Saturday, June 06, 2009

Is Gordon Campbell playing Divide-and-Conquer with Natives and Environmentalists?

As I point out in Chapter 10 of the upcoming book BC Government and Politics , Gordon Campbell deserves credit for preventing a unified coalition of labour, environmentalists, First Nations and NGOs from coalescing. His strategic initiatives vis a vis First Nations and Environmentalists contributed to his ultimate victory. But a survey of his career suggests that this is no 21st-century triple-bottom-line Stephane Dion kind of politician. The treaties and the New Relationship with First Nations were instrumental to removing roadblocks to economic development. The carbon tax was attractive, not just because of the temporary salience of global warming in the polls, but because of the strategic aim of reducing income taxes for affluent Vancouverites. Campbell was quicker to conclude the Tsawwassen Treaty than the NDP was, not because he cared more about the Tsawwassen people, but because he cared less about the Land Reserve.

All of which suggests that many First Nations people and environmentalists may be in for a rude awakening over the next couple of years. The basic thrust of the native legislation currently being prepared for the legislature is to accelerate the painstakingly slow process of determining native title and rights--which may mean that many interests which had been staked on either litigation or negotiation are in danger of being downgraded or ignored. All so Gordon Campbell can get on with---what? He hasn't been as clear about his "vision" as either WAC Bennett or Dave Barrett were.

But then, neither has the NDP. Instead of playing electoral juijitsu with Liberals over issues like the carbon tax, the NDP needs to rebuild its red-green coalition and stake out a vision for prosperity, sustainability and justice that is just as practicable and just as comprehensive as the government's, (much as the NDP in fact did in the 1980s and early 1990s). Or it will deserve to lose--again.