Climate emergency –

Clive Doucet in Cape Breton. Photo: James O Grady

let’s get political

By Sarah Young

On February 1 at 7 p.m., Clive Doucet, city councillor for Capital Ward from 1997 to 2010, will  host a panel discussion with the NDP and the Green Party at the Glebe Community Centre. I recently caught up with Doucet in advance of this event.

Bringing the NDP
and the Greens to the Table

Doucet ran unsuccessfully in the last federal election for the Green Party in Cape Breton-Canso. The experience drove home the challenge of our current electoral system, which he feels works against the Greens and the NDP and helps to maintain the traditional dominance of the Liberals and Conservatives.

“In the last election, we learned that it wasn’t Greta Thunberg or the environment, it wasn’t any particular leader, it was the electoral system which determined the outcome,” says Doucet. “In the Cape Breton-Canso riding, folks were really concerned that they had to vote in a binary way for one of the old parties. They really didn’t like the Conservatives so they voted for the Liberals. The vote for the NDP and Greens collapsed when people got to the polling stations.”

With the polls suggesting a close race, Justin Trudeau used an old tactic, telling the voters “If you waste your vote on the NDP or Greens, you may end up with Andrew Scheer as prime minister.” For many voters, that fear outweighed their support for the NDP and Greens. It’s a tactic that works better under the current first-past-the-post system than it would under proportional representation.

Doucet says the current electoral system once again got in the way of people’s desire to vote for the two parties that focused on the environment. “The environment is very much on people’s minds and Greta’s message to the world is the crisis is real and terrifying – people get that now. As far as I’m concerned, the environmental crisis is linked to the political crisis, and it is linked regionally, nationally and internationally.”

Doucet was an NDPer but switched to the Greens because of the environmental crisis. As he explains it, he received a full range of reaction from Cape Breton voters for switching parties – unions were appalled and Greens were delighted. To him, this signalled a problematic division.

Envisioning Cooperation
and Electoral Reform

By hosting a conversation with the NDP and the Greens, Doucet is hoping to initiate a search for ways to get the two parties to work together more closely. He doesn’t think they can afford to keep fighting each other and building walls.

“The NDP and the Greens need to keep their identities but must find an intelligent, useful way of working with one another to get to where we want to go, which ultimately is a more just and sustainable Canada. We can’t do that fighting one another. We can’t be divisive. We need to be a stronger voice than we are today.”

Doucet believes that by working better together, perhaps forming a coalition, the two parties will be able to do more to help solve the environmental crises.

The February 1 discussion will address the divisiveness that holds down the two most progressive parties. As a coalition, the NDP and the Greens could hold the balance of power. So this discussion is looking at ways to come together and create a coherent, unified voice.

Clive’s Roots

Doucet’s family home is in Grand Étang, Nova Scotia, where his family has been for centuries. Doucet resides in Cape Breton for four or five months and lives in Ottawa for the duration of the year. The Glebe has been his home for much of his life; he misses it when he’s not here. For Doucet, the Glebe is like an old streetcar community.

“So many neighbourhoods have been butchered by high-rise development and freeways but the Glebe hasn’t. It’s a bit of an island with the Queensway forming its northern wall and the Rideau River forming a south and east wall. This has allowed the Glebe to function around a main street. People still live, work and play in the Glebe as if it is a streetcar neighbourhood. It keeps people rooted. This is a truly sustainable community as seen by the number of people who walk, the density and the share between rental and owned properties.”

Doucet has been an environmentalist all his life. Though he could retire from politics, he felt he couldn’t walk away from the fight for a better, more sustainable country.

“My Cape Breton home is 200 metres from the sea, and I see climate change happening every day. The storms that blow up from the Caribbean are unrelenting now, and the rain storms are so powerful. We have to create storm drains because storms are so violent, and I am now witnessing the cliffs coming down on a regular basis.”

Doucet’s biggest takeaway from the last election is the need to change the game by finding some way of cooperating. It is his hope that by bringing the NDP and the Greens to the table to discuss how to move forward more cooperatively, the two parties can show they care more about solving problems than being in power. From Doucet’s point of view, this could be a gamechanger for both the environment and social justice.

Sarah Young is chair of the Glebe Community Association’s Zero Waste Committee, a subgroup of the Environment Committee.

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