ur feature this month offers a critical summary of what the major parties are promising on climate change and touches on whether they would or could achieve these goals.
We do not offer this analysis naîvely. We think it is important to remember history when you vote – or even when you decide whether or not to vote.
The history’s pretty clear. Not one vote cast in Canadian history has had an impact on the climate crisis.
In our first-past-the-post, majority-rules, representative democracy, no one’s vote has counted for much, really – unless it was cast for the Liberals or Conservative, the only two parties to form government since Confederation.
Ok, ok. To be more accurate, it’s a minority-rules system, since our first-past-the-post system usually converts a minority of votes into a majority of representatives – who then robotically vote however the unelected party masterminds tell them. That’s the real minority who rules. Three cheers for democracy!
Anyways. Successive Liberal and Conservative administrations have promised action on climate change since the ’90s, without delivering. They have also not delivered on a lot of other promises. It’s like some weird good cop/bad cop routine to gaslight the public into electing them again.
Perhaps the only questions worth asking the latest crop of Liberal/Conservative candidates, then, is “how can we know your party has changed?” and “what differentiates your climate promises from the last batch of lies?”
If so, then maybe the question for candidates from other parties is “how can we know your party is different from those other guys?” and “why should we believe your climates promises?”
While you’re working up the nerve to ask them, feel free to use that feature guide to make small talk about their party’s platform on climate change.
Because nothing has shown the uselessness of our present political system like climate change. The slow-building catastrophe of climate change has unfolded over the last few decades in an entirely predictable and preventable way, but our governments have failed to meaningfully grapple with this truth, much less act on it.
Our best leaders have pranced and postured and made promises they don’t keep, while the worst have simply buried their heads in the sand like an ostrich in the path of a freight train – and invited us to join them.
Well, this freight train is labelled ‘extinction’ and now it’s in kissing distance.
Here at The Leveller, we’d love to see the NDP or the Greens get into power and we’d love to see them act on their platforms. We’d love to see a revolution from the inside. But we’re not holding our breath for either to happen.
There’s no real historical precedent for the kind of change that is needed being achieved through the ballot box. Certainly not through the ballot box alone; in itself, voting is more placebo than sacred duty.
Governments generally react to social movements and cultural change, to struggle and resistance as much to conformity and quiescence. (For example, look at this issue’s Timeline of Canadian Colonialism and Indigenous Resistance to see how just about every advance in Indigenous rights did not come from inevitable progressivism or benevolent government action, but as a colonial government’s rearguard action against Indigenous agitation and activism.)
Violent revolutions have overturned whole social systems in the past, but generally only when the ruling class has lost its grip and an enormous upswelling of political will and popular rage explodes. We don’t seem to be there (yet) and gulags and guillotines are the stuff of nightmares not utopias.
On the other hand, the example of social movements like the Civil Right Movement shows that committed minorities with little power can enact social transformation in a short amount of time – through non-violent direct actions that obstructs business as usual and makes systemic injustice visible and visceral.
This kind of action faces the world with a kind of confrontational welcome. It is confrontational in that it cannot be ignored, the way a vote or a march can be dismissed and ignored. “No one takes any notice of you unless you cause disruption,” as Roger Hallam, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, puts it. But to be successful, such movements avoid needlessly alienating outsiders, welcoming them to change their minds and join, enabling small actions to spiral into mass movements.
We’ve tried decades of international diplomacy and electoral politics. Why not try something new?
What could this editorial end but with the old Situationist slogan? “Be realistic – demand the impossible!”