The price of lies

At 1:23:45am local time April 26, 1986, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine SSR, a series of errors and bad judgment led to an explosion in reactor #4 that spread radioactive material through much of western Europe.

Design flaws of the reactor type that were suppressed by the state meant that the safety countermeasures would fail during a safety test leading the a catastrophic accident. It cost lives immediately in the explosion, it cost lives in the attempt to put out the radioactive fire, it cost lives in the months long mitigation efforts to cap the spread of radiation. It cost lives by the thousands.

Good, honest heroic people of the Soviet Union paid with their lives to make safe the region around Ukraine and stop the threat of a nuclear holocaust through much of western Europe.

Chernobyl, however, is the perfect metaphor for the Soviet Union. Built up on dangerous mythology that would fail if tested. And it did.

Former General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev wrote in 2006 that the Chernobyl incident was likely the true cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Perhaps he is right. Generations of corruption and cynicism finally let loose and nobody trusted the regime anymore.

We are in danger of repeating a mistake. While this isn’t a nuclear plant melting down, we’re in a global crisis of another brand. A pandemic.

Several of our leaders are bent on returning life back to normal – the “normal” we had prior to the outbreak. It’s the same yearning to maintain status quo that the former Soviet authorities were fixated on. Because to let any other narrative slip in there it meant that change would have to be embraced.

The Soviet Union paid a price. It wasn’t until well after the Chernobyl incident that they were forced to admit that their reactor type had a critical design flaws, but in having their science community point out this flaw in years previous; it was an admission that by suppressing the information of the flaw the Soviet Union became responsible for the disaster. They alone could have prevented it, but they weren’t prepared to change.

In striving to return to normal as this pandemic burns through its process, by refusing to change, we are collectively setting ourselves up for the next disaster.

It’s true that nobody can take “blame” for the onset of Coronavirus, but how we deal with it should be revealing as to the various leadership styles out there.

For the Soviet Union, it was prestige and power. Today it’s money. Money isn’t everything. Just like prestige and power can quickly evaporate.

The notion that “we’re all in this together” cannot just be a political tag line, it has to be a new philosophy. Both in these times of crisis but as we emerge.

On the other side of this pandemic, we have to rethink how we care for our most vulnerable so that they may lead a dignified and relative independent existence. Homelessness needs to stop completely. The tax code needs to stop coddling the one percent. We need to invest in a universal safety net. Nobody should starve or be homeless.

We are granted by our creator this place among the stars as our home, and no place else like it exists. It’s our moral obligation to care for it and care for each other. We have no place else to go.

Either we change or die. Change isn’t going to be easy or fast, but doing nothing and pretending that we can just carry on as “normal” is the lie. And that lie will be our doom.

My2bits

Serious question for the legal community

Considering free speech guarantees in the constitution, which is the First Amendment of the USA constitution and 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada, there are limits to the above freedoms.

Both countries place limits on what you can advocate, such as Canada’s criminal code sanctions on Hate Speech. And no where do you have the right to yell “fire” in a crowded theatre.

These limits have faced legal tests of their own in the supreme courts and have been validated over the years.

So my question for legal experts, can laws be passed that outlaws and criminalize any advocacy that runs opposite to public health orders? I mean if to yell “fire” in a theatre can get you a serious fine (or worse if your actions caused injury or death), then shouldn’t that apply to those opposing vaccinations? Flouting ‘stay-in-place’ orders?

We’re not talking about those who argue that earth is flat or that the moon landings were faked in a Hollywood studio. Making these arguments based on conspiracy theories is inconsequential; nobody can be harmed by how flat you feel the earth is. You might be called stupid or an idiot, but that’s your argument to make.

Those who argue against life saving medical advice and established science have a profound impact that could cost lives. That, in my opinion, is no different than the asshole who yells “fire” in a crowded theatre.

You have every right to follow whatever faith you wish; stand on your soapbox and bang the drum for (or against) whatever political cause or party you wish…and as repugnant as those views may be, I support your right to have them.

But I do not support you having the right to argue against life saving medical advice because *you* feel that it goes against your personally held beliefs.

In my belief system, I accept that we are all created in his (God’s) image. To me, that means that everything that exists today as we know it flows from this design. Including the medical science we have gleaned from years of experience and education. If we, human animals, were not intended to discover things and generally *advance*, then we’d be no different than any other mammal prowling the earth on instinct alone.

It’s not my place to judge how you interpret the articles of your faith, but if in the free practice of your faith you put my community, my family, and myself at grave risk by your actions, then your actions are akin to calling fire in that crowded theatre.

And there should be a law against it.

My2bits

Coronavirus and its silver lining

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Look, there has to be a silver lining to the outbreak of a major pandemic in this modern age.

I don’t mean to make light or joke around at anyone’s expense; there are real people who have died in this pandemic – made worse by the actions (or lack thereof) of powerful leaders.

In watching the worlds’ nations reaction to #coronavirus, some nations are reacting swiftly, bringing all resources to bear, others – have different considerations.

We have seen some countries at first deny a problem exists, then ignore science, then ignore emergency protocols because their primary concern goes to the economic impact of the disease.

We have also seen places act proactively when given proper information, grant full disclosure and transparency, act with a life-preservation motivation at every step.

The first model is a politically driven response which attempts to mitigate financial and/or political fallout from any panic coming from the pandemic, while the other model puts aside the politics/money and mobilizes government resources and tools to whatever extent necessary.

The first model is being used by America and some European nations, the second is being deployed by Canada, most Asian jurisdictions and elsewhere. The first being a generically right-wing model, the second is a generally left-ish response.

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Guess where you’re finding the problems? Not on the left.

In fact, in a crazy sense of irony, the left wing approach may save the right. By using the full weight of government action, public healthcare and generally being proactive, the significantly larger cost up front may be the most efficient way to navigate this disaster.

Inversely, the right-wing model, loaded with its layers of political and fiscal policy tests, is proving no match for a virus that doesn’t give a shit about policy. So we lurch from willful ignorance to overreaction causing various financial markets to crash – in a world where markets are particularly sensitive to instability.

So what do the capitalists do? Unload $1.5 trillion into the markets to give it a jolt and make it better. It lasted 15 minutes and evaporated faster than rubbing alcohol.

Here’s the bottom line.

We’ll get through this, some places will fare better than others. I for one, am grateful for our public healthcare system that places patient-care above profits. For all of its flaws, this is a far superior model to one that is profit motivated and subject to the politics of the day.

Let doctors and healthcare pro’s do their jobs. Listen to first responders and civil authorities. Don’t over-react but don’t take chances either. These are uncharted waters for many. Whatever economic slowdown may happen as a result will be followed up with a recovery, and hopefully, positive change.

Hang in there everyone, we’ll be ok.

my2bits

CGL Pipeline debacle is a progressive values test.

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The trouble with the CGL pipeline is that you can make a compelling progressive argument either side of the proposal. Something that nobody anticipated.

To be sure, there are many complex layers in this debate, but the fact that its happening in live-time has brought out unprecedented protests across the country; blockading railways, harbours, marine transport, and several government offices.

To be clear, I’m not a lawyer nor am I of First Nation’s lineage, so my view on this is just that: an unprofessional opinion.

Make no mistake, the right wing is united on this. They’re rallying behind the law-and-order flag calling the protests illegal and demanding that politicians interfere with police and the enforcement side of things.

They have it wrong too.

Protesting, demonstrating, whatever you want to call it, is a protected right under our constitution. The line crossed between a lawful, peaceful assembly of folks highlighting causes and an illegal act is a determination made by a judge when asked to order an injunction: this is not a right granted to armchair pundits. So stop it.

As it turns out, nothing is clear and obvious about the pipeline proposal and the Wet’suwet’en (re)action.

The quick glance tells us that 20 elected first nations along the proposed route have given their blessing to the project while a handful of hereditary chiefs reject the idea. The 20 elected band councils cover 100% of the region, if we’re keeping score.

It was this simple look that CGL got its permission slip and required permits to begin this pipeline.

Not so fast says the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en.

Sure enough, digging deeper into this, there are layers of complex court rulings that have given rise to the protests we see today.

The compelling narrative seems to be the lack of consent regarding the proposed route as it drives through sensitive Wet’suwet’en lands and heritage sites. It opens up wounds around the colonial treatment that our First Nations have been treated with.

Competing with this narrative is an environmental one that takes a stand against the 30k job industry in BC. While natural gas as an industry isn’t without challenges or concerns, there’s a problem with the narrative that the Wet’suwet’en are against the CGL pipeline because they’re opposed to the NG industry: its misleading.

You see, consent was implied for a different routing of the pipeline that was eventually ruled out by CGL. It immediately begs a question: if the Wet’suwet’en were so anti-natural gas, why would they suggest an alternative routing of a pipeline that they would have approved of?

Why would the Wet’suwet’en suggest an alternative route for CGL? Because they’re fully aware of the Supreme Court decisions that give them a major role to play here; and to grant them this alternative routing would have been the very kind of reconciliation event that everyone wants to showcase long before it was coined as a popular phrase by politicians.

It also proves that the Wet’suwet’en leadership (elected and hereditary) aren’t unreasonable people, they were more than ready to do a deal; that they were plugged into the needs of their peoples.

The CGL Pipeline wasn’t proposed yesterday or last week, this is a multi-year project in its application phase. The decision to approve the CGL Pipeline as is was done in 2014 while Christy Clark was Premier in BC and Stephen Harper was your Prime Minister.

We get to this to this current crisis because of activists of the Wet’suwet’en in setting up road blocks and checkpoints along the access points within their territory that made it impossible for CGL to perform any work on the pipeline sites. As a result, CGL sought out and won court injunctions that required these activists to step aside and allow access by CGL to its work sites. Essentially to let the pipeline project proceed without the consent of the Wet’suwet’en. So this was done, by police, acting with an enforcement order.

That’s when the progressive world exploded.

It is a valid left wing argument to support unionized, family supporting high wage careers in resource development. Jobs that pay very substantial levels of taxes that support public healthcare, education, highways and the social safety net. Jobs that will also directly benefit the various first nations who have been on the suffering end of the economy for generations.

It is also a valid left wing argument to support a continued evolving reconciliation process that empowers first nations to come to full treaty status, gain full equality and shared decision making capacity with the various levels of government that surround us.

It is also valid left wing argument to support the fight against climate change; by requiring the industrial players to do more to mitigate legitimate concerns raised by the climate science community.

The false choice as presented by the big media and the right wing is that the left has to pick one of these avenues; so that they may define “leftists” as one of the above. The truth is that we’re all of the above and this is our test.

We’ll overcome this. If we work together.

My2bits

Gig workers are workers too and need labour code protections

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The NDP government needs to act without delay, to amend BC’s labour code to recognize gig economy workers who exist as “independent contractors” with employee-like labour rights as any waged worker has.

As a guideline, California passed “AB-5” that does very much the same. To be sure, California law making and BC legislation exist within different constitutional frameworks and in different countries. But the point is not lost here: gig economy workers are at risk.

As an independent contractor in the gig economy world, you don’t get fired, you get your contract cancelled. For those who’s paycheque is tied to a mobile app, annoy the company and you’ll get disconnected. Gig economy workers exist almost within an “at-will” employment scenario and its scary. Especially in an economy where most middle and modest income earners are struggling.

Being fair, I can’t say that I’m a big cheerleader of ride-hailing. Or gig-economy jobs; but maybe some folks are.

All I know is that this was a promise made by the NDP and kept.

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While it is true that certain NDP candidates said bad things towards the real ride-hailing cheerleaders, the BC Liberals; it was largely because the BC Liberals were planning a free-for-all system that would have been the worst outcome from every perspective.

Ride hailing isn’t a climate change savior; it won’t do anything to unclog an already over-capacity Vancouver regional highway system. It was only a transportation option that every political party made. All of them. Especially the Green Party.

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To recap. Ride hailing was an industry that burst into existence in 2009. Ride hailing was actually chased out of BC by the BC Liberals in 2012 when they tried to set up without regulatory approval. It wasn’t until the 2017 provincial election that the BC Liberals made the notion of ride hailing a campaign worthy promise after having not lifted a finger for it in the 8 years previous.

For whatever criticism one can throw at the NDP for the slow roll out of ride hailing, its at a breakneck speed compared to the bag of nothing delivered by the BC Liberals, and the NDP has added the class 4 license restriction to these drivers as a layer of qualification and safety. Now its time to protect the drivers of such business models; and all others who draw a paycheque from this sort of business to feed their families.

My2bits

Barack Obama endorses Justin’s re-election

I have no doubt this will lift the spirits of centrist liberals who prop up Justin Trudeau.

But consider this.

Barack Obama campaigned on hope and change in 2008, a generally Liberal agenda, he delivered a mostly incremental upgrade in domestic policy.

Don’t get me wrong, if I were American, I would have voted for Obama too.. especially given his GOP Presidential competition. Slam dunk.

But the centrist liberal incrementalism of Barack Obama gave rise to the popularity of people like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among others in veering hard left in a country unfamiliar to actual socialist policies.

I guess what I’m saying is that while Obama’s endorsement may help shore up his base, Trudeau has failed on delivering the progressive agenda he pledged.

Now he will come across as desperate.

Look, I don’t hate the guy, I just think that Justin Trudeau is arrogant and entitled; just as much as his party.

Jagmeet Singh is that leader. He inspires hope, courage and change.

I’m voting NDP.

My2bits

Charter rights are meant to be protected. Unanimously.

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If you’re wondering why the abortion issue has sprung up in this election, it’s because some folks have called out Elizabeth May and the Green Party’s ambiguity on abortion rights in Canada. 

Specifically, the Green Party prides itself on being “un-whipped” when it comes to it’s potential MP’s in that the party caucus won’t force it’s views on individual MP’s. The backdrop here is that several candidates, including from Elizabeth May personally, had been revealed as either pro-life or non-committal about ensuring a woman’s right to make these sorts of decisions freely. Since this all exploded into the open, Elizabeth May has taken a strong position herself committing to pro-choice and that the Green Party has taken an absolute position on the matter. Except that if your party refuses to “whip” it’s representation, any attempt to re-open an otherwise closed legal and private medical issue as abortion is, could be done so by the un-whipped Green MP’s that Elizabeth May wants elected. 

This is not a trivial matter. The right to access abortion services in Canada  was made possible by the Supreme Court throwing out laws that forbade access calling them a breach of Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

That is to say, access to abortion is a constitutional right. But laws and regulations could be passed by parliament that could obstruct or add layers of interference with this right. It is imperative that candidates for generally progressive political parties be unanimous in their support of women’s autonomy to make her own decisions without interference from politicians. 

Specifically, the Liberals, NDP, and Greens should have no daylight between them when it comes to women’s rights. Or human rights, since women’s’ rights are human rights. 

Elizabeth May and the Green Party want to have their cake and eat it too. You cannot be both an unwhipped party and be even remotely ambiguous about Charter Rights. 

So when folks charge that Elizabeth May is open to dealing with the socially conservative Conservative Party, there’s a legitimate worry here. Especially when the Green Party leader is only concerned about climate action.

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That’s why this is a big deal.

My2bits

The Greens stunning coup in grabbing former provincial New Brunswick NDP candidates turns to a lemon.

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Read the story: here

You’re a party member that discovers that some voters are racist. Do you defend your leader against this intolerance? Or leave the party because you don’t want to be identified with that turban wearing leader.

Today we found out.

The Greens, already stung by their party leader’s gross misfire in the “corporate restorative justice” stunt where Elizabeth May seemingly flings aside reconciliation and UNDRIP by proposing SNC Lavalin be given a no-bid P3 to rebuild water systems on reserve lands, now appears to be the home of political activists who are uncomfortable with a brown skinned dude with a funny name.

Elizabeth May presumably signed off on this plan, was she aware that some former NDP candidates were not comfortable with the brown guy with the Sikh faith? Jagmeet Singh? She should have told them to fuck off. We don’t want your racial intolerance either.

This is the sort of thing I would have expected from the PPC. This would have made sense. From the PPC. Greens?! Remember when they were pretending to be progressive?

 

No. The Greens are not progressive. This is a move unfit for a party seeking office who wants to hold the balance of power.

Sure, good catch, Green Party. Thanks for taking out trash.

Now wear it like the cynical opportunists you have become.

My2bits

Elizabeth May’s SNC Lavalin idea is a clusterfuck

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Where do we begin.

In a wide ranging interview, Elizabeth May ended up talking about SNC Lavalin and the appalling state of water quality in several First Nation’s communities.

She linked them.

The major issue for SNC Lavalin is the pending legal trouble and the various corporate crimes they have been accused of. They had been seeking a differed prosecution agreement – the very issue at the core of the #LavScam scandal.

Separately, the Federal Government who has constitutional jurisdiction on First Nation’s peoples is responsible to their many communities; communities whose access to clean drinking water in many areas is curtailed due to contamination. These are third world conditions. In Canada.

Elizabeth May chimed in with the notion that a corporation should be compelled into fixing these inadequate water systems as part of their sentencing as a means of “corporate restorative justice”; on their own coin to be sure.

So, we’re to tell an affected first nation community that the badly behaving company is going to build them a new water system and the company is going to pay for it.

Shades of “we’re going to build a wall along the Mexico border and Mexico will pay for it”.

Let me list off the issues that come up with this proposal.

Now is not the time to go soft on white collar criminals.

Anything that gives the slightest ‘out’ for badly behaving corporate bosses is a non-starter with me.

This isn’t the same as handing a juvenile convict a sentence of 100 hours of garbage pick up and graffiti removal for the crime of vandalism.

Corporate criminals get convicted because they conspired to defraud clients, the taxpayer, or both. They do not fit on the same table of ideas.

If more corporate criminals saw the inside of a jail cell and lost 90% of their illegal wealth, then perhaps we’d see less of it. Giving them an out is the last thing we need. Especially in times of the expanding gulf between rich/poor and the disconnect between powerful elite corporatists and average folks.

This is the slippery slope to corporate personhood

It was a famous quote by then Presidential candidate Mitt Romney who uttered the phrase that “corporations are people too..” that lit the left on fire. He was wrong then, and centrist neoliberals are wrong to embrace it now.

By assigning ‘community service’ as a means to make the Corporation feel guilt and remorse. The victims of corporate crime are often taxpayers, shareholders or innocent clients; the only thing that the victims want after the fact (if not their money back) is to see that the people responsible are sent to prison like any other common thief.

Corporations don’t feel. They’re a box or a machine. They don’t get that sort of protection, people do; and the people-victims of badly behaving corporate bosses need to see justice being served.

Collides hard with Reconciliation

This is one of the trickiest areas of law and First Nations relations to be in the public sphere in a long time. Its overdue. We’re a long way off, in my opinion, but need to find a path forward.

I’m not a First Nations member, as my family tree I recently discovered is almost 75% viking and the remainder is ‘other’ European. But as a Canadian, I agree that our performance and treatment of those here first, those who’s land was taken, who’s cultures, languages and belief systems were systematically razed by a government bent on a genocidal assimilation of otherwise peaceful people.

I believe this proposal by Elizabeth May runs afoul of any solid effort on reconciliation.

Her idea is to say that here’s a badly behaving corporation, fresh from a criminal conviction, and we’re requiring them to rebuild your water systems…not only the ones in disarray, but all of them: see below.

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No input. No consultations. No effort to reach out and see if there are other, just as capable engineering and construction firms able to the tasks.

SNC Lavalin stands accused of some shady things, but as far as I’m aware, none are related to the sad state of potable water in various first nation communities.

Politicians let off the hook

The sorry state of drinking water in several first nations communities didn’t happen overnight. This took several decades of neglect; by governments more eager to subsidize corporations or hand tax cuts out to the one-percent folks.

Elizabeth May is clever here even if she’s not aware of what she has done. She’s made funding and construction of water services available only if there’s a conviction. What if there isn’t?

It is the government’s duty here, and Elizabeth May is giving politicians an easy way out here. “we’ll let the bad guy pay for the thing we’ve neglected for 40 years”.

What fuckery is this anyways?

Judicial interference

The court has the right to impose an adequate sanction for a criminal conviction. But to hear it from Elizabeth May, “we’re not letting the judge decide” and that is a dangerous game to play.

The government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on the losing end of a Supreme Court decision when his government passed legislation adding layers of interpretation to sentencing criminals.

Granted, it was for different reasons, but the politicians threatened the independence of the judiciary. They lost.

Further observations

The Party of Elizabeth May wants to be King maker and power broker. This is a real possibility in the next parliament, so moments like this are critical for voters in judging who has the wisdom to lead.

It’s been noted that this issue, while not explicitly designed as such, has turned into a perfect “Liberal” trap that some NDP folks walked straight into.

False.

It’s a centrist neoliberal Band-Aid solution to an institutionally broken system. But doesn’t offer any real solutions.

Maybe it’s consistent with the stunning shift of the Green Party shifting to more Liberal/centrist philosophy in the hunt for votes; so let’s call it what it is.

Pathetic.

My2bits

Update:

This matter has been debated online by several folks and since the first outbreak of this scandalous idea, Elizabeth May has walked back a couple of items;

She’s recognized that the court (judge) has the jurisdiction to decide a sentence upon conviction.

She’s argued that her initial scheme wasn’t privatization, but in my opinion it looks more like punishment-by-P3.

What hasn’t changed is the tone deaf messaging and chaotic defense put up by Green party partisans.

Look, I’m not First Nations, but if I was, this clusterfuck would have been the moment I ruled her and her party out as an option.

Elizabeth May put reconciliation (consultation) and local water systems up as bargaining chips to be considered when figuring out punishment for white collar criminals.

WTF did first nations do to Elizabeth May to be degraded to the level of any other community service (restorative justice)?

It’s gross. And under further examination, it’s still pathetic.

Done.

Strike two, Ms May

Not everyone wants to vote Liberal or Conservative. This has been traditional fertile ground for the NDP for those left of centre folks or provides an opening for right wing competition to the conservatives.

And let’s be honest. 3rd and 4th parties want a minority parliament because that gives them the opportunity to leverage their legislative votes for concessions from the major parties. That’s how this thing works.

But. If your mapping out the campaign for one of these smaller parties, you must do so with a plan to win outright. “If [party] wins this election, we’re going to do these things that are on our agenda.”

It is unwise however to preemptively underline the handful if items you want if you’re a minority partner *prior* to the election. You could see those ideas gobbled up by a major party only to have your team made to look irrelevant, or you could trap yourself. By trap, I mean that in preemptively marking your legislative items, it might implicitly point to *one* party that you’re interested in working with, which may box your team in: you could be subject to the same opponent attacks, and you could subsequently limit how you criticize your potential partner.

Elizabeth May came out and said that if the Conservatives under Andrew Scheer were to embrace climate change and the carbon tax, she may support a Conservative minority government.

To the 65% of Canadians who would identify themselves as liberal-to-progressive and reside in the three major non-Conservative parties, you just ruled yourself off the ballot in their world.

This is a major mistake and a revealing window into the strategic chaos that Leader Elizabeth May is taking her party through.

That’s strike two.

Strike one was the hiring of political street thug Warren Kinsella as an advisor. By doing so, Elizabeth May and the Greens lost all right to claim that “we do politics differently”. No they don’t. Now they can’t.

Incidentally, as Greens are finding themselves on the defensive over this missive, they’ve gone and dug up a 10 year old story where the NDP voted to uphold a Harper budget in the fall of 2009. The narrative being, if the NDP can strategically support the conservatives, why can’t we?

The budget question at hand included improvements to EI at a time that the 08/09 meltdown had caused a major economic slowdown and job losses. The NDP used their legislative clout and votes to demand improvements for the unemployed. It delayed a premature election call; one that when it happened, reduced the Liberal Party to 20+ seats.

What the Greens have done here is different. They’ve set a price for their support *before* they have the bargaining chips in their hands. That’s a fatal mistake.

Campaign on your values, let the voters decide. When or how your party utilizes it’s influence and who they may or may not support in a minority parliament is a move left to play after voters have dealt you the cards.

Elizabeth May seems to have counted her chickens before they hatched.

My2bits

Update

Further observations: now that Elizabeth May has set the price for her support (solely environmental matters), Andrew Scheer could meet that price in theory, and also pledge to do a whole raft of socially conservative things that satisfy his base. But, technically that’d be ok since Elizabeth May already placed her chips. For her to withdraw the offer, this leaves her open to charges by Scheer that she can’t be trusted to ‘deal’, and he’d be right.

This is a disaster for the Greens.