Littlemore: "We are bugged beyond imagining..."

Today, environmental organizations campaigning against the provincial New Democrats' policies launched another round of attacks against the party. In an op-ed published in The Vancouver Sun, representatives from the David Suzuki Foundation, ForestEthics and The Pembinda Institute repeated their accusation the New Democrats' "promise to 'axe the gas tax' is an irresponsible recipe to axe the green future B.C. is now building." Meanwhile, DeSmogBlog - the Website led by David Suzuki Foundation chair Jim Hoggan - published an article reporting the Opposition voted against the Campbell administration cap and trade legislation, opining, "It looks increasingly like this batch of BC New Democrats care very little about climate change and a great deal about jockeying for political advantage at any price." But there was an important nuance that wasn't in that article.

Speaking in the legislature on April 15, 2008, party leader Carole James stated the "New Democrats strongly support the implementation of cap-and-trade. It's a critical piece to our climate change agenda." But what they opposed, according to Ms. James, was the secrecy of that legislation, which has given the government "full discretion to make the decisions behind closed doors on (cap-and-trade) offsets, on reporting and monitoring, on penalties."

Asked whether he was aware of the reason the New Democrats voted against the legislation, the article's author Richard Littlemore - a senior counsellor with Mr. Hoggan's corporate communications firm James Hoggan and Associates Inc. - said, "I didn't read the whole of the Hansard record. Between (DeSmogBlog operations manager Kevin Grandia) and I we sort of hustled it up together. But I understand they have a host of specific complaints about the nature of that agreement or the timing or I'm not sure what. So let me give you a direct answer to that: no, I'm not sure."

So does the fact the New Democrats' opposed that bill because of its secrecy change Mr. Littelmore's opinion? "Here's what I would say about all of that. Carole James - and I can't point to a specific quote on this - but her general approach when she was elected leader of the New Democratic Party was that she was not going to be one of those leaders that opposed for the sake of opposing. She was in the buildings to collaborate on good legislation and to make sure the province. And she wasn't going to be one of those political leaders who was just against everything the government was proposing because their in opposition and its their job to oppose."

"On a few issues, she's not lately been that kind of leader at all," he continued. "And, on this issue in particular - which is our issue, the issue I care about personally more than anything other in the whole world - I happen to think this issue is a deal-breaker for the planet and the NDP should be onside. So my position - stated I think as clearly as can be - is they have spoken in favour of this kind of thing and voted against it. If they weren't opposing the carbon tax, we wouldn't be picking on them or running around looking to see if they voted against cap-and-trade for some strategic reasons that I was not even interested enough to look up."

"This is all about the carbon tax. So the whole question is, for me, are the NDP being true to themselves or standing up on principle for the carbon tax? And, in my humble opinion, they are really not. So I'm more then prepared to say that I didn't read very far into the legislation or into the Hansard debate. But I'm not surprised they offered some specific criticism of the Liberals' approach or what was going on at the time that would cause them to stand back from the legislation supporting the (Western Climate Initiative)."

So is DeSmogBlog, in this article, reporting the news, offering commentary or engaging in political activism? "I would challenge you to figure that out in almost anything we do on the DeSmogBlog. We are an activist site from beginning to end. We do a lot of journalism. We do a lot of research. We present a lot of fresh material that no one else has got. So it's definitely a site where you can expect to see - one way or another - what fits the definition of journalism. Journalism can generally be broken into news and commentary. And we tend to very often mix news and commentary in a way that is perhaps more casual then you're going to find in a newspaper" - although he added The Vancouver Sun also mixes news and commentary by, for example, putting columnist on its front page.

But, speaking specifically about the article in question, Mr. Littlemore told Public Eye, "We are bugged beyond imagining by the fact the NDP - which I had cherished personally in my life as a party of principle - has on the issue of the carbon tax abandoned principle. Everybody else who works on the DeSmogBlog, we're pretty much of a mind that we're mad as Hell at the NDP for standing up against the single most positive piece of climate change legislation in North America. And, in fact, I think that because of the nature of political opposition and antipathy to taxes generally, if the Liberals lose this election it could very well be seen in all quarters as a referendum on the carbon tax. And that could undermine the ability or willigness of politicians all over North America to face up to this and to want to try to tackle a carbon tax."

According to its Website, DeSmogBlog was founded to "shine the light on techniques and tactics that reflect badly on the PR industry and are, ultimately, bad for the planet."

Since we contacted Mr. Littlemore, he has updated the article to include a comment reporting the New Democrats voted against the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Cap and Trade) Act "on the basis of the secrecy terms within."

5 Comments

Ok, I'm absolutely freaked out about the world's lack of tangible response to climate change, just past the stage of denial now...and I worry it will be too late.

But I can't agree that when the Liberals lose that it can AT ALL be interpreted as a referendum on the carbon tax, geographically discriminatory as it is.

When the Liberals lose, the reasons will include: not being populist enough to get out the progressive vote, lying, child poverty increasing, privatizing public assets, corruption, gutting healthcare and education, deregulating to a profoundly neglectful degree [social workers, environment inspectors], tax cuts to create an artificial crisis for neoliberals to solve, environmental neglect and destruction [whoops, rivers, fish farms, offshore exploration, giving away wood fibre, raw log exports], manipulating the Basi-Virk proceedings to avoid losing the 2005 election and to delay a verdict past May 12, 2009.

I can go on.

Let's keep the carbon tax in perspective. It's an important issue, but by far not the most contentious issue in the election considering how anti-human the neoLiberal party has been.

I actually support a carbon tax...I am an NDP supporter that has no particular problem with this one.

But is the BC Liberal carbon tax the ONLY way to go? Absolutely not. But somehow, these three groups are allowing the BC Liberals to act like it is. It's like this carbon tax or nothing, and so they choose this one because they feel like it's a foot in the door.

But it's SO politically naive of these groups.

With all due respect to Mr. Littlemore, YOU are trying to turn this election into a referendum on carbon tax. And it is a big risk.

Even someone like me, who is more than sympathetic, starts going hey, you know what? I care about that. But I also care about poor children the BC Liberals have done so little for. And I care about unemployment rising which they don't want to talk about. And I care about homelessness and having a good debate on that (and yes, I will say, kuddos to the Liberals for starting to move on homelessness) AND I care about the dozens of other ways the Liberals don't want to talk about reducing GHG emissions, as a lot of other NDP supporters who felt an alliance with enviro movements do.

If these groups had come out and said hey, we appreciate what this government is doing on the carbon tax (DESPITE the fact they are at the same time streamlining enviro checks on oil and gas permits for example) BUT there are other ways to do this, let's have a debate, I'd say fine. But to be used like this, to take a full-on partisan stance, to be so narrow in what concerns you during an economic crisis when people are losing their jobs...let's just say after two days of having enviro leaders "tweets" and blogs read like a BC Liberal campaign ad, I'm bugged too.

Impressive coverage from Public Eye! The Liberal's fake carbon tax program is simply window dressing. The Campbell regime supports oil and gas development, fish farms, damming rivers and selling off BC's resources. The entire Liberal 'climate platform' is an obvious PR stunt, which most people recognize. IF Campbell sincerely wished to implement a viable tax carbon, it would be joined by increased public transit in remote areas along with increased in public spending. That hasn't happened and won't. Will the public be duped by this strategy? I guess time will tell.

Whoa! The hysteria of some Greens over the NDP position on the carbon tax is finally making sense.

Unless they can ensure that Campbell gets elected - no matter what the cost to everything and everyone else - they see it as the end of the world and the end of any hope for addressing climate change. Wow! That's super cold, super narrow, super hard-line!

Like the first two posters, I support a carbon tax and I think their comments are bang-on. Climate change may be the single greatest challenge we face and the time to act was yesterday, but this is exactly where Green movements have run into trouble and lost credibility in the past.

You cannot ask people to sacrifice everything else they believe in and everything that's dear to them to save "the planet." It doesn't work. As humans, our vision and survival instincts simply aren't wired that way - we cannot sacrifice our children, families and livelihoods today to avert tomorrow's global crisis, no matter how genuine the threat.

People are getting it and they do want to help (Earth Week at my kid's school was the biggest event of the year). But whenever Green leaders have pushed for solutions that baldly compete with the fundamental needs of local communities, as they're doing now, they've ended up losing all the momentum they've managed to build.

It's frustrating, but the only way forward is to seek the common ground: acknowledge the social concerns that the NDP is representing and the Liberals are ignoring and suggest a better way. I hope they wake up quickly and see that by aligning their interests so closely with any political party, thereby implicitly endorsing a host of other major policy flaws, they may at best win the upcoming skirmish, but at the cost of losing the much bigger game.

Donors to the Suzuki Foundation, PowerUp, the Pembina Institute and ForestEthics might want to send those groups a clear message about what they think of charitable organizations working hard to re-elect a government with the worst environmental record in the province's history.
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The chair of the Suzuki foundation has given just under $10,000 to the BC Liberals, and that his company has been given $300,000 worth of government contracts?

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