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I'll Vote NDP in May

BC's stakes are so huge and lasting, change is a must.

By Rafe Mair 4 Aug 2008 | TheTyee.ca

Rafe Mair writes a Monday column for The Tyee and is a spokesperson for Save Our Rivers.

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Better than the 'autocrat' alternative.

I believe that the Campbell government is going to fall after the election next May.

Have I taken leave of my ever-diminishing senses? Maybe.

But maybe not, too.

Stick this on the fridge for the day after election day, when, I say confidently (I think!), the Campbell autocracy will be tossed out to the dismay of the toady Vancouver media and the pollsters who will, as usual, ask the wrong questions of the wrong people.

I must state my positions and prejudices. I am not supporting, nor have I ever supported, the NDP -- much less voted for them. For younger readers, I was a member of the Bill Bennett Socred government in the 70s and were I given the chance I would do it again. Of perhaps more importance, I'm spokesman for the Save Our Rivers Society and oppose with every ounce of strength in my aging body the autocrat's energy policy.

Premier Campbell's energy policy will see the end of B.C. Hydro and public power while wreaking irreversible environmental carnage. It will see the substantial profits of B.C. Hydro go not into the public coffers for schools and hospitals but into dividends for shareholders in offshore corporations.

I am scheduled to take the fight against this almost treasonous policy right around the province, demanding that the Campbell autocracy changes its policy and if it doesn't, asking people only to vote for a candidate who pledges to support public power and save the environment.

I firmly believe that the public, slow to anger, will have had enough of the continued policy of environmental rape and Fraser Institute/Milton Friedman/Ronald Reagan/Margaret Thatcherism, the ideology of which is to oppose Crown corporations.

I believe that the public, when its attention is engaged, will demonstrate that it likes and wants public power.

Campbell vs. James

But must demanding that a candidate support public power and our rivers mean supporting the NDP? It would seem so. Though the Liberals can avoid that conclusion by changing their policy.

The autocrat does have two things going for him: memories of NDP governments past and NDP leader current. Since the NDP is most unlikely to dump Carole James, the party will have to work around her, and hope that the manifest sins of the autocracy will mean that the New Democrats' leadership difficulties are overlooked. There is no doubt that the NDP task would be simplified if it had a strong leader but I believe the NDP can win even the way the cards have been dealt.

I believe that the Campbell autocracy's sins on the environmental front are so egregious that people will so badly want to save their glorious outdoors that they will vote for whoever pledges to save it.

Connecting regional fights

The environment has not been seen as a win/lose issue in the past. In fact, in the last federal election, the question was not raised once in the televised leaders' debates. I see it becoming the number one issue in May of 2009 for two reasons: the greenhouse gas issue, while confusing voters (and politicians for that matter), has focused our collective minds on other environmental issues, and that works to the great political discomfort of the autocrat and his henchpersons. It must also be emphatically stated that Campbell's plans to destroy river valleys releases huge quantities of greenhouse gases otherwise contained by the flora of the ravaged valleys.

For the first time, the environment issue is province wide.

The people in the northwest are outraged by the autocrat's power giveaways to Alcan at the expense of their jobs.

The Campbell government has lied for seven years on the fish-farm issue and as each day passes, the autocrat's nose lengthens.

The people of West Vancouver, usually staunch Liberals, had a belly full of the Campbell government's version of environmental protection as Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon showed utter disdain for the people's feelings for Eagleridge Bluff.

The people of Delta at large have seen the same Falcon show utter indifference to the dangers his Gateway Project poses to Burns Bog and other sensitive environmental areas. The autocrat would appear to not care a fig about destroying farmland or pouring yet more carbon monoxide from the huge increase of truck traffic into the lungs of residents.

The people of Tsawwassen have seen Campbell's indifference to the deadly transmission lines being erected over their houses, schools and playgrounds.

BC Hydro: political dynamite

And now the entire province is becoming aware, day after day, region after region, of the death of the province's rivers and streams, and the autocrat's slow but sure strangulation of B.C. Hydro and the death of the public power system envied the world over.

The voter sees clearly that the annual profit of B.C. Hydro, hundreds of millions per year that helped build our hospitals and schools, are about to go into the pockets of offshore shareholders of huge companies who invest a pittance to make billions upon billions of dollars. They see, or soon will, how the Campbell autocracy will change our public power policy, so that we will be compelled to sell our power to the United States forever.

The voter sees, or soon will see, how the autocrat's policies will inevitably lead to B.C. selling its water into the United States in ever increasing quantities for, after all, once we've destroyed our fish, why not?

The B.C. public has seen just how phoney and cynical the environmental assessment process is under the Campbell autocracy. They clearly see environmental rules are a farce directed by Cabinet wimps, noting that from the outset of this government, ministers responsible for the environment have been Campbell toadies.

Groundswell building

But the voter is seeing something else never seen before.

An aroused public from all sides of the political spectrum came together in Pitt Meadows and forced the autocracy to back down from desecrating the Pitt, that jewel of jewels, that nurturer of our many salmonids. When the public forces an autocracy to blink, it creates a heady brew which gives the public courage to unsheathe their swords again... and again.

Assuming that the Campbell government is not going to change its disastrous policies, we are all faced with a choice.

Do we permit Campbell to finish off his policies of destroying public power and permanently scar every nook and cranny of the province we love?

Or do we risk electing a new government, which, however incompetent they may prove to be, will preserve the public power system which has served us so well and also preserve our streams and rivers, including the ecosystems they create?

NDP worth the risk

Past NDP governments may have left their successors with financial problems, but none that couldn't be fixed. In fact, it could easily be argued that the Campbell government has been no better and arguably worse. The Glen Clark government had its fast ferries fiasco, but that fades into obscurity when we remember that Campbell & Co. have hopelessly mismanaged the new Vancouver Convention construction, the errors from which will cost much more than Glen Clark's fast ferries.

I must remind us all that Campbell all but gave away B.C. Rail, would like to give away B.C. Ferries and is about to give away hundreds of millions of dollars in hydro profits to large corporations.

You still may be asking: does demanding that candidates support public power and preserve our environment really mean voting for the NDP? Have people such short memories that they've forgotten the decade of misrule of the NDP in the '90s?

I look at this way. However inept NDP governments of the '90s were, we can at least be sure that whatever else they may do, they will abandon the idiotic policies of environmental destruction and huge giveaways.

A shattered environment and torpedoed B.C. Hydro can never be restored.

Surely our guiding principle must be this: if the government won't change, we must change the government.

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