Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Different Kind of Strategic Thinking

Only a week following the Ontario election, the political focus has shifted from Toronto back to Ottawa as Prime Minister Stephen Harper does his best to use Parliamentary strategy to bring his party the support and attention it can't get from its policies.

It's a shame that the simple assumption and maintenance of power on Parliament Hill has become the apparent raison' d'etre for the "grey" parties - and garners bigger headlines than real news about the planet's ecology and economy.

Even as 42% Ontario's voters complacently sent Dalton McGuinty's Liberal government back to Queen's Park for four more years of middle-of-the-road management, Australian climate change specialist Tim Flannery made the international news pages with his interpretations of the initial data just released by the International Panel on Climate Change. Flannery concluded that, based on the IPCC evidence, global warming is happening faster than scientists had expected.

Another international report issued last week showed that world economic growth has completely overwhelmed widespread attempts to reduce pollution. And now this week a new national report organized by several government agencies including Environment Canada shows that the same has been true for Canada.

Yet print headlines, editorial commentary and TV news stories in the past week have focused on Ontario's new February holiday and Prime Minister Harper's cynical jockeying for power with Liberal leader Stephane Dion.

The Green Party of Ontario's tripling of its popular vote has barely registered with the mass media. Nor has the Sharbot Lake area Algonquins' legal challenge to Ontario's Mining Act, nor the recent scientific research published in the respected journal Nature indicating that our atmosphere has become significantly more humid in recent years entirely due to increases in temperature as a result of industrial activity.

The biggest problem with the political game from the point of view of an ecologist is that while virtually everyone understands human interactions to some extent, hardly any of us understand our interactions with the rest of the natural world.

How much easier it was this past election for the Green Party of Ontario to get press for its single-public-education-system policy than to put its water policy, energy policy or agricultural policy onto the table. Everyone in Ontario has been to school - but how many of us have any idea how much energy, water or food we consume, let alone the complex biological and ecological transformations needed to bring those commodities to us?

The Mixed-Member Proportional system proposed by the Citizens' Assembly was recommended in part because it provides a way for those few people who understand ecology to have their voices count at Queen's Park. Sadly, it seems from the initial data on the referendum that people mainly voted for or against MMP solely on the basis of what benefit it would have for the party they supported. MMP passed the 60% approval mark only in Toronto ridings home to large numbers of NDP supporters, for example. One can imagine that Green supporters also voted in favour of MMP, while Liberal and Conservative supporters did not.

It would appear that holding the referendum in conjunction with the election promotes this kind of partisan approach to decision-making, which is utterly at odds with the intent of the reform. The Liberal strategists who recommended holding the referendum in conjuction with the election have proved themselves adept at manipulating the electorate, but at what cost?

Meanwhile, the PCs told their supporters outright not to vote in favour of MMP, mainly because the party hopes to benefit from the current system of disproportional representation at some future election. The irony here is that, if MMP had already been implemented, the PCs would have received more proportional seats than any other party given the results of last week's election.

There is a great need for strategic thinking in this time of global ecological crisis. Unfortunately, the kinds of strategy we need to adopt don't have anything to do with the manipulation of one another that we're so familar with, but with coming up with new and better ways to interact with our ecology so that we don't wear out our welcome on this earth in short order.

Thankfully, the Green Party of Canada's leadership understands this necessity clearly, and has come out strongly with its own version of strategic thinking to counter the Prime Minister's shallow Throne Speech. The "green vision" document, now available on the GPC website at, outlines some real strategic thinking directed at more than petty power games.

In the coming days I'll review the referendum in more detail, and also compare the innovative GPO and GPC policies with their Liberal and Conservative counterparts.


Wilf Day said...

"people mainly voted for or against MMP solely on the basis of what benefit it would have for the party they supported." This is seriously overstated. For example, in the nine northern ridings starting with Sudbury, MMP got fewer votes than the NDP + Green vote. The same was true in Shane Jolley's riding, and Caroline Law's, and several ridings like Welland, Oshawa, and in Hamilton.

Furthermore, 11 Liberal candidates (including 3 cabinet ministers and 3 other sitting MPPs) publicly endorsed MMP, and other supported it more quietly. Remember that, when they took office in 2003, they were saying "in the past 60 years we have been in power only five years." This was their chance to change the system that had been skewed against them. Some of them still haven't forgotten why they started it. Don't exclude them.

Cliff said...

I like "grey parties".
You might already have heard about these but I'm writing with good news from America. First, we have the health care issue solved: "I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room." (George Bush, July 10, 2007;
Second, the accelerating climate catastrophe is a top priority: ""This administration has done more for the environment and addressing energy security and climate change than any other in history."
(Martin McGuiness, special assistant to the President;
Time for some red, white and blue ideas!

Eric said...

Hey, you've got some great green ideas. There's a section of (idea database) dedicated to green ideas you might want to copy some of your ideas to.