Two of the most serious problems facing Alberta today are the harm being done by our hydrocarbon industries – for example, oilsands and coal-generated electricity –and the fragile state of democracy in the province.
Both are signature concerns for Greens. So it’s very good for Alberta that the provincial Green Party has been re-born.
Every aspect of sustainability and “greening” is important to Alberta Greens but probably none more so than finding creative and workable ways of getting off our excessive dependence on hydrocarbons. The process of replacing coal-generated electricity with power from renewables, such as wind, solar and geothermal, needs to be greatly speeded up. Smart implementation of these alternative renewable technologies will create plenty of jobs. And we Albertans have to find the courage to refuse to increase the rate of production from the oilsands and start going in the opposite direction. Ramping down the oilsands is going to happen anyway, as the ravages of climate change become more and more obvious. Developing a plan to slow down development of the oilsands – one that minimizes disruption to our society and economy – will put Albertans ahead of that curve, not behind where we are now. With our more “grassroots” and “small is beautiful” way of approaching economics, Greens could be key to finding our way out of the ethical morass we are currently in.
As things stand today, Alberta is being very slow to make progress on getting off coal and is apparently still dead-set on increasing the rate of production from the oilsands. But the folly of this backwardness is becoming ever more apparent as politicians and business people wanting to “sell” the oilsands and the pipelines to transport bitumen are running into the inconvenience of our inadequate environmental performance.
It has been said by some critics that environmentalists are “radicals.” Some have even called greens “disloyal.” But on the contrary, when you operate in a globalized world, as Albertans do, and the rest of the world starts to get ahead of you, lagging behind can do real harm economically, as well as in so many other ways.
Having refused to take the environmental agenda seriously, the Alberta government is now scrambling to come up with things it can show the world, especially Americans, to demonstrate that we are not an environmentally regressive jurisdiction. But the truth is there is little evidence we are not – the tailings ponds continue to grow in size, greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, critical wildlife habitat continues to be lost and we burn more coal to produce electricity than all the other provinces combined.
Now more than ever Alberta needs an approach to decision-making that truly understands the changes that need to be made. Fortunately the provincial Greens are back!
But environmental issues are not the only concern of Greens. Concerns about democracy also lie at the heart of the Green movement. So it’s natural for Alberta Greens to also focus on the state of democracy in the province. And put simply, ours is not well. 42 years of the same party in power have blurred the lines between government – which is supposed to act in the interests of all – and the dominant political party, which has its own agenda. We’ve seen this confusion at work in several forms, including illegal political donations by municipalities and universities to the party in power. Public servants using public money to make contributions to the political party in power? This is seriously wrong and a direct assault on democracy in the province. Albertans need political change to prevent the rot from spreading further.
Fortunately, the Green Party offers a progressive way forward by doing politics differently. We are committed to the high-road, always focusing on the issues and not attacking individuals personally. And Greens are ready to cooperate with other progressive parties so that a different, better government can be put in place. That cooperation could mean not running our own candidates against candidates from other progressive parties who have a better chance of winning. It could also mean endorsing other parties’ candidates or independents where that seems the best way to get people with Green values elected. This makes perfect sense from a Green perspective for we want a provincial government that is committed to Green principles. Such a government doesn’t have to be made up of our candidates. But this probably won’t happen without at least some Greens in the Legislature, and we’ll work hard to see that happen.
Alberta badly needs the Greens. Thank goodness we’re back!