Fiscally responsible and socially progressive

Federal MP candidate Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu introductory postcardExplaining my introductory postcard: “Fiscally responsible and socially progressive”

I’ve met a number of people who cannot believe the Green Party’s claim to be both fiscally responsible and socially progressive.  Those who want to maintain small government are sure that “socially progressive” is a codeword for invasive, expansive and expensive government.  Those who want to secure rights and a broad social safety net are equally certain that “fiscally responsible” is a codeword for “tightfisted” and means slashing and burning critical government services.  Both deny that you could possibly be both.

So here’s what the terms mean to me.

Fiscally responsible

“Fiscally responsible” to me makes no statement about the size of government services at all.  What I would fight for, in the name of fiscal responsibility, is avoiding loading down my children with the burdens of benefits my generation enjoyed.  If I want larger, more robust government services, I must be prepared to pay for them.  That’s all.

And that’s a very Green approach.  It is in conflict with all of the other parties, that have depended on the idea of constant growth and limitless resource exploitation to promote an economic model that suggests that because the economy will always grow, we can borrow against the future – in business, in our personal lives, and in government services.

The future today looks very shaky indeed.  Fossil fuels, which are the lifeblood of our economy and the engines of growth, are grinding into their limits.  People all over the world are simultaneously beginning to demand that rivers, lakes and farms be cleaned up, that we stop treating our air, water and soil as a garbage bin.  We can no longer rely on the endless growth that heavy borrowing depends on.  We’re running out.

And it would be unconscionable if in addition to burdening our children and grandchildren with the effects of catastrophic climate change and resource destruction, we also left them with an impossible debt burden as well.

Of course committing to reducing the debt load for our children puts serious constraints on what we do today.  It means we must seek the most efficient ways of doing things.  That’s not always easy, but Greens on the whole are not interested in cutting social services.  What we do is try to identify areas of duplication, and especially areas of contradiction so that our tax dollars get more bang for the buck.

For example, there are more efficient ways to tackle poverty than with a complicated network of programmes from all levels of government: employment insurance, welfare, disability payments, housing subsidies, childcare subsidies, food banks, homeless programmes and more.  It is counterproductive to attempt to reduce emissions while subsidizing fossil fuel industries with taxpayer funding.  It is more economical to insist on better building standards in the first place rather than attempting to fund expensive retrofits later.  So there are avenues for streamlining government services without decreasing services.  And those are what we look for.

Socially progressive

Social justice and respect for diversity are fundamental Green Party principles – two of six that underpin all Green Party policy, and equivalent in stature to the imperatives of environmental wisdom and sustainability, which Greens are better known for.  I would not be interested in an environmental party that didn’t recognize social justice, because the world’s poorest frequently pay disproportional costs for environmental degradation.

As a result of our commitment to social justice and diversity, we were the first party in Canada with an openly gay leader and the first to support same-sex marriage.  We are strong supporters of a guaranteed income so that nursing mothers can choose to stay home, families can live in dignity and every Canadian can expand his or her potential without fear of losing a lifeline.  It should be clear that much of the Green approach is about enabling people and celebrating differences, and antithetical to intrusive government.

But we’re also very supportive of strong government where we need it.  In the 2006 election period, Green Party leader Jim Harris stood out from all other parties to state that he would invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution if necessary to protect universal health care.  We support a handgun ban across the country with full buy-back.  Where protecting rights requires government intervention, we’ll do what’s needed.

Overall what the Green Party stands for is sensible delivery of compassionate government services, distributed with consideration for justice for all today as well as the children of tomorrow.

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