Opinion Column

Environmental strategy a balancing act for BC NDP

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

BC NDP leadership candidate Mike Farnworth. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

BC NDP leadership candidate Mike Farnworth. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

"What has been missing from the NDP caucus is a strong environmental presence" — former BC NDP MLA Harold Steves

The fundamental problem facing the BC NDP is simple to state and hard to solve: going green has browned off key voters needed to form government.

And with veteran Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth announcing his leadership candidacy Sunday, he and likely competitor — Juan du Fuca MLA John Horgan — have to address a growing split in the party that comes back again to jobs versus environment.

Environment-minded New Democrats say you can protect the environment and create jobs too, like going to heaven without dying.

But if they really mean rejecting oil and gas pipelines and projects, ditching the Site C BC Hydro dam proposal, kiboshing mining and exports, fighting fracking for liquefied natural gas and preserving forests from logging, then the BC NDP is doomed to an extended stay in opposition.

B.C. won’t prosper if its main industries are tourism, film and high tech alone, valuable though they are.

Corporate and workers’ taxes from the resource sector help pay for teachers, doctors, nurses, hospitals, as well as municipal and provincial government workers.

Farnworth and Horgan seem to recognize that BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix’s decision to reverse policy and oppose the proposed Kinder Morgan oil pipeline in last year’s election was a big mistake that cost the party key suburban and rural ridings the BC Liberals won.

But for some green BC NDP activists, opposing Kinder Morgan doesn’t go nearly far enough.

“What has been missing from the NDP caucus is a strong environmental presence,” respected ex-BC NDP MLA Harold Steves said in Sept. 2013.

And environmentalists Ben West of Forest Ethics and Tzeporah Berman immediately endorsed Dix on Kinder Morgan, but after the election ungraciously criticized him for not “selling it” well enough.

The uncomfortable truth is that environmentalists’ huge pressure on the BC NDP to go greener has not resulted in a delivery of votes to win power — and arguably cost it the last election, while the Green Party vote share dropped from 9.18% in 2005 to 8.13% in 2013.

If the BC NDP doesn’t find the appropriate balance between protecting the environment and supporting the province’s critical natural resource sector, the 2017 election may not even be close.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read more at billtieleman.blogspot.com Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman 



Should the BC NDP go more green or less green?

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