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.