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."