Steven Agnew, leader of the Greens in the North of Ireland kindly sent me this on the shape of the election campaign there, the Green New Deal and prospects for the future.
Resources are stretched and we have to prioritise spending on areas that meet a number of policy objectives. There is no sense in squandering money on projects that may be good economically but environmentally damaging.
Equally we should not be pushing environmental policies that are not good for people. The Green Party benchmarks all its policies on whether they are good for the economy, good for people and good for the environment. We believe government should be doing the same.
In the last Assembly with one MLA the Green Party was able to get cross party support for the ambitious Green New Deal programme. If fully implemented the Green New Deal will provide thousands of jobs while helping to tackle fuel poverty and combat climate change. We need a strong Green Party presence in the next Assembly to ensure the vision of the Green New Deal is realised.
To achieve this, our first objective in the next Assembly term must be to see that the current budget is scrapped and rewritten.
The Green Party opposed the cuts budget in both Westminster and in the Assembly. As it stands the Northern Ireland budget will see our public sector decimated and result in massive job losses. It is not a budget borne out of economic necessity but one that is driven by political ideology. As was clear from Peter Robinson’s speech yesterday, this budget is about slashing the public sector to make way for increased privatisation.
Public services must be provided on the basis of need, not on profitability.
This is a budget which has been supported by the DUP, Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party. The opposition that comes from the UUP and SDLP has more to do with political opportunism than from having any real alternative vision. The Green Party is the only viable alternative to the decimation of our public sector.
In this manifesto we propose that we mutualise Northern Ireland Water and put a moratorium on the building of new roads so that an extra £1.5billion would be available for front line services such as health and education and to fully fund the Green New Deal insulation scheme.
What the current budget offers is a Green New Deal pilot scheme. Why do we need a pilot when we know that invested in insulation creates jobs, reduces home heating bills and reduces carbon emissions? By insulating 500,000 homes we can provide employment for up to 15,000 people.
In the next Assembly we will oppose plans to increase fees for students that would see our young people burdened with crippling debt – this is an unacceptable price for university education which benefits our whole society. I myself have a £16,000 debt from my university days. I will not condemn the next generation of students to the burden of debts of up to £40,000.
The other parties are happy to blame Westminster for the cuts to higher education funding - we will not let them hide behind this smokescreen
We need to Invest in NI. We need to invest in our young people and in the small local businesses which are the backbone of our economy. Small businesses are being ignored by an economic policy that seeks the quick fix of Foreign Direct Investment. Other parties want to gamble with our economy. They are proposing putting £300million of our money on the corporation tax cut in the hope of landing the FDI jackpot. We entice these companies in with huge grants and the promise of cheap labour and lax environmental regulations. However they soon leave again once the money has dried up – taking their profits with them.
Instead we should be protecting the businesses we have and helping them to grow. We need to build the economy from the ground up to ensure that it is sustainable and resilient in times of global economic uncertainty.
The Green Party enters these elections in better shape than ever. Our European election result showed our vote had trebled in the space of five years. In these elections we are looking to translate that growth of support into seats in the Assembly and in local councils. We have young candidates that can bring a breath of fresh air to Northern Ireland politics and the experience and expertise of Green Parties across the globe to draw upon. While others dwell in the past it is the Green Party that has the vision for a brighter future.