Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Orange and the Green

When provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath announced this summer that her party wanted to reduce the HST on gasoline, I must say I raised an eyebrow. After all, the NDP is supposed to be (among many other things) an environmentally friendly party, and conventional environmental wisdom states that high gas taxes are an effective way to reduce consumption.

Now, it's one thing to argue against that premise, and certainly many have done just that. But to completely ignore the environmental implications of cutting an energy consumption tax and just drop it straight into the 'saving taxpayers money' file seems a little... well, un-NDPlike.

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so. 

NDP losing its green allies

In a stinging letter to Horwath, circulated to members of a green coalition, Environmental Defence executive director Rick Smith complained that her party had lost its way:

“Some of your existing policy positions are not in the best interest of environmental or human health protection,” Smith wrote last month.

“How can any party that claims to be concerned about global warming advocate de facto subsidies for buying oil and gas. This is absolutely the wrong direction.”

Significantly, Smith is a former chief of staff to the late federal NDP leader, Jack Layton, who made environmentalism a cornerstone of his campaigns in a way that Ontario New Democrats have not. The party’s former research director, Hugh Mackenzie, has also condemned its recent positions.


The article also calls into question Horwath's delicate dance around the issue of wind turbines, in which she seeks to simultaneously avoid offending either her green allies or her sizeable rural constituency without tying herself in a knot and falling off the stage.

I'm sure some political operative is telling them that this is the best way to capitalize on the perceived momentum from their federal cousins. And maybe they're right. But if the provincial NDP really wants to bask in the orange afterglow from Jack Layton's passage, they might want to try adopting his principles and his strength of resolve instead of emulating his opponents' political flexibility.

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