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Election 2019: Vote NDP, fight for the planet

October 8, 2019


The massive turnout across Canada for the Student Strike for the Planet has put two things in sharp perspective..

First, it has made climate change the central issue of this election. 

Second, it is a refreshing reminder that democracy is not restricted to electoral channels. What happens when ordinary people organize on the streets can be more important than what happens at the ballot box. 

We are taught that our democratic input begins and ends with periodic elections. Figures like Greta Thunberg put the lie to such ideas.

We witnessed the odd spectacle of Justin Trudeau joining the Montreal climate demonstration that was protesting his own government’s policies. He got the raucous reception he deserved, but he was over a barrel (pun intended). If he and his Liberal candidates had avoided rallies and protests, like the Tories did, they would have been pilloried. But most protesters know that the government’s climate plan is woefully inadequate.

Trudeau’s Liberals reject the central slogan of the climate movement–“system change not climate change”. Rather than confront the roots of the crisis, they want to fiddle with a few of the details. Their championing of the Carbon Tax (as opposed to making fossil fuel corporations pay the cost of carbon destruction) shows they are wedded to the fallacy that capitalism can solve the problems capitalism creates.

The crowning absurdity was Trudeau using public money to buy the Trans-Mountain pipeline. Selling tar sands bitumen to make money to stop selling tar sands bitumen makes no sense to anyone but Bay Street businesses.

Trudeau’s campaign, which has been marred by disturbing reminders of the casual, systemic racism endemic in the Canadian colonial state, is based in the idea that the economy is doing well. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

More than 1 million Canadians have more than one job. In August, more than 80,000 jobs opened up–but most of those were low-wage part-time jobs. Meanwhile, 53% of Canadians live from paycheck to paycheck.

Trudeau has always talked big about reconciliation with Indigenous people. Four year later, he has ignored their concerns over pipeline projects on their unceded territory, he has failed to act to clean up the poisoned community of Grassy Narrows, and has refused to pay child welfare costs in Indigenous communities on par with settler kids.

As for the Tories, it is discouraging that they remain as popular as they are. Andrew Scheer’s plan, such as it is, can be summed up in two points: 1) tax cuts, which will overwhelmingly benefit the rich; 2) cut and privatize services, which will overwhelmingly punish the poorest and most vulnerable.

Many people are turning to Elizabeth May’s Green Party for the first time, under the mistaken impression they are a “progressive” alternative. But May’s “green” solution to tar sands and pipeline issues is to refine the fossil fuels in Alberta and keep pumping them out. In essence, they argue the same twisted logic of the Liberals – that Capitalism can be reformed and “greened”.

That leaves Jagmeet Singh and the NDP. Yes, the NDP stops far short of offering the “system change” we need, but their platform is the best on offer (and better than previous NDP campaigns).

Where the Liberals offer incentives for individuals to buy homes, the NDP pledges $5 billion to build affordable public housing. Where Liberals promise to “take steps” to create a national pharmacare program, the NDP would create one in the first year. The Liberals have nothing to say to low-paid workers, but the NDP would raise the minimum wage to $15 immediately and promises to create 300,000 new jobs through green initiatives.

All that would be funded by a tax on the “super rich” which would raise $70 billion over 10 years.

Unfortunately Singh comes up just short on the question of pipelines. He says provinces should have the right to veto pipeline projects in their jurisdiction. Meanwhile, he continues to back BC’s LNG projects and pipelines.

But even without these promises, the NDP remains the only party that is not directly in the employ of the corporate class. That alone should be enough to earn them your vote.

But this time around there is another factor: Jagmeet Singh is Canada’s first racialized party leader. Some NDP supporters argue that we “aren’t ready” for a turban-wearing PM. Whether you support the NDP or not, that sort of “I’m not racist, but…” billlshit has to be challenged at every turn.

Singh has revealed himself to be the most thoughtful, intelligent and empathetic of the candidates, deftly steering the “blackface” scandal from an attack on individual behaviour to a discussion about institutionalized racism.

Whoever you vote for on October 21 – our new leaders will and should be the brilliant young people who are fighting to save the planet. That is where the real democracy is, the fight for system change not climate change.

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