In preparation for the Alberta election on Monday, New Democrat canvassers have phoned me twice. I have spoken to three of them, all of them well-intentioned and well-spoken and all delivering messages of alarming stupidity.
The first fellow asked me if Brian Mason (ND leader) could count on my vote.
“Sure,” I say, “If you can tell me your party’s plan to clean up the North.”
“Great,” I say, “What exactly is he going to do to clean up the North? I like that part of the province a very great deal and I was just there and it looks like a moonscape and an oil spill combined. I can see nothing on your website about cleaning up the north except a pitiful ‘More effective environmental compliance and oversight of land reclamation in the oil-patch.’ What about toxicology reports on air, water, soil, and animals? What about a biodiversity study to see how many species we’re extinguishing?”
“Uh, I should let you talk to somebody else.”
So another guy gets on the phone and assures me that the Alberta New Democrats are working on that policy.
“Are you kidding?” I ask, gobsmacked. “You have had years and years to think about this, to learn about this, and you’re working on policy in the middle of a campaign? Are you kidding me?”
He wasn’t. He asked if he could get back to me. I said I hoped he would.
Curious to see how the Liberals stacked up, I took a look. I note that while the Liberal environmental plan is more detailed and comprehensive, it still contains no intention to test the impact of the tar sands on the environment and absolutely no commitment to force the corporations to reclaim the land already impacted. There is a plan to use royalty money to address urgent environmental issues, but that seems to be letting corporate interests off the hook.
Interestingly, only the Liberals promise an absolute cap on greenhouse gas emissions. This is what the New Democrats promise: “Stronger greenhouse gas emissions regulations and enforcement in the oil-patch.” I am surprised. Could it be that the New Democrats simply don’t know how to think, plan, and implement?
The next phone call from the New Democrats seems to indicate that it is so. “Can we count on your vote,” asks the female canvasser.
“It depends,” I say, “on whether you’re calling me back to tell me your plan to clean up the North.”
“Oh,” she says.
“You are the third person from your party that I have spoken to and it now seems clear to me that you are not using a database to coordinate your canvassing. In this day and age, that’s downright scary to me. If you cannot think ahead enough to use a database to coordinate your canvassing, how can you govern a province? Running a province is a complicated task and I worry that you are a bunch of ideologues who don’t have the first clue what is actually required. I worry that you will act out of unsubstantiated wishful thinking rather than upon the advice of seasoned public servants who will give you practical advice on how to achieve your goals.”
“Oh,” she says. Silence. I am not making this up.
“So,” I say, “This is my problem with your party’s platform. You feel that you have great ideas and that your values are better than other people’s values but you haven’t actually tested a real plan in a real situation.”
“Hmmnn,” she says.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish,” I say. “You’ve had all this time and this is the best you can do.”
“I should have somebody get back to you,” she says.
Meanwhile, nobody else has called me. I will vote Liberal on Monday, even though doing so may split the opposition vote and leave the Conservatives in power.
Meanwhile, I am making plans for the coming recession. I really and seriously am and nobody I vote for or against on Monday can stop it from coming. It won’t be like the Great Depression. It will be, according to many analysts, the Greater Depression.
My advice? Be the first one out of the fire. If you lose your job, which you very well might, make sure you can still afford your current level of debt. If you have no debt, don’t get any. Do not buy a house now, as you’re going to be able to buy one at a price lower than the cost of its materials when people who maintain a high level of debt have to walk away from their mortgages. If you have a big mortgage, downsize to a sustainable mortgage right now while you can still get value out of your purchase. The housing bubble is going to burst all over the world. If you need to borrow, absolutely have to borrow, do it soon because loans are going to become nearly impossible to get.
All this is inevitable simply because of the natural limits to expansion. Our economy and productivity is bound by nature. Our population will grow to nine billion in 40 years. At the current rate of consumption, we will need another planet. The only alternative is for our global economy to cool off substantially. It will cool off, one way or another. A planned, orderly sub-zero-growth economy is much safer for all of us than the financial catastrophe that is the inevitable alternative.
This is why I have become a socialist in my old age — and why I wish I could vote for a socialist party with a plan.
Postscript: about two hours after I originally posted this entry, I heard from yet another caller for the New Democrats. She had absolutely no record that I had asked for information twice before. I reiterated my disappointment. She said, “Well, I can’t do anything about that but I hope you exercise your democratic right to vote.”
I sure will.