The election campaign is officially here. The barbs have been flying for some time now, but I thought it worth it to go through each party platform, even though I will likely vote NDP, I still think it’s important to go through everything and pick out what I like, or really don’t, as much as i can, in each platform.
I will be going through the NDP, Liberal, and Green Party platforms. Obviously these are huge, fluffy documents full of accusations and counter-accusations and plenty of promises. I will only be addressing points that I think are actually noteable improvements and or differences in policy. There is a lot of overlap….
So. Today I’m going to analyze the platform of the BC NDP party (NDP site here).
“Ratings” in (bold).
A. TAX BREAKS TO SUPPORT BUSINESS AND CONSUMERS
Scrapping the gas tax. The NDP will scrap the tax, putting $1.8 billion back into the economy over the next three years. (NO!)
Ending privatization at BC Hydro to control rising rates. BC businesses and households face increased costs of hundreds of millions of dollars because of Gordon Campbell’s drive to privatize BC Hydro and new electric power sources. (YES!)
Holding the line on ferry rate hikes… a moratorium on the BC Liberals’ scheduled 2010 and 2011 fare increases pending a full review of the privatized corporation…the future direction for BC Ferries will be based on its importance as BC’s ‘marine highway’. (YES)
Scrapping the gas tax is ludicrous. It will rob the government of much needed revenue at a time of severe recession and if anyone actually counts up the pennies they would save at the pump will realise that it will do nothing to help people pay their bills. It also speaks to the NDPs counterproductive position on Climate Change and on putting a price on Carbon. Which must be done if we are ever to limit our consumption of fossil fuels and emissions of Greenhouse Gases from transportation. I have a feeling if they did repeal the tax, it would be back with 1-3 years anyway.
The promise to reinvigorate BC Hydro is, I think, on of the top 3 reasons to vote for the NDP. What has happened to BC Hydro over the past 8 years has been nothing short of tragic in terms of the effect on electricity rates in this province in the future… as well as the “in-house” knowledge and research on advanced technologies (like wave and tidal power) that was happening at BC Hydro and has since been completely abandoned.
Much the same can be said for BC Ferries. Rising prices due to rising gas prices are inevitable, what this speaks to though is that British Columbians will have to make a choice… either we have BC Ferries for large routes that attempt to pay for a portion of the small routes… or we have big bridges and small ferries. Either one will require subsidies and massive amounts of taxpayer money to be effective and affordable and keep Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and Queen Charlottes on the map economically.
B. NEW TRANSPORTATION AND TRANSIT INVESTMENTS
Expand passenger train service between Seattle and Vancouver. (Interesting?)
Make necessary capital investments in needed bus and transit options in Metro Vancouver to cut congestion and pollution. (YES)
Tune-up TransLink. The Campbell Liberals’ approach to TransLink has resulted in expensive privatization schemes, decisions made in secret and dictated by the Campbell government. The NDP will repeal Bill 43 to restore democratic control and public accountability to local government and taxpayers. (YES)
On the rail service… I’m not sure where this is coming from… but I will also support new investment in rail. What I do *not* see is any mention by the NDP of any improvements in transit OUTSIDE the lower mainland. Victoria, Central Vancouver Island, the Southern Interior… could all use more mass transit and real research into new ways of linking populations in BC. That’s not happening.
The 2nd point is vague… but I like it because it again emphasizes bus and transit over Single Occupancy Vehicles, and that is a must.
Translink has gone from a board of squabbling… but elected… mayors… to a bunch of unelected officials doing everything in private… that process must be reversed.
C. INVESTING IN JOBS, COMMUNITIES, LOCAL ECONOMIES AND FAMILIES
Establish a new retrofit program to ensure public facilities like hospitals and schools are energy
Establish new low-interest loan programs to help businesses and homeowners retrofit their homes and workplaces to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs. (YES)
Accelerate hospital construction and fund new community diagnostic and surgery clinics. (YES)
The first and 2nd are long overdue. Buildings are huge contributors to CO2 emissions due to heating and cooling requirements. We can’t tear everything down and start over… we must upgrade where it is too expensive to replace, and we need to start now. A new low-interest loan program for business and homeowners would be much appreciated and I would hope would be done in tandem with new incentives from people like BC Hydro, Terasen Gas, and others to encourage even more retrofitting, especially in these tough times when people need work.
The 3rd point, Hospital and diagnostic/surgery clinic, is imperative. We are still an aging population. I don’t believe this policy is much different from the Liberals in terms of platform, but I must point it out because the Liberals actual record, at least in my region, has been of closing more wards than are opened, and moving from public to private seniors care facilities. These are trends that must be reversed if our health care system is to have any hope of serving BC’ers.
D. INVEST IN PROGRAMS THAT CREATE WEALTH
Establish new local preference buying policies – Buy BC – to ensure BC small businesses, farmers and food processors, and local communities enjoy the economic benefits that flow from expenditure of provincial and local tax dollars. (YES)
This intrigues me. Not the predictable leftist protectionist talk… but rather, the mention of “farmers and food processors”. If you have been following my blog, you will know that I am quite convinced that rebuilding our local food production and distribution networks is essential to avoid the worst effects of global energy price shocks and ultimately energy decline… I hope this turns out to be a small step in that direction.
A FAIR SHARE FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES
Restoration of local autonomy. Carole James and the NDP will repeal the Significant Projects Streamlining Act, end Gordon Campbell’s requirement that all projects over $50 million be public- private partnerships, and restore local oversight of power generation. (YES)
Really… I have nothing to say about the above. It is reversing the terrible decisions and policies of the BC Liberal government.
A Green Plan for BC’s forests.
Expanded reforestation to address the massive “die-back” resulting from the pine beetle outbreak and the reforestation backlog created by the neglect of the Campbell government.
A strengthened Private Managed Forest Land Act to improve protection and management of watersheds, wildlife and public resources.
Restricting Raw Log Exports.
We have heard the promise of “expanded reforestation” before. From the BC Liberals. It never happened. Will the NDP deliver?
We must have better regulation of what happens on Private Forest Lands. This is crucial to forestry on Vancouver Island, where the former E&N land grants (fully 1/3 of the area of Vancouver Island) in the 19th Century are now biting us in the ass as giant companies remove their land from TFLs and revert back to private status, where forest practices regulations are far less stringent, export of logs is streamlined, and development is more profitable than maintaining the renewable resource or natural environment.
These policies are another top reason to vote NDP. Forestry is not a “sunset” industry, it’s simply an industry that has been heavily “offshored” and “free traded” out of BC. The resource is still being used, more than ever, and used badly. We must reverse that trend and refocus on our greatest natural resource in this province, one that could employ thousands if we made it so… and oh ya, it’s renewable.
C. INCREASING OPPORTUNITY IN BC’S AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY
This is the top reason, IMHO, to vote NDP.
Establishing a strong Buy BC and food security program building on the growing trend to buy food products that are locally produced, healthy, and linked to BC’s long-term food security needs.
Strengthening the ALR by making preservation of arable land the priority of the Agricultural Land Commission and by returning the Commission to full provincial status.
Renewing support and investment programs for food producers and processors. For years, the Campbell Liberals have cut supports and downgraded the services of the Ministry of Agriculture, hurting those industries and costing BC needed jobs.
Revitalizing and supporting food production:
• Expand school and consumer education programs to ensure British Columbians learn more about food production and food security issues.
• Restore services to help farmers get their products to markets.
• Support community agriculture, co-ops and farm organizations, including small scale farmers; expand community gardens and local farmers markets.
• Review the BC Liberals’ new Meat Inspection Regulation to support increased farm-gate sales, and ensure all producers and processors are treated fairly.
• Eliminate the BC Liberal gas tax that, in its first year alone, cost the agri-food sector $13 million.
• Review agriculture tax policy to foster investment and maintenance of productive agricultural lands.
Except for the last two (removing the gas/carbon tax)… this promised policy direction is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL. and must be a foundation of all parties platforms in the future. We will see if the Liberals or Greens will be able to match it. I don’t think the Liberals will, the Greens perhaps.
I am impressed at the emphasis on long term food-security, this at least suggests that someon in the NDP knows the challenges facing the world in the next decade. This is good.
Carole James and the NDP will create more affordable and accessible child care spaces for
• Capping fees.
• Improving recruitment and retention, and enhancing training of teachers and early
childhood education professionals.
• As finances permit, introducing all-day kindergarten for 5-year-olds and the accompanying
after school care. This will free up 10,000 spaces within existing group child care centres
and family child care providers.
• Creating targets and timelines to build an affordable, accessible, quality child care system.
I notice the caveat “as finances permit”. This tells me not to hold my breath that this would actually happen. And honestly, I believe the Liberals have promised the same thing in the past… this is not an issue that will make people decide, I don’t think, even though I am certainly one that would benefit from increased access and affordability of childcare.