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.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

Your assigned motivations are interesting. Land claims to get on with it so development can occur. And carbon tax to benefit the rich vancouverites. I don't understand the second. I thought he just wanted to be the first in this regard(s).


Mark Crawford said...

Well, I think you are right that Campbell wanted to do the right thing and take credit for what some in media and academia were calling a first and a courageous policy. But my take is that he also felt comfortable with it because it fit in with his tax agenda. Not only was the tax shift "revenue neutral", but it was most certain to benefit those who (1) pay high progressive income taxes; (2) can more
easily substitute hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles for their
current ones; (3) more easily substitute bicycles and public
transportation for cars; and (4) typically drive shorter distances and live in a warmer climate than elsewhere in the province. His core constituency of affluent Vancouverites fits all 4 of those criteria. There are whole classes of people, whole regions of the province, and certain sectors of the economy (tourism and trucking come to mind) that don't
meet some or all of these criteria. Whle it is estimated that 2/3 of BC families get their money back on income taxes, and I generally like the idea of a carbon tax, the group that benefits the most is his core
constituency of affluent Vancouverites.