National coalition could face up to climate change threat

Coalition of the "intelligent" needs to act now

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VANCOUVER, BC, Apr 5, 2015/ Troy Media/ -If ever an issue was created to tax the human capacity for collaborative action, climate change is it. And if ever there was a more appropriate time for a coalition of the intelligent to act, now is the moment.

“Intelligent” in this context is a carefully chosen word, and can only mean rational people of science – those who have moved on from ideological and/or faith-based opposition to a full-on understanding of the biggest issue facing the biosphere and humanity. These people have read, observed and listened enough to grasp the essence of the problem.

Political parties must declare climate change platforms

They are arguably just beginning to form the majority in societies around the world. In the October 2015 federal election, Canadians will have their first real opportunity to vote for a federal government that shares their epiphany.

As the voting date approaches, it will become increasingly important for the federal political parties and their candidates to declare their climate change platforms, to explain their understanding of the science, and to issue calls for action. Parties that have weak or non-existent climate change platforms, that deny the primacy of science in their creation, and that fail to embrace the calls for action with practical policies and programs, will be clearly exposed.

Liberals, NDP and Greens need to get their act together

Unfortunately, in Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral regime, it is possible for a party with 39 per cent of the votes cast to form a plurality majority government. This leaves 61 per cent of Canadians, the true numeric majority with a government not of their choice. Proportional representation allocates seats in parliament in direct proportion to votes cast. This system, popular in Europe, often requires the formation of coalition governments and it can result in innovative pairings of power. For instance, in Germany between 1998 and 2005, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) formed a coalition with the much smaller German Green Party.

Could such a progressive coalition be formed in Canada? Absolutely. In fact, there are historic precedents, both pre- and post-Confederation to follow. In the period 1864 – 1867, several coalition governments ruled the fractious French and English regimes of Lower and Upper Canada. The so-called “Great Coalition” led to the Colony embracing Confederation.

Since Confederation, a coalition ruled from 1917 to 1920, when the federal government had to reconcile the vexing issue of conscription. Citizens in opposition to forced participation in the Great War resented fighting what they saw and characterized as a British foreign war. Prime Minister Robert Borden, a Conservative, invited the opposition Liberal and Independent members of Parliament to form a coalition to resolve the issue. Wilfrid Laurier, then leader of the Liberals, initially refused the offer, but a caucus revolt made him reconsider. Conscription was finally embraced, and the coalition survived until after the war’s end.

Today, there are also interesting developments on the municipal front in British Columbia. The mayors of Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, the City of North Vancouver, Victoria, Squamish, and Bowen Island have coalesced to oppose the current National Energy Board (NEB) panel and hearings’ process for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline. They have collectively declared non-confidence in the NEB, and called on the federal government to halt the review.

Canada exacerbating climate change

All this is motivated by opposition to Canada’s role in the exacerbation of climate change, and approving expanded shipments of bitumen oil through the Salish Sea.

National parties should start planning now for a coalition government. Given that the NDP, the Liberals and the Green Party are all aware that a coalition post Oct. 19 may be possible, why not begin formal, open discussions now? None of these parties is in climate change denial; all embrace the rational practice of science and evidence-based policy development. Let’s hope they can find the heart and will to embrace the logic of coalition.

Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum, and the Bill Reid Gallery. He currently writes for a broad range of Canadian media, and consults to the boards of start-up NGOs.

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