Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Carole James should have thanked MLA Michael Sather, not thrown him out of caucus over Tsawwassen Treaty opposition

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday September 18, 2007

Green trouble for NDP's James


Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.

- William Jennings Bryan, 1860-1925

Carole James owes MLA Michael Sather a huge debt of gratitude.

But instead of thanking him, the B.C. New Democratic Party leader has thrown Sather out of her caucus!

Sather's offence? The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA is simply supporting a long-cherished NDP policy to protect valuable and disappearing farmland from industrial and residential development.

Sather's real problem is that he refuses to accept the wrongheaded idea that farmland is only worth protecting unless aboriginal people want to pave it and sell it to park shipping containers destined to and from China.
That means he will vote against the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty - only because the B.C. Liberals exempted the TFN from the provisions of the Agricultural Land Reserve, the historic legislation brought in by Dave Barrett's first NDP government in 1973.

And because James said the NDP caucus supports the treaty, she expelled Sather this month.

But James should instead be thanking Sather for opposing the treaty that removes 207 hectares of farmland from ALR protection and gives it to the Tsawwassen for Deltaport expansion.

That's because Sather is the thin red line holding back NDP voters who are environmental and farmland supporters from giving up on the party and voting Green.

Sather, along with NDP MLAs Guy Gentner, Corky Evans and possibly others who will abstain rather than vote for a treaty that will permanently eliminate a huge tract of productive farmland, is defending one of the NDP's proudest accomplishments.

And by doing so Sather is assuring NDP voters that protecting farms is worth fighting for to some in the party.

With the NDP at 32 per cent support, miles behind the B.C. Liberals at 50 per cent, and with the Green Party at 16 per cent in the latest Mustel Group poll, Carole James is in big trouble.

Two Green Party leadership candidates, Ben West and Damian Kettlewell, say they oppose the treaty over the ALR exemption.

That leaves Sather to defend farmland for the NDP.

"The issue of preserving agricultural land is so essential, whether it's protecting our food supply or climate change, it's so important," Sather said in an interview.

James has also alienated voters who believe - rightly - that an elected MLA is their representative, not simply a political party's. But the NDP provincial council backed James' position against a free vote - something B.C. Liberals MLAs will have.

"I am disappointed - we should have a free vote," Sather says.

And disappointment with the B.C. NDP is becoming James' biggest problem of all.


The Western Canada Wilderness Committee has also supported Sather and his call for a free vote on the Tsawwassen Treaty.

“We consider MLA Michael Sather to be a thoughtful, courageous, and well-spoken proponent for protecting BCs farmland...There are British Columbians who are not in favour of a treaty settlement that would see farmland paved and we would hope that these views could be represented by elected representatives without censure," said Joe Foy, Wilderness Committee National Campaign Director.

"The suspension of Mr. Sather from the NDP caucus and the continuing pressure to prevent a free vote on this important issue is, in our opinion, an assault on the free debate of important issues that a robust democracy depends on,” Foy added.

In a letter to NDP leader Carole James, the WCWC asks her to reconsider the position taken against a free vote on the treaty.

"The Wilderness Committee is extremely appreciative of NDP MLAs Michael Sather (Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows) Corky Evans (Nelson-Creston) and Guy Gentner (Delta North) for speaking out against the proposed treaty and for speaking up for the protection of farmland, the environment and community health," Foy wrote.

"We are therefore very dismayed to learn that all NDP MLAs are expected by you to vote for the treaty - no exceptions - in order to show party solidarity on this issue."

"Media reports also indicate that NDP MLAs that still choose to vote against the proposed treaty will suffer some kind of sanctions and this has us especially concerned. I note that the governing Liberals are allowing a free vote amongst their MLAs."

"Please, won't you reconsider?"


Anonymous said...

Superb column.

Anonymous said...

One wonders just who the NDP leader is getting her ideas from? The policy was in place for a long time. It was a party policy as I see it. She changed it. JUst had to go onside with Gordon one more time. The band wasn't leaving town, other accomodations can be made, but they see a follower not leader and knew she would fold.
My Gosh she is the elected leader but one would believe the rank and file might take umbrage with her action. Wonder how many will still remember her actions, next time the requests for money, or workers will go out. How many membership cards will fade away? Are we to believe that a number of MLA's are so afraid for their short time jobs that they would go against their party and their principals by when told to jump to it, they ask how high, as they pull their forelock? I do expect to see the LIberal side of the house doing what they are told, after all Gordon may reward them with another pay raise before they eventually get dumpted. Follow your NDP principals and lose you email privilage. How petty. One wonders if Corkie will go off on pension and back to horse logging. maybe Lali will jump ship now that a pension looms . But The fellow who really got it on the side of the head must be thinking deap thoughts as he is dragged down not only by another MLA who happens to be leader, and a small group of insiders who are just following her orders. One wonders which policy she will bend or break next time. Only in BC folks say. Lotus Land is still alive and disfunctional. Dl

Anonymous said...

Where is the Agriculture Minister? The Formosa Blueberry Farm wasn't on the NDP radar; now another much larger acreage is doomed. And the NDP just doesn't "get it".

kootcoot said...

Welcome back Bill - regarding this kerfluffle: What ever happened to the idea of "due process" in terms of a defined application etc. process required to remove land from the ALR. Or is that just another "cabinet privilege" of the Head Capo and his Cronies to be able to use any ALR land to bribe anybody they want.

Carole James action as usual is pathetic, even a LIEberal is going to vote against the treaty but we need more than two against. I'll say one thing for the Gang that occasionally spends time in Victoria, they are gifted at conflating and obfuscating issues.

I see Vaughn Palmer suggests they may try to delay the BVB trial 'til after the next election - hell - why don't they just delay it until everybody is dead, the way things are going that may not be too long.

Anonymous said...

this is exactly why party politics does not work, democracy being the first victim. I do see a double standard though, Gordon being able to control all his puppets with no public critisisms, and Carol being critized for doing the same thing.

Personally, I feel ALR trumps the treaty process and should not be allowed to be used for development of any kind.

Budd Campbell said...

"The Formosa Blueberry Farm wasn't on the NDP radar ... "

No one, including MLA Mike Sather, has objected to the Abernathy Connector going through ALR land, or even through the Formosa Farm. What Sather and others did object to was the particular route chosen through that property, and the measley compensation per acre being offered by Translink.

Nonetheless, the fact is that if ALR land is need for a public purpose such as a highway, no one seriously doubts that such an application will prevail. Highways trump agriculture, that's been policy throughout the 35 year history of the ALR, regardless of party.

What does not trump agriculture, ... most of the time, ... is a private purpose such as a container yard.

Anonymous said...

Note to Bill: The NDP leadership race ended years ago. Get over it.

Your recent critical remarks about the NDP sound like they were crafted by one of Gordon Campbell's 110 spin-masters in the Premier's office. You are making their political case for them, and you're pissing off a lot of NDP'ers in the process.

The Campbell Liberals already have the Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Province, Victoria Times-Colonist, virtually every other daily and weekly newspaper, Global TV, CTV, CKNW, and other affiliated radio stations across BC actively working to re-elect them and eliminate the NDP as a political force in the province.

We don't need BC's only left-leaning columnist sh***ing all over the NDP as well - unless, that is, you really would like to see a return to the 2 MLA scenario we suffered under from 2001 - 2005.

Make your mind up... are you a progressive New Democrat, or just another corporate lackey spewing out right wing propaganda?

There are more than enough socially corrosive, mean-spirited, envrionmentally destructive, anti-labour policies being implemented by the BC Liberal government that could keep a columnist busy for half a lifetime. You sure as hell don't need to waste your precious 10 column inches beating the crap out of your own party.

Give your head a shake, Bill!

Bill Tieleman said...

Anonymous, you are way off the mark.

First of all, I am a political commentator with a lot of experience, not a party hack spinning on behalf of the NDP.

Second, I am paid to give my considered political opinions. I don't see any NDP complaints when I whack the hell out of Gordon Campbell and his colleagues - which is most of the time and for good, documented reasons.

Third, I have nothing against Carole James and have in fact said positive things about her in the past. But I will not overlook obvious and glaring political mistakes - like throwing Michael Sather out of her caucus for supporting a longtime party policy.

I personally hope the NDP presents a viable and electable alternative to the BC Liberals in the next election. To do that they have to do a better job than we've seen this term so far.

And perhaps that's the real reason for your complaint against me, because I have and will call it as I see it.

If party diehards like you want things glossed over, too bloody bad.

Anonymous said...


My position as I have posted on babble, attempted to post on Public Eye Online, etc is this:

There's fault on both sides of the entire situation with Sather and caucus. Whoever decided that to "whip" the vote (caucus strategists I suppose) should have their heads examined. It would pass in the leg either way, and there was no need to put an ultimatum / gun to people's heads over this.

It causes grief and dissention when there's no need for it. And also plays straight into the opposing sides hands. However...

Sather ran and won under the BCNDP banner. He was afforded support from provincial office, not too mention Carole, logistics support, and everything else. That's not to say that you have to go along with everything, no matter how distasteful it may appear. He chose to stand on his principles, which he should be admired for. But in our parliamentary democracy, when someone in caucus, steps outside the lines, and goes against caucus wishes, the traditional punishment is expulsion from caucus for a period of time.

I respect him for standing up for his principles, however I find it odd that he's not willing to accept the consequences for doing so. And I also believe that that's led to a lengthening of the expulsion. If it were me heading caucus, I would have suspended him for the length of the voting procedure for the treaty. He could have abstained or been sick or something, but he's choosing to defy caucus.

Instead of taking his medicine as it were and letting things blow over, for the good of the party and yourself, he decided to make a bigger stink about it by forcing the issue at provincial council. The council backed caucus' decision decisively, and now Sather finds himself out longer than need be.

So just to summarize, this entire boondoggle could have been prevented if people had their eyes open and thought strategically and seen these booby traps popping up. Instead, here we sit, looking divided, and taking potshots from such luminaries such as DeJong and Falcon, 2 of the bigger Campbell lickspiddles. Just freaking great.


Anonymous said...

Booby Traps!

Oh C'mon, the James Gang has been more or less permanently enmeshed in one or another trap since before the 2005 election. Mostly, they've been traps of the caucus's own invention.

The point is that the party has, wittingly or unwittingly, behaved as though it has no 'political' sense at all since Joy McPhail walked out of active politics.

Instead of hammering the Liberals for their mistakes, their greed and the way they cater to special interests, the NDP has turned its own guns on itself: twice on MLA salaries and pensions and now, even more fundamentally, on the paving of ALR lands.

It's time for the party's real supporters to start screaming for a change in leadership and tactics before 2009. There will be lots more opportunities to deal with Campbell...he keeps on with his selfishness project for the economy and fewer and fewer middle class citizens can afford to live in 'the best place on earth'.

Let's get back to basics Carole - or move aside and find someone who will.

Provincial politics is not the school board.

Keep up the principled criticism Bill...eventually someone at HQ will wake up and realize all the smoke is fire.