The Green Party of Canada responded almost immediately to Murray Dobbin's anti-Green hatchet job published in the Globe and Mail. (Not a mean feat considering the Green Party is not rolling in corporate or union money, and has a leader who still has to work for a living).
It should also be noted that Murray Dobbin is not a disinterested observer, but in fact a founding member of the New Policy Intiative that tried to transform the New Democratic Party (NDP). Nowhere in his article does Dobbin disclose this fact, showing himself to be an unethical journalist on a par with the corporate flunkies of the Fraser Institute.
Mr. Dobbin's statements are in blockquotes, the Green Party rebuttal follows below.
The Greens are right, right?
By MURRAY DOBBIN
Globe and Mail Update
It is intriguing to watch the coverage of the Green Party in the federal election because the conventional wisdom -- that it will take votes from the NDP -- is confounded by the party's actual policies.
Reply : Reality: the NDP are borrowing planks from our platform and calling us “right wing” at the same time – nice trick – if you are a hypocrite.
While the analysis is likely correct, a look at Green policies reveals that this party is really a Conservative alternative, not a social democratic one.
Reply: Reality: “Social Democratic” and “Grassroots Democracy” are probably not the same thing, by most people’s understanding – so we agree.
Its fiscal, economic and even environmental policies would be a near perfect fit for the old Progressive Conservative party.
Reply: Reality: We might like to think so, but truthfully, our policies on democratic reform, gay marriage, and foreign policy are probably too progressive for Joe Clark, let alone Brian Mulroney.
In fact, the Greens are led by a former Tory, Jim Harris, and under his direction have become the quintessential small government, pro-market party.
Reply: Reality: Anybody who worked on the platform knows that Jim had nothing to do with our platform. The only thing Jim did in the platform process was draft the leader’s message after the rest was complete, he was far too busy drafting candidates and drumming up support to worry about the platform.
Their social analysis says virtually nothing about the structural
causes of poverty, and their solutions borrow from both the former PCs and the Alliance.
Reply: Reality: This is pretty much just a lie. Greens always think back to “root causes”, and perhaps farther back than leftists do. On page nine of our platform we say:
Health care costs are rising rapidly. What is making people sick?
Most of a child’s intellectual development happens before the age of six. Why are we spending most of our education dollars only after they turn eighteen?
Families are increasingly dealing with both parents working outside of the home. What are the long-term consequences if mothers and fathers don’t have enough time to spend with their children?
On page 12:
The Green Party is committed to addressing the issues that determine good health — such as safe housing, nutritious food, rewarding jobs, a clean environment and a healthy self-image.
Sounds pretty much like addressing the structural causes to me. If you listen to what we are actually saying in the platform, the Green Party is Socially Progressive while being Fiscally Conservative precisely because we think long term and enact policies to problems before they become really expensive to fix.
They talk about how a Green government would "enhance the existing network of . . . school nutrition . . . and food-bank programs . .." to eliminate hunger in Canada. Those who study poverty with a view to ending it see food banks not as a solution, but as a symbol of everything that is wrong with the way governments approach poverty.
Reply: Reality: On page 22 of our platform we make what is probably our boldest promise:
Ensure — within five years — that no Canadian will suffer from hunger or malnutrition.
We’re not talking just about food banks here, we are talking nationwide strategy to get healthy food on our tables, as a fundamental right of being Canadian. Food banks are certainly a part of the strategy, but so are grocery rebates, farmers markets and community gardens. The NDP is softer on this than the Green Party is.
The Green Party is also highly aware of how empowerment is the most important issue in fighting poverty. This is the essence of our “do less, help more” strategy – government should create empowerment, rather than dependence. [I think this is a great idea -- no more poverty pimps.]
The party is committed to smaller government in a way that no other party is, except the new Conservatives.
Reply: Reality: This is obviously not true. Smaller government, by definition, is less revenues and less spending. The Green Party’s platform clearly increases both. We are committed to smarter government, and more democratic government. In our first press conference aired nationwide we said that we would hold a referendum to see if Canadians wanted bigger government or not. If he had said we were committed to decentralization - then yes, we are the most committed to that -- but he didn’t say decentralization (because most people think it is a good idea).
With respect to the devastated federal public service -- characterized by massive downsizing, unprecedented stress levels, completely inadequate staffing to carry out department mandates and years without real increases in pay -- the Green Party has a single response, and it sounds a lot like Stephen Harper's: "Reform the public sector to be more responsive and accountable." This is union busting by another name, and seems to promise the continuation of the right-wing assault on government employees. If you want the public service to be "responsive," the logical solution is to return it to functional staffing levels.
Reply: Reality: Our platform on governance says we would “flatten hierarchies and empower front line civil servants” because we know they are stressed and deal with way too much bureaucratic BS, political BS and yes, union BS. The federal government has probably the most talented workforce in Canada, paired sadly with some of the worst management. Is the NDP going to straighten out that problem? Not likely. Our governance policies were suggested by real civil servants who work for the Federal government.
The Greens' fiscal policies are among their most reactionary and problematic. They toe the Bay Street line by promising to "lower taxes on income, profit and investment, to promote increased productivity and job creation."
Reply: Reality: a quotation grossly out of context. If he had quoted the rest of the sentence which said “ . . . while raising taxes on pollution waste and inefficiency” (page 38. Green Economics) it would have completely changed the meaning, and the attitude of most Bay Street executives. The NDP has hardly a clue about Green Economics, but they were worried enough about it to put a small mention of “tax shifting” in their platform (page 21) - just enough to justify ripping off our whole Green Economics policy in case they got desperate.
As for addressing the problem of chronically high unemployment, the party takes a page out of Paul Martin's book of maintaining extremely low inflation -- Greens will still fight inflation by putting people out of work unless unemployment rises above 10 per cent. These policies have been notable failures for the past 15 years -- lowering wages, increasing the productivity gap with the United States and creating mostly low-wage jobs -- and certainly have no place in the platform of a party that pitches its appeals to social democrats.
Reply: Reality: this is not only fuzzy economic thinking, but another purely malicious distortion of what we actually say. The economic reality is that slowing inflation hurts, accelerating it is fun (until you hyperinflate, at which point you have a total economic disaster.) Keeping inflation stable is a healthy environment for investment -and- jobs, which is what we’ve had in Canada since 1994. The fact that we say there are cases in which we would trade higher inflation for lower unemployment would bar the Green Party from any Monetarists convention. It would be impossible for Dobbin to find this quote and not read that which immediately preceded it:
Price stability is good for the economy, but not the only good thing. Lowering unemployment will also have positive long term consequences; they are not as easily measured but fundamentally more important for the well being of real Canadians. The Green Party will advise the governors of the Bank of Canada to walk a mile with the homeless and unemployed before making their next important decision.
This line could have easily come from Linda McQuaig, Canada’s foremost leftist critic of monetary policy.
Any increase in revenue from promised Green taxes on "harmful activities" would be neutralized by lowering income taxes, the most progressive and fair taxes we have. The Greens also call for an increase in property taxes, a regressive tax. They are committed to using surpluses to ". . . reduce the national debt." In other words, the party is to the right of all the major parties, which are now committing billions for spending on social programs that Canadians say they want.
Reply: Reality: Okay, now Dobbin contradicts what he said earlier by actually looking at both sides of the tax shift, and is still wrong. A tax on gasoline is quite probably more progressive than our current income tax system, due to the tendency of wealthy people to drive more cars, bigger cars, commute longer distances. Our commitment to lower only the lowest bracket means that this tax cut is going to be shared pretty much evenly across the board (unless your income is so low that you pay no taxes at all, in which case you probably aren’t driving a car either.)
One of the most remarkable aspects of the Green platform is the lack of any commitment to using government legislation or regulation to accomplish core environmental goals.
Reply: Reality: We clearly state that we will legislate and regulate when necessary in our industry policy on the website, as step four in our four step process. The whole point of Green economics though, is that you don’t need to regulate if you get the full cost of the product with taxes.
Here are just a few examples: "The Green Party will: Empower [bioregional] stewards to seek intervenor status in legal actions that impact the health of the ecosystem; . . . work with local environmental groups to reduce pollution levels in the air, water and soil; promote sustainability through education; and monitor the diversity of species, the levels of pollution and the health of the ecosystem. "These are not the actions of a government committed to using its mandated power to actually protect the environment.
Reply: Right, these are the actions of a citizens movement that knows, given the right tools, that citizens can do more for the environment than government (even a Green one) ever will.
The party also supports the corporate sector's position on self-regulation: "The Green Party will assist and encourage Canadian companies to attain ISO 14000 certification, the international standard for management." The ISO 14000 has been almost universally condemned by the international environmental movement as ineffective and unreliable.
Reply: Reality: The only problem with voluntary measures in general, is the way governments use them as excuses not to regulate rather than steps on the way to stronger and smarter regulatory standards. If the government makes a credible threat to regulate, industries will usually self-regulate first, find the most economical means of achieving the target required, and save the government time and money.
Those Canadians thinking of voting Green because they believe it is progressive had better do their homework. There is more to this party than the user-friendly name would suggest.
Reply: Reality: There is nothing we would welcome more, people have been responding very positively to the Green Party platform. The results of feedback in our rank-a-plank system give “A” grades to about 80% of our ideas, and only one idea in over a hundred has less than 50% support.
Murray Dobbin is author of Paul Martin: CEO for Canada?
Reply: Reality: And a journalist with questionable standards for what constitutes ethical journalism.
Some Good Weblinks about propaganda:
Link to rebuttal on Green Party Website
[Editors note, a fine rebuttal, but I changed all the bold in the article to block quotes. Easier on the eyes. Dr C.]
Link to rebuttal on Gre...