Is Christy Clark Going Wildrose Pre-Election?

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  • Is Christy Clark Going Wildrose Pre-Election?

This op-ed originally appeared at the Vancouver Sun on February 24.

We already know that Christy Clark wants to export Alberta’s dirty oil. Now it seems her supporters want to import Alberta’s toxic politics.

Jim Shepard, the premier’s former economic adviser and architect of a million-dollar blast of anti-NDP attack ads in 2013, published a piece last week called, “B.C. should be concerned about NDP Leap Manifesto.” It could have been cut and pasted directly from the Wildrose party playbook.

Alberta’s far-right opposition has used the manifesto to smear Premier Rachel Notley as a job-killing environmental zealot. If you search the phrase, “Leap Manifesto,” in Alberta’s Hansard, you’ll see it has been hurled across the legislative chamber no fewer than 124 times in the current session.

Yes, this line of attack is a little strange, given the Notley government’s single-minded devotion to pipelines.

In fact, Shepard’s op-ed is littered with misrepresentations and inaccuracies. A few examples.

“The NDP’s Leap Manifesto — accepted by New Democrats across B.C. and Canada as a guide for our future … ”

Not true. The federal NDP passed a resolution that committed the party merely to debate the document at the riding level. Hardly a guide for the future. Also, the manifesto doesn’t belong to NDPers — it was written by dozens of social-movement leaders for all Canadians.

“The manifesto also proposes to phase out the entire resource sector … ” This echoes Christy Clark herself, who claimed that following the leap would mean “hundreds of towns would be wiped off the map tomorrow, and turned into ghost towns.”

Not true. In the 1,387 words of the manifesto, there isn’t a single solitary suggestion of phasing out the resource sector in Canada, which of course includes forestry and fishing and other industries that can be more sustainable and will certainly be part of B.C.’s future

“… It raises taxes to support a countrywide minimum income. That means the government will pay everyone a salary for life whether they work or not.”

Not true. The manifesto calls for “a vigorous debate about the introduction of a universal basic annual income.” Debating something isn’t the same as endorsing it (see: NDP and Leap, above). Even right-wing economist Milton Friedman proposed a kind of basic income and the Ontario government is piloting another, designed by Conservative Sen. Hugh Segal.

“It seeks to end the use of gasoline and all fossil fuels. It will stop construction of pipelines and new highways.”

In fact, what the manifesto says is, “ … by 2050 we could have a 100-per-cent clean economy. We demand that this shift begin now.” This target isn’t controversial. It’s echoed by hundreds of leading climate scientists and engineers, and by 48 climate-vulnerable countries, from Colombia to the Philippines.

And it’s true that the manifesto does call for no “new” fossil-fuel infrastructure projects, that’s the hard scientific reality Canada must confront to live up to our international commitments.

But it’s common sense: we need to be building the 21st century economy, not doubling down on the 19th century one.

Anyone not captured by the fossil-fuel industry can see that the manifesto is a job-creation plan of epic proportions. The investments it proposes in retrofits, renewables, transit and the caregiving sectors of health and education would unleash a torrent of well-paying jobs and would boost the short-term fortunes of the hard-working people of B.C., including First Nations and others getting a lousy deal in today’s unequal economy.

Perhaps that’s why the manifesto is closing in on 50,000 signatures and has well over 200 endorsing organizations. Shepard’s front group is currently populated by a few dozen Twitter bots.

Shepard ends his piece by promising “a provincewide, public-interest conversation on the manifesto and what it means” in the election campaign. That’s fantastic news. We’ll be there to inject some facts.

Top photograph by Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press.