When John Horgan  swaggers up to the mike to declare that the Leap Manifesto– with its call to begin shifting our economy away from fossil fuels– will not proceed in BC “under my leadership” I hear much more than just his conviction that the  BC economy is so dependent on fossil fuel extraction that no matter what  the consequences to our children we have to continue drilling, shipping, burning. Yes, the issue is important of itself, but I hear what may be an even larger issue behind the assault on the Leap.

Behind the words I hear a pervasive attitude that reminds me of the news coming out of Philadelphia about the inner leadership of the Democratic Party and its conviction that what the members want is simply an obstacle to be overcome by the inner circle; even if that means using the party apparatus to act as a political arm of one candidate and rig the election.  Behind Horgan’s words about no place for the Leap Manifesto and its commitment to acting on climate change I hear a strong echo of the whole Democratic National Committee attitude that the party is about the inner circle and the inner circle only—well except that while the lowly membership is to have no say in the running of things, or the choosing of candidates, they are most welcome to send a cheque payable to the DNC or BCNDP whichever the appropriate body. Did John Horgan ask the membership what they thought of the Leap Manifesto? or acting on climate change? Hell no, he didn’t want to know.  Those crazy outsiders might want the NDP to care about the world we are leaving to our children, but their opinions don’t matter, BCNDP policy, like the DNC, is about the interests and values of a few insiders.

I was a member of the BCNDP Standing Committee on the Economy and Environment (SCOEE) when that committee put together a vision statement about the kinds of values that members wanted the BCNDP to represent.  That vision statement, Sustainable BC   ,began with a preamble identifying Sustainable BC as a vision for our province where dedication to the principles of sustainability secures for present and future generations the benefits of a healthy environment and a decent, just and sustainable society. It then goes on to identify five characteristics of policy that would flow from that dedication:  Environmental stewardship, A diversified economy, Equity in sharing the wealth, Individual and community well-being .  Has a Sanderisan kind of ring to it—doesn’t it?

Given wide spread membership support for Sustainable BC, in 2009 Sustainable BC was brought before the BCNDP provincial convention and unanimously adopted. Unfortunately the inner circle managed to stuff Sustainable BC and its principles onto a long forgotten shelf at the back of a very dark room.  Frustration with the obvious attempt to ignore the stated and voted on principles put forward by the membership motivated a new resolution in 2013 that went beyond adopting Sustainable BC and clearly instructed the party to put Sustainable BC into the party platform and policy as government; to no avail. While overwhelming support among party members clearly demonstrated a longing for leadership that would call them to a higher vision for their party and province, the Sustainable BC document seemed to have a tough row getting attention from a leadership that tended to be primarily focused on the inadequacies and failures of other leaders and parties. The inner circle didn’t like the document and perhaps liked even less the idea that the membership might actually have a say in the values the party runs and potentially governs on –horribly foreboding of what is going on in Philadelphia today.

My experience with running contrary to the wishes of the BCNDP inner circle makes it all too easy for me to recognize Horgan’s bumptious denunciation of the Leap Manifesto. Indeed I could easily have predicted such a response when I went to the BCNDP November 2015 convention and came away despondent as the words climate change had been entirely expunged from the speeches, discussions and resolutions. The mantra was jobs, jobs, jobs. The word green jobs was never spoken. To me Horgan’s stand on the Leap Manifesto is regrettable because it—once again– puts the BCNDP at odds with, and immune to, the wishes of its membership—and very likely the citizens of BC. It certainly rules out any connection with the province’s millennials who are keen on leaving a world to them that is worth inheriting.

So what is this Leap Manifesto that Horgan so adamantly opposes claiming  it “doesn’t reflect the values of British Columbians …(because) Our past and our future will be(sic) dependent on the development of natural resources.” The Leap Manifesto  , like Sustainable BC , is a powerful vision about what is possible when we put healthy people, with healthy jobs and healthy businesses on a healthy planet as our goal. The Leap was designed as and voted for as a discussion paper. It is most difficult to understand how it is that Horgan is so blinded by his opposition to action on climate change that he can’t understand the difference between a discussion paper and a policy document.

Contrary to Horgan’s view the Leap Manifesto doesn’t call for an immediate end to existing  fossil fuel development.  It does point to the disastrous impacts of fossil fuel extraction and burning on our atmosphere. It also recognizes that planning a future dependent  on fossil fuel extraction is planning for a economic dead end—a point not missed by such fossil fuel advocates as the Saudi government! Indeed The Leap points out  a path to a healthy atmosphere and a healthy economy—one relevant to the needs of the Twenty-First Century. It calls on us to shift away from fossil fuels so that Canada gets 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable resources within 20 years and is entirely weaned off fossil fuels by 2050.

Like the Sanders revolution in political value south of the 49th, the Leap is a multifaceted beginning to a much need public discussion about building a just, sustaining and sustainable world.

It’s interesting that Horgan and the inner circle just don’t understand how vulnerable their policy and platform is to the ever increasing/devastating/obvious impacts of climate change. With less than a year to the election, citizens of our province will be reacting to the ever more devastating news and ever more urgent call to act on climate change. The NDP, under Horgan’s hostility to the Leap Manifesto and its values, risks a devastating loss of political capital as it continues to be on the wrong side of history.

I would dearly love to be wrong about John Horgan and the values the NDP will be taking into the 2017 election.  I am very worried about being forced to choose between the corporate cronyism of the BC Liberals and the not much  better party. I am so worried that progressives will, once again, split over whether to vote for a not much better party that might just displace the failed vision of the Liberals or vote for a party like the Green Party that will—in a first past the post electoral system—simply ensure the return of Christy Clark and the BC bandits with—as Rafe Mair points out—‘their breathtaking incompetence, the massive debts they’ve  run up, the bankrupting of BC Hydro, the destruction of our rivers, the wreckage and folly that is Site C, and the colossal failure to understand where LNG is going.’

It is so utterly sad to hear a real progressive like Bernie Sanders calling for a political revolution to “transform politics” then to hear the voice of John Horgan who is supposed to represent progressive voices in BC so utterly lost in the counsel of the inner circle that he seems to see the very idea of progressive as some kind of fire that has to be stamped out.

My gosh, I wish this weren’t true. I so wish we had a real choice before us in the up coming provincial election. And to be fair, I have a good friend that believes strongly that the BCNDP values can still be changed and minds, even the inner circle, can be opened to talking with members about the values of Sustainable BC and the Leap Manifesto.  Wow, I wish I had that kind of optimism!

So I would very much like to see a response from those who think the BCNDP can change or even that it has a vision for a healthy planet with healthy people engaged in a healthy economy. And, also, I would be delighted to hear from anyone who sees a way that the BC Green Party could play a constructive role in electing a progressive government.

I am, personally,  looking for some hope of a positive choice in the May 2017 provincial election. And even more than that I am looking for a vision of how we can bring Sanders’ transformation in politics to BC.