A colour-blind man looks at Green and orange

I’ve been catching up with the various party platforms, and doing my best to use one of the pet heuristics I developed in my columnist days: looking for the most positive thing I could possibly say about those whose overall philosophies I strongly oppose. In this election, that is pretty well everybody. But I started with the Greens and the New Democrats, because that is where the task of being sympathetic is hardest for a gun-crazed oil-drunk Albertan.

The contrast between the parties’ platforms is interesting: the Green ideas induce slightly more sheer nausea of the “literally everything in here is eye-slashingly horrible” kind, but at the same time there is a consoling breath of radicalism pervading Vision Green, a redeeming Small Is Beautiful spirit. At least, one feels, their nonsense is addressed to the individual. A typical laissez-faire economist would probably like the Green platform the least of the four on offer from national parties, but the Greens may be the strongest of all in advocating the core precept that prices are signals. At one point, denouncing market distortions created by corporate welfare, Vision Green approvingly quotes the maxim “Governments are not adept at picking winners, but losers are adept at picking governments.” (The saying is attributed to a 2006 book by Mark Milke of the Fraser Institute, but a gentleman named Paul Martin Jr. had uttered a version of it as early as 2000.)

The New Democratic platform is more adult and serious than the Greens’ overall, which comes as no surprise. But it occurs to me, not for the first time this year, how much some folks love “trickle-down politics” when they are not busy denouncing “trickle-down economics”. How does Jack Layton hope to remedy the plight of the Canadian Indian? By “building a new relationship” with his politicians and band chiefs. How does he propose to improve the lot of artists? By flooding movie and TV producers, and funding agencies, with money and tax credits. He’ll help parents by giving money to day care entrepreneurs; he’ll sweeten the pot for “women’s groups” and “civil society groups”. One detects, perhaps mostly from prejudice, a suffocating sense of system-building, of unskeptical passion for bureaucracy, of disrespect for the sheer power of middlemen to make value disappear.

There is one specific difference between the platforms that leaps out when they are read together: Vision Green has a section on “Ending the war on drugs.”

In 2008, according to the Treasury Board, Canada spent $61.3 million targeting illicit drugs, with a majority of that money going to law enforcement. Most of that was for the “war” against cannabis (marijuana). Marijuana prohibition is also prohibitively costly in other ways, including criminalizing youth and fostering organized crime. Cannabis prohibition, which has gone on for decades, has utterly failed and has not led to reduced drug use in Canada.

Green MPs, we are promised, would remove marijuana from the schedule of illegal drugs outright. It’s the “legalize and tax” approach, presented mostly without the usual cowardly conditions—though, being Greens, they can’t resist stipulating that regulations should confine production to “small, independent growers”. (There is no earthly reason giant industrial concerns shouldn’t be allowed to get in the game if they want to.)

The NDP platform is silent on the drug war and on marijuana. Jack Layton used to be the favourite son of the single-issue stoners, and decriminalization appeared in past platforms. Now we see the mustachioed one repeating “potent pot” fairy stories on the campaign trail and calling for an “adult conversation”, instead of for policies that treat adults as adults. Note that when the Star‘s reporter asked a follow-up question, Layton immediately started cracking wise; someone should explain to him that “adult conversation” about drug policy does not involve dropping smirking hints about the personal predilections of participants.

It would not be quite so extraordinary for Layton to play the smug ass, of course, were he not a cancer survivor currently reaping a hard-earned harvest of sympathy. As he knows—as some kindly professional has perhaps told him—many people in his plight find marijuana a useful part of their therapeutic regimen, particularly in overcoming the effects of chemical and radiation treatments. I don’t suppose he will have any trouble obtaining marijuana if he decides he should want it; maybe he already has. But what about the less privileged? Have they been altogether forgotten by their social-democratic tribune?

A colour-blind man looks at Green and orange

  1. I used to be a big fan of the Greens, but they have been going down the wrong track with Elizabeth May. Sure she has been great for publicity but she has sharpened the main weakness of the Greens – that they are seen as a single issue party. Under her they are a single issue party. I'm not sure if she's dealt them a death blow or not, but the quicker they can get a new leader and a serious policy vision, the better.

  2. I used to be a big fan of the Greens, but they have been going down the wrong track with Elizabeth May. Sure she has been great for publicity but she has sharpened the main weakness of the Greens – that they are seen as a single issue party. Under her they are a single issue party. I'm not sure if she's dealt them a death blow or not, but the quicker they can get a new leader and a serious policy vision, the better.

    • The nice thing about Elizabeth May is that her single issue is the green issue. Whereas Jim Harris put the colour on the can, but if you actually read the ingredients you felt like a Vegan who just mistook a plate of horse meat for tofurkey.

      Not that I find the party palatable in either guise. (But horsemeat? Mmm…)

      • Great analogy!

  3. The nice thing about Elizabeth May is that her single issue is the green issue. Whereas Jim Harris put the colour on the can, but if you actually read the ingredients you felt like a Vegan who just mistook a plate of horse meat for tofurkey.

    Not that I find the party palatable in either guise. (But horsemeat? Mmm…)

  4. Great analogy!

  5. I'm not a fan of Layton's, yet I found this line set off my "offensiveness alarm" :

    "It would not be quite so extraordinary for Layton to play the smug ass, of course, were he not a cancer survivor currently reaping a hard-earned harvest of sympathy."

    The one statement that strikes me as credible? The one that ended "…gun-crazed oil-drunk Albertan."

  6. I'm not a fan of Layton's, yet I found this line set off my "offensiveness alarm" :

    "It would not be quite so extraordinary for Layton to play the smug ass, of course, were he not a cancer survivor currently reaping a hard-earned harvest of sympathy."

    The one statement that strikes me as credible? The one that ended "…gun-crazed oil-drunk Albertan."

    • Oh, I think Colby knew he would offend some his more gentle readers when he used " smug " , cancer, and sympathy " in one sentence. Which is why he let you have some fun by referring to the gun-crazed oil-drunk Albertan that lurks beneath the surface of the perception that all good folks have of Albertans.

      One of the reasons I like to read Cosh is because he has the brass to write what many of the more po-co journalists only think. Layton is in fine form on this campaign, and he does receive some extra room from the other leaders and folks in general—Cosh is simply pointing this out.

  7. There is no earthly reason giant industrial concerns shouldn't be allowed to get in the game if they want to.

    There is. Corporations can spend billions and billions of dollars on advertising and other gimmicks to get people to use their products and services. The goal is to allow people to smoke a joint if they choose, not turn us into a nation of stoners.

  8. There is no earthly reason giant industrial concerns shouldn%E2%80%99t be allowed to get in the game if they want to.

    There is. Corporations can spend billions and billions of dollars on advertising and other gimmicks to get people to use their products and services. The goal is to allow people to smoke a joint if they choose, not turn us into a nation of stoners.

  9. There is no earthly reason giant industrial concerns shouldn't be allowed to get in the game if they want to.

    There is. Corporations can spend billions and billions of dollars on advertising and other gimmicks to get people to use their products and services. The goal is to allow people to smoke a joint if they choose, not turn us into a nation of stoners.

    • "The goal is to allow people to smoke a joint if they choose, not turn us into a nation of stoners."
      That's the goal for right now. But just you wait until the giant industrial concerns get on the phone to their ad agencies.

      • These sinister corporations are going to get me hooked on a non-addictive substance, somehow.

    • You can’t have it both ways, Robert. If you legalize it, companies will be created and get involved to sell it. It will go the way of alcohol and tabacco.

      Also, large corporate entities already control much of the drug trade. They’re called organized crime.

    • A group of "small, independent growers" can also band together and advertise (and use other gimmicks) to get people to use their products and services. In the case of marijuana, a group of independents might be more effective advertising to the target audience than, say, Philip Morris. At what point does the marketing become evil? As soon as someone submits a T2 form to CRA?

    • Why did New Coke fail?

      They spent huge amounts of money to convince everyone they should love it. And they did not.

      You greatly overestimate how much Those Mean Evil Brain-Controlling Corporations can actually "make" anyone do jack.

      • Why did New Coke fail?

        A complete lack of THC, for starters…

        (LOL)

  10. "The goal is to allow people to smoke a joint if they choose, not turn us into a nation of stoners."
    That's the goal for right now. But just you wait until the giant industrial concerns get on the phone to their ad agencies.

  11. There is a real tension in your argument. If we legalize marijuana, presumably it means accepting
    A. that the harms of marijuana use do not pose a societal danger
    B. that responsible adults can make sensible choices about the substances they use

    Your statement reflects a belief that neither is true – that too much marijuana use would cripple society, and that adults are gullible pawns of advertisers. If that is the case, why legalize marijuana in the first place?

    Secondly, the potential problem you pose is trivial at best. We can just ban advertising for marijuana, if it really is the problem you suggest it is.

  12. Oh, I think Colby knew he would offend some his more gentle readers when he used " smug " , cancer, and sympathy " in one sentence. Which is why he let you have some fun by referring to the gun-crazed oil-drunk Albertan that lurks beneath the surface of the perception that all good folks have of Albertans.

    One of the reasons I like to read Cosh is because he has the brass to write what many of the more po-co journalists only think. Layton is in fine form on this campaign, and he does receive some extra room from the other leaders and folks in general—Cosh is simply pointing this out.

  13. I've said before that the Green party under May's leadership has become a waste of space in the political spectrum – an echo, and not a choice. Do we really need a whole new party for lefties that dislike poor people? Personally, I would be quite open to voting for a Green party that was more in the eco-capitalist mold of the Ontario Greens or the Jim Harris Greens. I do think incentives matter, and I do think we need to tax negative externalities (of which C02 emissions are an example) and to tax consumption. Indeed, overconsumption writ large is not just an environmental problem, it is a problem for our physical health (obesity), and the health of our financial system (which is increasingly prone to a boom-bust pattern). However, there are a few things that have kept me from voting Green in the past:

    1. A list of Canada's biggest exports reads like Greenpeace's most wanted list: oil, gold, auto parts, commuter jets and lumber. These are either energy intensive industries, consumer products that pollute a lot, or industries that kill trees. Any grand environmentalist program needs to reconcile itself with Canada's export competitiveness. Frankly, I get worried when all I hear is "oh but all of these industries will get replaced by awesome Green ones and we'll make so much money". No, there will be a transition, and it will be painful – much as free trade, or new technology generate painful transitions. What I want to hear is how we can ease that transition. How can we get harmonized policies with our trading partners? What kind of worker retraining programs can help soften the blow?

    2. National unity is an age old political problem in Canada. The trouble is that environmental issues are also regionally divisive – they pit energy producing regions against energy consuming ones. A green fix that reverses Confederation, or brings out persistent inter-regional animosities is not something I would like.

    3. Measured by the number of deaths per unit of energy produced, nuclear power is the safest source of power available. Once built (and yes, that part is expensive), nuclear plants have the lowest cost per kilowatt hour. Nuclear plants emit zero C02 emissions. Why do we need to pin our hopes on technologies that won't be feasible for a generation, when we already have a source of cheap, clean energy now?

    4. Locavores promote an inefficient system of agriculture, that – if realized – would raise food prices substantially, increase the amount of land under cultivation, could never feed the starving masses of the world, and frankly might even have a bigger environmental footprint (per calorie) than that of big agribusiness.

  14. I agree. I don't see that it would be a problem to apply similar restrictions on marijuana to what we already apply to alcohol, tobacco, or perscription drugs in terms of sales/advertising, etc.

  15. I agree. I don't see that it would be a problem to apply similar restrictions on marijuana to what we already apply to alcohol, tobacco, or perscription drugs in terms of sales/advertising, etc.

  16. We limit how alcohol and cigarettes are advertised, sold, produced etc. It's not unreasonable to place similar restrictions on legalized marijuana. There should be health warnings and THC content should be regulated to some reasonable level.

  17. We limit how alcohol and cigarettes are advertised, sold, produced etc. It's not unreasonable to place similar restrictions on legalized marijuana. There should be health warnings and THC content should be regulated to some reasonable level.

    • and its use punishable in many places with a fine.

  18. You are probably right, but there must be something in the air where he's from.

  19. and its use punishable in many places with a fine.

  20. Locavores are using a heuristic (and a terrible one at that) that goes "distance transported is proportional to ecological harm". This analysis is flat wrong. Price carbon and deleterious agricultural practices and the rationale for locavorism is decimated. The market will do the number crunching for you.

  21. Locavores are using a heuristic (and a terrible one at that) that goes "distance transported is proportional to ecological harm". This analysis is flat wrong. Price carbon and deleterious agricultural practices and the rationale for locavorism is decimated. The market will do the number crunching for you.

  22. A group of "small, independent growers" can also band together and advertise (and use other gimmicks) to get people to use their products and services. In the case of marijuana, a group of independents might be more effective advertising to the target audience than, say, Philip Morris. At what point does the marketing become evil? As soon as someone submits a T2 form to CRA?

  23. The argument being that the damages caused by agressively outlawing marijuana outweigh the damages the drug itself cause. Al Capone had the Chicago police bought and paid for thanks to prohibition, for marijuana see the tens of thousands of people dying in Mexico alone thanks to a black market that is over half marijuana money.

    I think marijuana and possibly other drugs as well should be outright legalized, anyone should be able to produce it, and no one should be able to advertise it. If the NDP can't afford to take that position they should look at Portugal's decriminalization which was entirely focused on reducing drug addiction by ending the adversial relationship between the 'authorities' and addicts, and seems to have worked.

  24. The argument being that the damages caused by agressively outlawing marijuana outweigh the damages the drug itself cause. Al Capone had the Chicago police bought and paid for thanks to prohibition, for marijuana see the tens of thousands of people dying in Mexico alone thanks to a black market that is over half marijuana money.

    I think marijuana and possibly other drugs as well should be outright legalized, anyone should be able to produce it, and no one should be able to advertise it. If the NDP can't afford to take that position they should look at Portugal's decriminalization which was entirely focused on reducing drug addiction by ending the adversial relationship between the 'authorities' and addicts, and seems to have worked.

  25. While I'm in full agreement with all of your arguments, part of me keeps going, "Yeah, but what else is there?"

    The Green party certainly isn't perfect.. and even less so under May than previously, but the problem is that nobody else is really offering anything substantial on this platform either. And my firm belief is that this platform is going to be key to our future well-being both on an individual and a national scale.

    Yeah, when it comes to our main exports, we're a huge environmental disaster.. but not dealing with it now on our own terms means that sooner or later we're going to be forced to deal with it on time-lines and in manners set by other nations. That one point is so huge in my mind that it negates a lot of the bad about the Greens. I mean, I'd rather not swallow 2, 3, and 4… but if we don't deal with number 1, I think we'll find all the other stuff to be pretty small potatoes in the long run.

  26. While I'm in full agreement with all of your arguments, part of me keeps going, "Yeah, but what else is there?"

    The Green party certainly isn't perfect.. and even less so under May than previously, but the problem is that nobody else is really offering anything substantial on this platform either. And my firm belief is that this platform is going to be key to our future well-being both on an individual and a national scale.

    Yeah, when it comes to our main exports, we're a huge environmental disaster.. but not dealing with it now on our own terms means that sooner or later we're going to be forced to deal with it on time-lines and in manners set by other nations. That one point is so huge in my mind that it negates a lot of the bad about the Greens. I mean, I'd rather not swallow 2, 3, and 4… but if we don't deal with number 1, I think we'll find all the other stuff to be pretty small potatoes in the long run.

  27. Why did New Coke fail?

    They spent huge amounts of money to convince everyone they should love it. And they did not.

    You greatly overestimate how much Those Mean Evil Brain-Controlling Corporations can actually "make" anyone do jack.

  28. Yes because all nations with expensive energy are economically weak, and those with cheap energy are economically strong…

  29. Why did New Coke fail?

    A complete lack of THC, for starters…

    (LOL)

  30. These sinister corporations are going to get me hooked on a non-addictive substance, somehow.

  31. Maybe they should've gone back to their roots, and put cocaine in it again.

  32. "Do we really need a whole new party for lefties that dislike poor people?"

    Canadians were crying out for a fourth!

  33. "Do we really need a whole new party for lefties that dislike poor people?"

    Canadians were crying out for a fourth!

  34. Come on, Cosh. There is a big difference between trickledown economics and providing money to arts funders and civil society groups. In the latter instance, the groups exist for the express purpose of either ensuring the money is given to the people it's designed for or doing the job the money is provided to do. (and I know from experience that arts funders do this with admirable efficiency, and responsiveness to the changing realities of the sector) Trickledown economics, on the other hand, is based on the patently ludicrous notion that if you give a rich person an extra $1000, they'll either donate it to charity or use it to hire somebody. Good luck with that proposition.

    • One of the guys I used to landscape with was employed for at least a day building one brick window well at the mansion neighborhood we did a job at. I call it the window well of trickle down economics. I think 'trickle down' as such isn't something anyone really believes in but I'm fairly comfortable with the idea that the wealth of the rich isn't sitting in a Scrooge MacDuck bin to the detriment of everyone else.

  35. Come on, Cosh. There is a big difference between trickledown economics and providing money to arts funders and civil society groups. In the latter instance, the groups exist for the express purpose of either ensuring the money is given to the people it's designed for or doing the job the money is provided to do. (and I know from experience that arts funders do this with admirable efficiency, and responsiveness to the changing realities of the sector) Trickledown economics, on the other hand, is based on the patently ludicrous notion that if you give a rich person an extra $1000, they'll either donate it to charity or use it to hire somebody. Good luck with that proposition.

  36. One of the guys I used to landscape with was employed for at least a day building one brick window well at the mansion neighborhood we did a job at. I call it the window well of trickle down economics. I think 'trickle down' as such isn't something anyone really believes in but I'm fairly comfortable with the idea that the wealth of the rich isn't sitting in a Scrooge MacDuck bin to the detriment of everyone else.

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