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Category "Canadian Politics"

7Oct

Daphne Bramham: Elizabeth May looking ahead to how Greens might influence a minority government

by admin

Elizabeth May is surprisingly cheerful for an environmental crusader worried that the civilization may be on the brink of collapse by the time her 43-year-old daughter reaches May’s own age of 65.

It’s because after being a party of one for eight years in Parliament and only graduating to a party of two earlier this year, the Green party leader says this federal election — her fourth — feels different.

Support is coming in unexpected places, she says forcing her to run something closer to a truly national campaign and visit ridings that weren’t previously on her itinerary.

The polls reflect some of that. May has the highest approval rating of the leaders on the CBC’s Leader Meter.

Her party’s support has nearly doubled in the past year to close to 10 per cent, which would translate into anywhere from one to eight seats with four seats being the consensus prediction.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5XFIb8P_Do?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

But the Greens have been here before. They polled at close to 10 per cent in 2010 long before the prospect of a dystopian future drove tens of thousands of Canadians into the streets last month.

Many of those marchers, like the climate strike’s founder Greta Thunberg, are too young to vote and are too young to be surveyed about voting intentions in Canada’s upcoming federal election.

As a politician, May laughingly told The Vancouver Sun’s editorial board that she should be talking about measuring for new curtains in the prime minister’s resident in anticipation of moving in.

But she’s a pragmatist and what is within reach in 2019 is holding the balance of power — or the balance of responsibility, as she describes it — in a minority government.

Unlike the B.C. Green party, May would make no deals to support either the Conservatives or the Liberals.

She’d use her few seats as a club to force the prime minister to either bend policies — especially on the environment — to something closer to the Greens’ platform or she’d bring down the government.

For many, the Greens’ plan is scary, requiring radical and fundamental changes to retool the Canadian economy, its social programs and even individuals’ expectations and habits.

May admits that.

By 2030, her plan would cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent from the 2005 levels, limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above global pre-industrial averages. Within a decade, a Green Canada would be fully powered by renewable energy.

Quoting an October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, May says it’s all do-able and that the needed technology already exists to avoid going above 1.5 degrees C.

Citing a National Research Council projection, the Greens’ platform says four million jobs would be created in energy efficiency retrofits compared with the 62,000 Canadians working in oil and gas in 2018.

But May admits some will disappear and talks about a “just transition” for workers that would include more education spending, bridging of some workers to early retirement and a guaranteed livable income, which would replace and build on disability payments, social assistance and income supplements.

“It’s a tough choice and I’m not saying that people will never sacrifice,” May said. “But we’re talking about whether our children are able to have anything above a deteriorating human civilization all around them …

“A functioning human civilization is at risk within the lifetime of my daughter to be able to have basic elements of a functioning human society.”

But if the Greens hold the balance of power in a post-Oct. 21 Parliament, it’s not just the environmental agenda that may influence new legislation.

May frequently references the 1960s minority government of Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson that with support of the NDP (then named the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation), which resulted in universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, unemployment insurance and the flag (which, bizarrely, was the most controversial).

So beyond an improved climate plan, what do the Greens want? Proportional representation rather than a first-past-the-post voting system has always been high on its list both federally and provincially. The Liberals promised it in 2015 and reneged. A Liberal minority government might be willing to rethink that.

The Greens’ platform calls for decriminalization of drug possession and access to “a safe, screened supply.” The Conservatives have resolutely said no, while the Liberals have said no for now.

May is actively supporting Wilson-Raybould’s bid to win re-election as an Independent in Vancouver-Granville. Wilson-Raybould was forced out of the Liberal Party after she publicly accused Justin Trudeau and his staff of inappropriately pressuring her to stop the prosecution of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin.

The only reason there is a Green candidate in that riding is because running the party’s constitution requires one in every federal riding.

But would May be willing to bring down the new government — Liberal or Conservative — if it agreed to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement?

May could play a pivotal role in forging a better response to the climate emergency and even help return Canada to a leadership role if she can muster the kind of patience, diplomacy and intelligence that NDP leader Tommy Douglas exercised in the 1960s.

And if she can’t? Well, we’ll have another election sooner rather than later and by then, at least some of those climate-striking kids will have reached voting age.

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Twitter.com/bramham_daphne

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1May

Daphne Bramham: Alcohol, not opioids, is Canada’s biggest drug problem

by admin

Alcohol is so much a part of our culture that 80 per cent of Canadians drink. But each year, nearly 15,000 people die from alcohol related harms.


Canadian governments are addicted to the revenue from alcohol


DALE DE LA REY / AFP/Getty Images

With so much focus on illicit drugs and overdose deaths, it might seem that opioids are the biggest addictions problem. Far from it.

Alcohol kills many more people each year (14,800 in 2014), results in more hospitalizations annually than heart attacks and is one of the most expensive and intractable health problems.

While cannabis was legalized a year ago and B.C.’s chief medical health officer is pushing hard for decriminalization and ultimately legalization of all illicit drugs, two Canadian addictions research centres want tougher regulations to mitigate the costs and harms of alcohol use and addiction.

The Victoria-based Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research and the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health want a minimum price of $3.50 for a standard drink in a bar or restaurant and $1.75 for off-premise sales. They also want a national minimum drinking age of 19, which is a year higher than national minimum for cannabis. Those are just two of the recommendations in reports they released last month that look at federal, provincial and territorial alcohol policies.

The reports also calling for stricter guidelines for advertising, restrictions on manufacturers’ and retailers’ promotions on digital and social media platforms, and a federal excise tax based on alcohol content that would replace the GST.

Over the past decades, the researchers found an erosion of effective policies and regulations.

“Overall, alcohol policy in Canada has been largely neglected relative to emerging initiatives addressing tobacco control, responses to the opioid overdose crisis, and restrictions imposed on the new legal cannabis market,” their report on the provinces and territories says. In several jurisdictions — Ontario is the worst example — “customer convenience and choice are being given priority over health and safety concerns … the responsibility of governments to warn citizens of potential risks is largely absent.”

British Columbia got a bare pass at 50 per cent based on its potential to reduce alcohol-related harm, which is not good. But it’s still better than the national average of 43 per cent.

Alcohol-related harm was estimated at $14.6 billion in 2014, according the Canadian Centre on Substance Use. Productivity loss due to illness and premature death accounts for $7.1 billion. Direct health care costs add another $3.3 billion and $3.1 billion is spent on enforcement costs for this legal drug.

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Tobacco was second at $12 billion followed by opioids at $3.5 billion and cannabis at $2.8 billion. But the data predate the opioid overdose crisis and cannabis legalization.

Alcohol’s costs and harms reflect the fact that 80 per cent of Canadians drink. It’s not surprising. Culturally, we associate drinking with celebrations and good times. It’s We’re bombarded with images in movies, TV and ads of beautiful people drinking and having fun.

Scarcely a week goes by that there isn’t a “good news” story about research showing that a glass of red wine might be good for your heart or that yet another populist politician is campaigning on a promise to slash the price of beer.

Yet less was made of University of Washington’s Global Burden of Diseases Study last summer that found alcohol was the leading factor in 2.8 million premature deaths in 2016 and is so harmful that governments ought to be advising people to abstain completely.

One problem is that Canadian governments are addicted to the revenue from alcohol. Liquor sales and taxes provided $12.15 billion to federal and provincial governments in 2017/18 — $1.6 billion more than five years earlier, according to Statistics Canada.

Last year, liquor consumption rose in British Columbia, which already had the highest drinking rates in Canada. There were also record sales, which meant that in addition to tax revenue, the Liquor Distribution Branch provided $1.12 billion in earned revenue, up from $1.03 billion two years earlier.

Good for taxpayers? Not really. The reports by the substance-abuse centres recommends B.C. “reconsider the treatment of alcohol as an ordinary commodity: Alcohol should not be sold alongside food and other grocery items as this leads to greater harm.”

It’s based on research done last year by Tim Stockwell of the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research. He and his researchers found that when access to alcohol is easier, more people die.

Between 2003 and 2008, “a conservative estimate is that the rates of alcohol-related deaths increased by 3.25 per cent for each 20 per cent increase in stores density.”

Estimates have to be conservative because alcoholics’ fatalities are mistakenly counted as death from one of more than 200 other kinds of alcohol-related fatalities including car accidents, suicide, liver diseases, cancers, tuberculosis and heart disease.

What’s surprising is that more than a century after legalization, there are no federal or provincial policies aimed specifically at mitigating alcohol’s harms and costs.

The opioid crisis has been the catalyst for governments to finally think about addictions and drug-use policies and, it’s now impossible to ignore the slower moving crisis caused by alcohol abuse and addiction.

In the coming months, the B.C. health officer also plans to release an alcohol addictions report. The B.C. Centre on Substance Use recently developed guidelines for best practices in treating alcohol addiction, but the provincial government has yet to approve or release those.

Prohibition proved a failure. Yet, legalization and regulation are not panaceas either. Because even with more than 100 years of experience, there is still no jurisdiction in Canada or anywhere else that seems to have got it right.

[email protected]

Twitter: @bramham_daphne


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