Monday, April 29, 2013

Not Impressed with NDP Climate Motion Ploy

Today the NDP's environment critic used an opposition day to have the House of Commons vote on this motion:
“That this House: (a) agree with many Canadians and the International Energy Agency that there is grave concern with the impacts of a 2 degree rise in global average temperatures; (b) condemn the lack of effective action by successive federal governments since 1998 to address emissions and meet our Kyoto commitments; and (c) call on the government to immediately table its federal climate change adaptation plan.”
Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives, Liberals and sole Green Party MP Elizabeth May all voted against this motion.  Obviously the NDP didn't think for a second the Liberals were going to vote for a motion that condemns their own governments between 1998 and 2006 and Elizabeth May has objected on the obvious grounds that the motion only calls on the government to table an "adaptation plan" rather than an action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The NDP are quick out of the gate with items like this, grouping the Liberals and Conservatives together as is their wont.  I'm not impressed with the whole thing, it's beneath the NDP for one thing and speaking as a voter who could be persuaded to vote NDP instead of Liberal, this does nothing to inform me about actual, meaningful policy differences between the two parties on an issue I care deeply about, climate change.

I am all for the NDP finding ways to inform Canadians about important distinctions between themselves and the other left-of-centre parties so that when 2015 comes around they can fight for the largest share of that ~65% of the public that won't vote Conservative, but this doesn't seem helpful to that end.  It doesn't tell me any actual salient difference between the Greens, NDP and Liberals on the climate issue.    That both other parties have such obvious outs to vote against this motion makes it ineffective as a tool to prove that the NDP line on either the Greens or Liberals is accurate (the usual line being that both are effectively conservative parties and not true progressive institutions).

Lest I be accused of concern trolling, I'll say I really would like to know if Justin Trudeau would take meaningful action on the climate if elected in 2015.  I fear he won't, and would like it if the NDP finds ways to force him to take significant policy stands that allay or confirm that fear.  Asking him to have his party condemn the Chretien and Martin governments (much as they deserve condemnation on this file) isn't going to do that.  Ethics of the thing aside, if Trudeau had somehow had his party support this motion, the news coverage would be all about the meta-story of the Liberals voting to condemn their own past governments, not about the climate issue.

Maybe I'm not the target audience and this will be very effective at, well, tricking, less politically aware voters who have the environment as a top-of-mind issue and don't read past the headlines.  But it doesn't work on me, and strikes me as the stereotypical form of holier-than-thou progressivism that the NDP is often criticized for.   It's not the biggest deal in the world, just some petty political positioning and attack-ad fodder, but even describing it that way is to repeat that the NDP should be better than this.


  1. Much like FIPA eh? In an e mail to a friend, Miss May said this, regarding the NDP motion to 'just kill it'......'The Liberals are willing to let FIPA go through, so they can blame it on the Liberals. Of course she ment the motion to scrap the entire thing' which the NDP knew would never ever pass! Elizabeth also said in that e mail...that she was more than happy to vote with the Liberal motion, on amendment and consultation...something that MIGHT, have had a hope in hell of passing with a few angry Tory backbenchers who also don't like the current wording of this FIPA! Now THIS! Elizabeth votes against A CLIMATE CHANGE MOTION? Ahhhh!, but she explains it well...she says...... "predictably and tragically it reveals the real goal of the NDP opposition day motion: to make the Liberals look bad by writing a motion in a way the NDP knew the Liberals would vote against." She goes on to say in explaining WHY she voted against this climate change motion, and regarding the FIPA motion.... "The NDP did the same thing last week with the Canada-China Investment Treaty motion. It rejected Liberal attempts to amend the motion such that the Liberals could vote with the NDP. At least then, the motion was clear and I had no problem voting with the NDP, but I was furious that an issue as important as blocking ratification of the FIPA with China was sabotaged for the shortest term possible partisan gain." To this looks like the only ones playing games these days, are the NDP, and it is beginning to disgust me! Half truths, and partisan games, to make a few headlines and confuse Canadians is sickening!

    1. Wasn't aware of that incident, but yes, it seems like more of the same. I think this highlights the problem with the NDP's long term strategy of portraying the Liberals (and Greens) as basically the same as the Conservatives. The Liberals have plenty to criticize and embrace far too much neoliberalism, but it's obvious that they're not the same as the Conservatives, and so to try and make them act the same you need to engage in tactics like this.

      I'm reminded of the NDP's attempts to dig out from Jack Layton's grudging praise of Stephane Dion before he won the Liberal leadership - he said something like "Dion is a good man, and that's why he won't win." Then Dion did win, which really puts the whole Liberals=Conservatives who like Red thing in trouble, but the NDP seem to just soldier on as if that didn't happen, as if the Liberal party base didn't make a big point of rejecting Michael Ignatieff for leader by picking someone even Layton admitted was a good man.

      Really though I think there's plenty of ground on trade, taxes and labour issues to find real divisions with the Liberals that will provide contrast that shine favourably on the NDP. If they want to start doing that without using poison pill clauses to trigger the other parties to vote against something they might substantively be in favour of, I will sit up and pay a lot more attention.