NDP Environment

NDP Senses Changing Environment in the Polls

*Note: Post was edited Monday morning in light of details released in written platform.

As NDP leader Jack Layton is set to officially unveil his party's program here in Toronto today, what better time to take a look at the environmental platform?

It appears that Dion is worried about growing NDP support in Toronto and will be heading to Toronto as well to compete for support in this important battleground. Last week I took a look at the Liberal Green Shift and this week we'll see how the NDP plan stacks up.

While Layton seems to be focusing on his party as the only economically viable alternative to Harper's Conservatives, the environment has taken a bit of a surprising back seat role for the party this time around. He might benefit from Obama's performance in the presidential debates Friday night where it was stressed that a hands off approach to regulating industry and finance lead to the financial crisis hitting the US.

Let's loos at some key points in their ideas on environmental issues.

Give them credit for elaborating on some of their previously vague campaign promises. Although it still seems like on some points I'm left with more questions than answers. For example, "work cooperatively with all stakeholders towards meeting 35 percent of Canada's energy needs with renewable energy by 2020" is pretty easy to say and hard to discern actually meaning. Aside from the small issues raised, they have stuck to some main ideas:

Climate Change / Carbon Emissions
- NDP supports a cap-and-trade system where the government sets a limit on emissions in the country and industry buys and sells permits to stay in compliance. In this sense, it essentially achieves the same thing as a carbon tax (putting a price on carbon emissions). The limitwould be set at 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. But where does that leave us until then? Will they auction off permits? I'm left with too many questions. The Liberals and Greens have both come out with an actual price structure for their carbon taxes (please see a more detailed explanation of carbon tax versus cap-and-trade).
- It is emphasized that the NDP was responsible for pushing through the "Climate Change Accountability Act" adopted by Parliament in June 2008 as a precondition to passing the budget. The bill sets a target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, has already been passed, and making goals for 2050 doesn't mean much in my opinion.

- Propose a $3 billion per year green-collar jobs fund
- Introduce Canada Environment Action Bonds to raise capital for green goals
- Invest in greener homes, cities, and public transport with allocations of almost $1 billion per year
- Halt new tar sands development until emissions are capped (I guess they don't really get any Alberta votes anyway...)

I like that they make considerable mention of preserving our "natural heritage" (conservation lands) but here as well I'm not seeing much in the way of concrete ideas for how to this with words like "encourage" and "promote".

The NDP have the advantage of being able to point out their environmental record on past issues, which in fairness, is pretty good. For example, unlike the Conservatives, they spoke out against the use of bottom trawling fishing methods.

Locally, prominent NDP candidate Olivia Chow is participating in "The Vote Meets the Economy: The Toronto Candidates Debate" at CBC's Glenn Gould Studio next Tuesday (Oct. 7th) night at 7pm, where she will clash with panelists Bob Rae (Liberal), Peter Van Lo-wan (Tories) and Nick Capra (Green).

Take a look for yourself at the NDP party platform as presented on their website and be sure to check out the mp3 version of Jack Layton interviewed on TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paikin from last week.

Image from Iliall's photostream

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