Guest post: Vote strategically to save Ontario’s Green Energy Act, writes Tom Rand

The following post comes from Tom Rand (PEng, PhD), director of VCi Green Funds and author of Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit.


Have we built an economy that’s running rapidly toward ecological collapse? Yep. Has any major party wholeheartedly embraced the sorts of carbon reductions required to avoid that collapse? Um, nope. Does the economy require a wholesale reconfiguration in order to be able to embrace long-term sustainability? You betcha! Does the Green Party have at its core the sort of restructuring that might work? Yep.

But I’m not voting Green in the Ontario election. Why?  Because there is too much at stake in the potential loss of the nascent Green Energy and Economy Act (GEA). The GEA is the single most progressive, forward-thinking piece of environmental legislation in North America. At this point in history, it just doesn’t get any better. It’s the real deal. If we lose it, Ontario will lose our first, real concrete step toward competing in the emerging low-carbon global economy.

But even worse, if Ontario blinks at this juncture, many American States that are closely watching will back off their budding legislative efforts to build their part of the low-carbon economy. The large financial institutions, which have finally emerged as participating players on the project-finance side (it’s banks that drive all large infrastructure projects, including renewables) will back away. It will take a decade to get the momentum back.

If Ontario loses the GEA, there will be heard all over corporate North America a collective “I told you so!”. The political risk associated with any really progressive climate legislation, whether it’s Green, Blue, Orange or Red in origin, will become the main hurdle to engaging the corporate partners that we need on side to move our infrastructure forward. The little bit of momentum the economically engaged environmental movement has in Canada —  the stuff that’s way past the feel-good stage — will subside. Worse, the GEA will become a lesson in what NOT to try.

Greens, your time will come, but this is not it.

For Ontario voters, pick your battles, and use your arrows wisely. It’s hard to compromise, believe me I know. Idealism is always easier, because you can always tell yourself you’re right and the world is wrong. But that’s just not good enough right now.

Results matter. Support the party that built the GEA, as they’re the only ones in a position to protect it. For Greens, the party-building can continue after the Oct. 6 election, and I’ll be there to help.

7 thoughts on “Guest post: Vote strategically to save Ontario’s Green Energy Act, writes Tom Rand”

  1. So you recommend we abandon the best ecological party with the best green policies in favour of preserving the status quo. If this isn’t the best argument for electoral reform, I don’t know what is.

    How about this argument – Vote for the Greens because a good showing for them in the popular vote, say over 15%, would send a strong message that we are not content with business as usual “while our beds are burning” as Midnight Oil said. Do you really think Stephen Harper would behave the same if he thought 50% of the entire population agreed with him, instead of 40% of the 50% who voted? I think he would start trying on crowns and robes.

    Also each vote in this election gives them another dollar in election funding for the next time around.

    Vote your heart!

  2. Bud Bundy – My point is that the Green Energy Act is precisely the sort of thing the Greens aspire to. The Liberals are doing the work now. So as a Green, not sure how you can do better but to show your support to a governing party that has indicated that it does, indeed, take the message of the Greenbelt seriously.

    In other words, if the Liberals are prepared to put the best legislation North American has seen on the enviro front, why on earth would you not support them?

    This ain’t the status quo. T

  3. That’s right, Bud. Mr. Rand – for whom I have the utmost respect, by the way, or I wouldn’t be bothering with this – is suggesting we vote for the second- or maybe third-best party when it comes to green credentials.

    I don’t agree with Tom’s analysis. First, strategic voting hardly ever works, because the whole thing needs to be organized. So you end up building the wrong party for absolutely nothing in return. You fail to exercise your right to work toward your ideals, and you build someone else’s.

    Secondly, and I’m sure Tom’s aware of this, this carte-blanche advice to vote Lib would, if it worked at all, utterly backfire in many Toronto ridings, especially those where the NDP is incumbent. That kind of strategy is simply too simplistic, and I sincerely hope nobody actually takes Tom’s advice without thinking about that.

    Third, Tom says “Support the party that built the GEA…” Well, that’s the Green Party. In fact, any of the NDP, Libs, and Greens would have taken Suzuki et al’s advice and done something like this, but ultimately these are Green Party ideas.

    Fourth, I actually have a lot of trouble voting for a party which would continue down the nuke path. The GEA is not the only ball in the air, from the environmental point of view. Tom wants to reward the Grits for passing progressive legislation – and progressive it is, no disagreement there – and point well taken. But you’d also be rewarding them for not implementing a carbon tax, for sticking with nukes, for delivering to big installations but not smaller ones, for the moratoriums on wind – in general, for sticking with the old big corporate Hydro ways. These factors all amount to a cap on the amount of renewable energy that will eventually be delivered, and guarantee that the GEA will never amount to more than a piss in the wind for the supply mix.

    Bleh. I for one am having none of it. Luckily, Tom, in my riding (Trinity-Spadina) the conservative has no chance, so when I vote Green it won’t matter one whit for your strategic vote. I just hope you haven’t caused a loss of Green support in other ridings where it just doesn’t make sense to follow your strategy.

  4. As the former Green Party of Ontario energy critic, who wrote much of the 2007 energy and transportation platform, and helped shape policy prior to that election, I have to urge voters to ignore pleas to vote strategically. Particularily when it’s from someone in an industry profitting from the policies of the government in power. Vote instead for the party that best represents your views.

    I was pleased that by running against Dalton McGuinty in Ottawa South, I and my personal friend from the NDP were able to take almost 20% of the vote and show that failure to adopt green policy would result in electoral failure for the Liberals. This is probably one of the many factors which resulted in the Green Energy Act.

    But the GEA is flawed and just baby-steps in terms of what is required for a sustainable energy system. Green policy advocates for locally owned and operated distributed renewables, not centralized generation from industrial mega-farms where stiff resistance has proved costly for the Liberals in dollars and electoral kickback. Mr. Rand would do well to actually read the GPO policy on energy. Given his stand on strategic voting etc., I’m not sure they would take him up on his offer to help out after the election until he did a bit of reading.

    As already pointed out, the Liberals are still factoring in tens of billions of dollars in spending on nuclear, which is not cost effective and certainly not Green policy. I could go on…

    The biggest failure of the Liberals in terms of energy policy was to not put programs in place to help lower consumption. While the cost increases for electricity so far have more to do with infrastructure renewal and not the GEA, electricity bills will continue to increase. All parties except the GPO are proposing or taking regressive steps to unsustainably try to lower energy costs, notably with the election year pledge from Mr. Rand’s party to cut 10% from bills in an election year.

    If you care about green issues, read the platforms and vote for the party that best suits your views, and not one that has a thin layer of green veneer that wears off in tough times and shows its true colour.

  5. Mr. Rand,

    Your enthusiasm and dedication to the green movement is commendable; however, I see that you are also a venture capitalist, heavily invested in clean energy. Do you personally have a lot at stake with your involvement with Morgan Solar? If so, wouldn’t your advocating for support for the GEA be a conflict of interest? Perhaps you should do as George Monbiot did recently and declare your financial interests publicly. This way the people who might be convinced by your argument to vote “strategically” will not be swayed by your rhetoric. Make transparent your financial investments, and I will be more likely to listen to you. I can’t help but feel that you are just another member of “the rich man’s trade union.”

    First divest your financial interests, then sway public opinion.

    Thank you.

  6. I really don’t know how serious the Liberals are about the Greenbelt, with their no-comment position on the Melancthon mega-quarry, gas-fired plants being rammed down citizens’ throats (I live near your lovely new one on the Lake Ontario waterfront) or at least attempting to until citizens rise up such as in Oakville and Holland Landing, and as others have mentioned, the moratorium on lake wind.

    I think the Liberals will do anything to win votes, and so I will vote Green in order to get them to work harder for mine next time. That’s my strategic position.

    Oh and nobody caught my point about electoral reform – I think we should have proportionate representation such as in Germany, under which we would currently have some Greens MPPs in the Ontario Legislature as well as Green MPs in federal Parliament.

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