Friday, January 12, 2007

Thoughts on Politics

In very broad terms, I have come to think of myself as “socially progressive” yet “fiscally conservative.” It is important from the outset to explain what I mean by these terms.

I expect my understanding of “socially progressive” fits the norm. I enjoy our pluralistic society. I seek inclusivity and don’t react well to divisive “us versus them” politics. I look for what brings us together, our common interests, not what keeps us apart. I celebrate individual uniqueness, while embracing all that we share in our various communities. I may bristle at times, however, when I find myself in the midst of too much “political correctness”. We need to know when to lighten up. I have never been a practicing Christian, but am not offended by the greeting of “Merry Christmas”. It is a greeting of good wishes and a well intended, pleasant social custom. Although usually I am not one to say it, I accept it in the spirit it is given.

My understanding of “fiscal conservatism” however, may differ from the mainstream. Most people seem to view it as spending the least amount of money, every year, and do whatever it takes to avoid a tax increase or any other expenditure. To me, it means spending the correct amount of money today, and every day, to ensure that in the long term we spend the least amount of money. I have made several presentations to Ottawa City Council on this theme.

It means long term cost effective planning. It means seeking the long term efficient ways of doing things. It means fully accounting for all of the costs. Unfortunately, we have done very little in our society to capture the environmental costs of what we do. That is a failure to think long term for which future generations will pay big time.

So, where does this put me politically? How have I voted? Much to the chagrin of many of my friends, I have usually voted for the Liberal Party here in Canada. Ever since the social conservatives took control of the Conservative Party of Canada, I have found them increasingly distasteful. Too often they focus on what separates us, instead of what brings us together.

The New Democrats on the other hand also rarely got my vote. I simply viewed them as too attached to big labour. I have found big labour to be more concerned with “jobs, jobs, jobs,” rather than the consequences those jobs. For example, in January, 2007 “the NDP Leader was taken to task this week in a letter from Buzz Hargrove, head of the Canadian Auto Workers union, who said Mr. Layton’s call for regulations that would require more environmentally friendly cars will kill jobs.”(Globe & Mail) Yes, the New Dems can generally be considered “socially progressive”, but often they want to spend money first and ask how we are going to pay for it later. (Ow! That should jab some of my friends.) Oh, I know they mean well, but, it often seems like too much old style thinking.

So, that left me with the Liberal Party as the place I usually parked my vote. That is, until the last federal election, when they had to be spanked severely. They had become way to used to being in power. They remained in office for those three consecutive majority terms not because Chretien was such a great leader, but because the opposition kept imploding before their eyes.

Therefore, in the winter election of 2006 I voted for the Green Party for the first time. This choice came out of my emerging environmental concerns. They began to appeal to me as a party of principal. A party that presented their platform not to seek power, but to convince the electorate of the value of their ideas. I expect this will change moving forward, but for now, they want other parties to incorporate their policies. They don’t seem as concerned with who enacts them as with the need for action.

I am convinced that the environmental file is one we cannot get wrong. At this time I believe the Green Party is the best place for me to learn and put energy into shaping public opinion. We are now witnessing all of the other parties painting themselves green in one way or another. However, they will compromise because they seek power.

The New Democrats will have to compromise their green principals to incorporate big labor who, amongst other things, wants to protect the automobile industry. To me, automobiles drive, literally and figuratively, much of the environmental problems we face. If everyone used public transport instead of individual automobiles, there would be no fighting for oil, no congestion. We would have more dense, livable cities.

The Conservatives and Liberals will both be seeking power and are driven by the need to keep the corporate world happy. They are very reluctant to express controversial ideas that would alienate big business. I happen to believe that we need to move toward a SteadyState economy, one that moves away from praying at the altar of growth. I expect it will be a long time before either of those parties embrace such a concept.

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