m glad the BC Liberals are doing that!).
Making it easier for people to afford mortgages or qualify for social programs, together with making transportation easier and more efficient, and creating economic conditions for province-wide success will help to go a long way towards the party’s goal of social justice for the lower middle class and the poor. All of this needs to be articulated by the NDP clearly and respectfully, and the NDP’s actual behavior needs to change, too. Instead of its policies having a direct and positive bearing only on the unions that support it (as with the Fast Ferries fiasco), the NDP needs to represent all of those in BC who work or want to.
As for First Nations, this is an area the NDP have strength in, and they need to continue to ensure that they have the support of the First Nations–and they need to find out how they can help the First Nations of BC to help themselves. I write less of this not because it is not important, but because I need to know more before writing more.
This is my road-map to electoral success for the NDP. It’s a series of suggestions, and obviously the part that needs the most work is the part about increasing revenue–and it can’t simply come from increasing user fees on transit riders, hiking tuition for post-secondary students,* or raising taxes on the lower classes. Others within the NDP with more knowledge and equal enthusiasm need to sit down and think clearly and carefully about where the party stands and where it’s going.
*The post-secondary system is broken, and is obviously an area that suffers from a lack of good planning. Universities churn out Liberal arts graduates by the thousand, but people wait ages for work on their toilets and electrical wires. Shifting away from Liberal Arts programs to more practical career-focused programs is vitally important and should be made a priority. And yes, I write that as a holder of a Liberal Arts Master’s degree. Quite simply, I and others like me were pushed into academic university streams without sufficient justification. The mechanics in the family have a good deal more financial stability than I and others like me do.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi demonstrates to the world what Islam could and should be: merciful, hilarious, liberal, powerful, and happy. And he’s a great mayor, despite the desperate attacks of the little people that snap at his heels. One of those calls himself a conservative, but he sued the very first MP of the Reform Party–the fabulous, motorcycle-riding Deborah Grey. Anyway, I love the fact that the Calgary mayor marched in the city’s gay pride parade. I’m not big on parades of any kind, generally, but for a Muslim to do this is a very impressive and significant statement.
It’s interesting that Mr. Nenshi and I disagree on a few things, including Quebec’s proposed Charter of Values, but I think he’s a great mayor and I wish we had more politicians like him.
I’m absolutely delighted with the news that not only has Mr. Dix stepped down from his post in the NDP leadership, but so has Moe Sihota. I don’t have a personal dislike for either man, but the actions of both of them during the NDP years in power indicated to voters that they were lacking in good judgment and integrity. It’s difficult to get back into power when your party president saw himself removed from a provincial cabinet on multiple occasions for scandal, and when your party leader has barely escaped being a convicted felon for altering documents the police would look at for the sole purpose of protecting his boss. I wrote about how this foolishly-chosen leadership cost the NDP the last election in an earlier blog post.
As I said, though, I’m not really upset at either Mr. Dix or Mr. Sihota, and I don’t want to question their goodness as human beings or their desire for a more just society–as private citizens. I do remain upset with the NDP rank and file who so foolishly threw away the last election by choosing leadership with so much baggage instead of people with more professionalism and better reputations. That said, if Mike Farnworth* decides to run for the leadership, I’m actually going to join the party so I can vote for him, if not campaign for him.
Meanwhile, I do wish Mr. Sihota and Mr. Dix well as they themselves move on from politics. I hope each can find a way to make a positive difference in our province, and I hope they continue to grow and change in positive ways.
As for the NDP itself, they’ve got to come up with some very relevant ideas about who they are and where they’d like our province to go. I’ll detail in a forthcoming blogpost some of the directions I personally would like to see the NDP move in.
*Even certain immediate family relatives who shall remain unnamed, though dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, have always spoken well of Farnworth. He’s a thoroughly decent, pleasant man with a good grasp on reality.
…Mark Steyn.* He starts off with this:
In 2010, the bestselling atheist Richard Dawkins, in the “On Faith” section of the Washington Post, called the pope “a leering old villain in a frock” perfectly suited to “the evil corrupt organization” and “child-raping institution” that is the Catholic Church. Nobody seemed to mind very much.
Three years later, in a throwaway Tweet, Professor Dawkins observed that “all the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.” This time round, the old provocateur managed to get a rise out of folks.
For the record, I think Dawkins was bang on with regards to both counts.
That said, I like this new Pope Francis very much. He is truly a breath of fresh air. When the right-hand man of the Pope says things like this: “The Church must ‘reflect the democratic spirit of the times’ and take the opinions of its members into account” (Daily Mail quoting him), you know things are getting better. And it really does get better: see this CBC article whose headline–”Pope Francis says church too obsessed with gays, abortion”–says it all. The comment “who am I to judge?” with regards to the homosexual identity of any given gay person is not only a welcome change of tone, but heralds a new subversiveness within Catholic thought at the papal level. I don’t agree with some who think that Pope Francis intends merely a change of tone–a love the sinner, hate the sin kind of thing. I think he really, in his heart, wishes the Catholic church could welcome homosexuals as they are.
Back to Dawkins, though: without atheists and non-religious people everywhere, no gays would have any rights today. The Catholic Church can be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the twenty-first century, but too much of Islam has yet to make the plunge. Unlike some, I don’t think the situation impossible (there are some brave theologically and socially “liberal” Muslims), but I do see, like other atheists, “unique problems” with regards to the religion founded by the non-prophet Mohammed.
Meanwhile, there are much more important things to think about: J.K. Rowling is making a Harry Potter movie! (Though sans Harry Potter himself.)
*I no longer hang on every work written by Steyn as I once did half a life ago; I found this article via Google News, so I wasn’t looking for him. That said, this article is right on the money.
I’m thinking about two key matters, nowadays: the need for environmental conservation, first, and second, Quebec’s proposed “Charter of Values” that has caused so much controversy.
The so-called “Harper Government” correctly understands how fragile the Canadian economy is right now, and basically sees the selling of oil as the best way to keep the country afloat financially–but the cost is the permanent damage to our entire planet that is occurring as temperatures get warmer. With all the ice melting forever up north, major, irreversible, observable changes are occurring–and seeing this, the response of the federal government has been to lay off many scientists while muzzling others, eagerly looking forward to the day when the northwest passage can become a commercial shipping lane. Incidentally, I find this more than a little naive given the large Russian Bear that shares the Arctic, and the various other nations that have competing interests there. Profits will not suddenly come streaming into Canada just because the northwest passage opens up; on the contrary, Canada will be strategically weaker.
Second, at a time when the number two threat to the planet is Islamic fanaticism, our government in Ottawa has decided to challenge Quebec’s proposed “Charter of Values” all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. In brief, Quebec’s charter seeks to suppress the wearing of burkas, niqabs, and the like by government workers. The law seeks to throw in Jewish kippas and Sikh daggers for good measure. I am against the ceremonial wearing of daggers; they have no place in today’s world, and as much as I love Sikhs, I want those daggers to have no place in courtrooms, schools or other public places. That said, I have known hundreds of Sikhs ever since I was a boy, and I’ve never known a Sikh who actually carried one on a day-to-day basis–which goes to show that the religion is by no means monolithic at all on this matter. In the meantime, while Quebec’s law specifically says that it is permissible to wear a Star of David necklace pendant if it is small, the proposed law does seem a little unfair to devout Jewish people–but again, most Jewish people do not see a need to wear the kippa, and if this is the price that must be paid to keep out the Islamic headscarves, then so be it. My commitment is to the values of secularism and humanism.
Cabinet Minister Jason Kenney mused the other day that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms specifically allows for “freedom of religion,” not “freedom from religion.” Well, if that’s the case, then the Canadian Charter should be changed to allow for freedom of conscience in a pluralistic, secular society that values the rule of law and not the rules of stone age religions with their unfortunate tendencies to exclusivism, misogyny, and anachronistic grumpiness regarding relationships and human sexuality. It is far too easy for the federal parties to pander to the votes of the religious–still too numerous, sadly, due to the lack of critical thinking skills being taught in schools–by opposing Quebec’s well-thought-out response to difficult and trying times.
I never thought I’d say this when the Liberals were in power in Ottawa, but I very much miss having a Prime Minister from Quebec. It is with great sincerity, then, that I say–for the sakes of all in English Canada: Vive le Québec en Canada. We need less Stephen Harper and more Pauline Marois in Ottawa.