Greens Vs. NDP: Who's Greener?

Posted on Monday, June 21 at 14:30 by Anonymous
by Joan Russow June 21, 2004 I left the Green Party because the German Greens, when in government, sacrificed principle for power, and the Mexican Greens, when in government, sacrificed policy for power. The German Greens sacrificed the Green Party principle of non-violence when they supported the invasion not only of Kosovo, but also of Afghanistan. The Mexican Greens sacrificed policy for power when they formed the government with the right wing PAN and abandoned their opposition to NAFTA. It became increasingly difficult for me to claim that the Green Party was more principled than other parties and that the Green Party, if elected, would stand by their principles and policy. As its former leader, I have become increasingly disappointed with the development of the Green Party of Canada and its loss of broader socialist concerns, its weakened opposition to militarism, its proposals for reduced government, and its “market-based” environmentalism. However, it was only after I was asked by the media to compare the Green Party platform with the NDP platform that I realized how much the platform has changed since I was the leader. Flexible policies and platform I joined the Green Party because I believed its policies were based on principles. Today, the party proposes “regional interpretation of values.” Worse, visitors to the Party's website can now vote on the platform by choosing a thumbs-up or thumbs-down icon, and a policy is deemed “endangered” and re-evaluated if support falls below 50 per cent. The Green Party had made firm commitments to universal day care, Pharmacare and a publicly-funded, not-for-profit, non two-tier health care system (while preventing environmentally-induced diseases and poverty-related health problems) — as has the NDP. Now, in the new Green Party platform there will be a referendum on day care and Pharmacare, and it could completely undermine medicare through its proposal of “respecting the right of provinces to opt out of federal and provincial initiatives without financial penalty.” Voluntary compliance While I was the leader of the Green Party of Canada, we advocated a strong mandatory regulatory regime to drive industry to comply with environmental standards. When I ran and won against Jim Harris for the leadership of the Green Party in 1997, I became concerned about his business of giving motivational talks to corporations. Now in the 2004 Green Party Platform, the Green Party is “Encourage [ing] ISO 14000 Certification — Achieving progress requires measuring performance. The Green Party will assist and encourage Canadian companies to attain ISO 14000 certification, the international standard for management.” Along with the WTO and so-called “free trade,” ISO 14000 is a centre-piece of the corporate agenda. It is the corporate scheme of voluntary compliance. In ISO 14000, polluters set their own environmental management objective, and the means to attain it — with no external evaluation. For example, one company claimed that it was reducing greenhouse gases by moving more towards civil nuclear energy. It is quite possible that Green Party candidates or the public may not realize the implications of what the party is supporting through its endorsement of ISO 14000. In the 2004 NDP election platform, the NDP makes a commitment to reverse years of government procrastination arising from collusion with corporations and their agenda of voluntary compliance. The NDP platform calls for “overhauling the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to reverse the current focus on voluntary action, and replace it with mandatory pollution prevention measures for corporations and institutions” and enforce the polluter-pay principle. Labelling of genetically engineered foods and crops In the 1997 and 2000 federal elections, while I was leader of the Green Party of Canada, we called for banning genetically engineered foods and crops, with a fair and just transition for farmers and communities affected by the conversion to organic or other ecologically-sound forms of farming. The Green Party 2004 platform is calling for only labelling: “Require the labelling of foods that are known to contain, or that might contain, genetically modified material.” Labelling does not address the environmental issue of genetic drift. Labelling doesn't address the equity issue either. Not everyone can buy organic food, and genetically engineered foods are being dumped on the poor and into developing countries. In addition, labelling does not address the democratic and economic issues: few citizens from Canada or the global community want genetically engineered foods and crops. The NDP policy is stronger because it calls for a moratorium on any new releases. Taxing the baddies, not the goodies I have always been concerned about the appetite in the Green Party for “green taxes” which are best summarized by the Ontario Greens' proposal of “taxing the baddies not the goodies.” It's time that the notion of “green taxes” be examined. To some extent, green taxes, if implemented, would give a license to pollute and would undermine strong regulatory regimes. In addition, green taxes are usually linked to promises of reduced income taxes. The problem is that green taxation undermines the principle of a “progressive” tax regime which re-distributes wealth from the rich, who pay a higher rate, to the poor. The use of “green taxes” is a market-based approach rather than a principle-based approach. Neither left nor right When I was the Green Party leader, I cringed when some members would proclaim that they “were neither left nor right but straight ahead.” This claim is now proudly stated on the Green Party's website. I am increasingly concerned about the Green Party's denial of the left. I worked so hard, with others, to try to establish the Green Party as a progressive party on the left. When NDP leader Jack Layton was recently in B.C. talking about social justice, Andrew Lewis, the deputy leader of the Greens, was quoted as stating that Layton's speech was only “socialist rhetoric.” Humanitarian intervention and green militarism In 1997 and 2000, the Green Party I led called for the relocation of 50 per cent of the federal military budget into health care and higher education, and for at least a 50 per cent reduction of the global military budget — the peace dividend — into global social justice. Today's Green Party proposes to maintain a “rapid response and deployment force capable of supporting humanitarian, environmental and peace-keeping missions.” Humanitarian intervention, however, has been used to legitimize military intervention. I have joined the NDP because I think that the NDP is revitalized. The NDP has made a firm commitment to re-introduce MP Lorne Nystrom's bill which proposes some form of mixed proportional representation. Jack Layton has promised that a commitment to some form of proportional representation will be a minimum prerequisite for NDP support or a minority government. It is in the interests of the Green Party to support the NDP at this time. Unfortunately, in many key ridings the NDP may lose because of the Green vote. The promising option of progressives holding the balance of power in a minority government becomes less likely. The implications in this election are serious, particularly for issues of militarism. In the U.S., the Green Party appears to have taken a stand not to endorse Ralph Nader because they realize the implications of George W. Bush's re-election. Joan Russow (PhD), former leader of the Green Party of Canada wrote this in collaboration with David White, former chair of the Green Party of British Columbia.

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