I dare say that if I were to hand you two articles on climate change and what we should/could/can’t do about it; one by former NDP strategist Bill Tieleman and the other by BC Liberal promoter Tom Fletcher; with the authorship redacted—you’d be very hard put to tell, by the arguments presented, which was cowboy Tom riding high on fumes of Exxon-Mobil climate change denying propaganda and which was Wild Bill quixotically spurring on the exhausted steed of climate action impotence.
What has Bill’s knickers in a knot this week is a- post on The Tyee by the new national director of the New Democrats suggesting the Leap Manifesto is not a “radical document” and could be the opening for the NDP to reach out to the kind of young people and activists that so energized the Bernie Sanders campaign in the United States.
Bill doesn’t want that—any reaching out to activists—labeling the Leap Manifesto a “Trojan Horse” that, once inside the gate would destroy the party’s chance of any kind of electoral success for a very long time. What he most upset about is the smallest hint of a shift to the left. He suggests that The Leap would, indeed, be a leap from a very high place to very rocky low place, inflicting a near mortal—if not mortal—blow to the NDP.
What is amazing about Wild Bill’s huffing and puffing about Leaping from a very high place to a very low place is—my gosh Bill better get off his high horse and have a look around—the NDP are, most definitely, not in a high place. What’s he puffing these days? Doesn’t he know that stuff that loosens your tongue and makes your eyeballs spin won’t be legal for a year yet? High place? Has he been away and out of touch since October 19? The NDP are not in a high place. Following the advice of pundits like Tieleman with their don’t stand out, don’t stand up, don’t be different the NDP federally went from government in waiting to the back benches. Unable to stand up, they have had to sit and watch their electoral support sink to under 15% of Canadian electors. Contributions by individuals, which is the backbone of NDP fundraising has sunk to new lows. Tieleman’s talk of “a high place” has much more to do with whatever it is he is smoking than with any kind of NDP electoral position. It seems Trudeau ran on what could have been the NDP platform and won while the NDP ran out of anything meaningful to say and lost.
And it is not just the Federal NDP that is struggling under the Tieleman-styled yoke of ‘Vote for us; We’ll do slightly ‘Better’ than the party in office. In the last BC election Adrian Dix was able to turn a slam dunk into fumbled opportunity to form a BC NDP government by running a “Better”campaign on assuring voters that the NDP really isn’t much different than any other party. Given a choice between Liberals and quasi-liberals, the electorate opted for the real thing.
My gosh, this inability to stand up and stand out may be playing itself out with tragic consequences for all of us as voters are flocking away from the idea of voting for Hillary because she is so tied to the status quo that she simply cannot convince voters that she stands for anything other than more of the same. Yes, they know Trump would be awful, but the polls are saying there may be a lot of people more interested in The Simpsons than in the election on November 8.
While Tieleman’s post was ostensibly about The Leap Manifesto and the fortunes of the NDP, arguments about the fate of the NDP were really little more than Tieleman’s Trojan Horse for yet another opportunity to sell his brand of you can’t do anything about climate change so why bother.
I was going to go over Wild Bill’s arguments for climate change inaction and debunk them one by one but it really comes down to a one move check mate. While Bill whines on and on about how this can’t be done and that will break the economy and another action will spike the unemployment roll. From a cosmological point of view it is interesting to see Bill smoking his socks over the cost of clean energy while willfully blind to the cost of cooking our planet. But the one move check mate to all Bill’s whining about the cost and difficulty of climate action is Germany is already doing it!
Climate change doesn’t much motivate the likes of Tieleman and Fletcher but in a recent letter to the American electorate 375 top American scientists expressed “great concern” over those who deny climate change or advocate inaction. These scientists argue climate change is a “real, serious, and immediate” threat that calls us to bold actions. “Human-caused climate change is not something far removed from our day-to-day experience, affecting only the remote Arctic. It is present here and now, in our own country, in our own states, and in our own communities”…and could be bringing us to very dangerous “tipping points.”
I completely disagree with Tieleman. The Leap Manifesto, with its commitment to meaningful action on climate change, is not a Trojan Horse to doom for the NDP. It is, indeed, a beacon pointing to a future where dedication to the principles of sustainability secures for present and future generations the benefits of a healthy environment and a decent, just and sustaining society. It is a chance for the NDP to stand up and stand out. It (the Leap Manifesto) is not, as Tieleman suggests, a policy statement or platform to be swallowed whole or spurned; it is a discussion paper. It is a chance for Canadians to talk together about what really matters. It is a chance for the NDP to reconnect to the progressive values and the wonderful Canadian people that it was supposed to represent.