The politicians in Canada have discovered a new game called “I Can Be Greener Than You”. Everyday without fail you can open a newspaper or turn on the television news and you’ll see either one of the four party leaders playing it. If they happen to be tied up with actually governing, the environment minister and the official opposition party critics will be run out for commentary.
As Prime Minister, Steven Harper should have an advantage in the game of one-upmanship as he gets first crack at the press every day. But instead of making any great steps that would put the opposition on the defensive, he ends up responding to their proposals not the other way round.
The impression that this gives is that the Conservative Party of Canada, Harper’s political party, doesn’t care enough to come up with anything of real substance on the issue. The other problem that Steven Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada have is bridging their credibility gap when it comes to environmental issues.
They are the same government after all that after only a couple of months in power announced that they were going to renege on Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto Accord. They offered up a Clean Air act instead, that was so ineffective it wouldn’t even kick in until seven years from now, and even then it would be partially voluntary which meant there was no guarantee of any results.
In fact their biggest effort in this new game has been to discredit the new Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion. For all the Conservative Party posturing about how they don’t worry about polls, this guy absolutely terrifies them. Ever since his election as leader in December of 2006, he’s pulled the Liberal party up by the bootstraps and kept them ahead ever since. On top of that he was pushing the environment as a key issue even before he was elected leader.
Of course the other reason Dion worries the Conservatives so much is that he was Minister of The Environment for close to two years. While he didn’t do anything spectacular at that time, he at least prevented the slashing and burning of programming that has occurred in the first year of the Conservative Government. Considering that both of his Prime Ministers were intent on cutting the budget that in of itself is an accomplishment.
Of course Mr. Dion is also in the position of being able to take the moral high ground when it comes to the environment. All he has to do is keep repeating “I wasn’t the one to scrap our participation in the Kyoto Accord” and drop hints about Stephen Harper being from Alberta where the most business opposition to Kyoto – the oil business – comes from and let people draw their own conclusions. If they conclude that Stephen Harper is a lackey of the oil and gas industry it won’t be any skin off his nose.
Now the New Democratic Party (NDP) under Jack Layton are trying to look like they have some influence over events but in reality what little power they might have had is gone. Sure the Conservatives need them if both the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois vote against them, but if that happens can you see what passes for a left wing party supporting the most right wing federal government in Canada’s history? Not bloody likely.
Jack has been one of the staunchest supporters of the Kyoto Accord and other environmental initiatives with actual teeth in them that will make a difference. Of all the leaders he seems to be the only to understand that we can’t put off taking action any longer. He also knows that the longer we wait to start, the harder and more expensive it will become.
The real problem is that none of them are seen to be offering any real viable ideas except the opposition wants us to sign back on again with the Kyoto Accord, which wasn’t that great to begin with, but at least it was something
In the middle of all the politicians posturing, posing, and proclaiming, someone who relay knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the environment is touring the country to push for people to force politicians to realize it’s not just a fad but folk are genuinely scared.
David Suzuki has climbed on a bus and is touring the country like some latter day traveling evangelical show, preaching the gospel of how we can save ourselves from Global warning. Since Suzuki is usually more popular than any of the politicians people are paying attention to him when he rolls into town.
Will that translate into any real increased pressure on the political types? Well Suzuki has set up an online letter writing campaign at his web site where you can get a letter in your name written to all the previously mentioned political leaders, as well as the leader of Bloc Quebecois.
I don’t know how effective this will be except maybe to remind the politicians that the people of Canada believe that the issue of air quality is just as important as the budget and tax rebates. But of course that’s the reason that all of them have for spending any time on the issue. If the Canadian public didn’t care as much as they do now do you really think that any of these politicians would give a rat’s ass?
Probably not, which is all the more reason to go over to David Suzuki’s site and sign up to send a card to remind the political types what’s important. Sometimes I don’t think they’d remember their own names if the Speaker of the House Of Commons didn’t call upon them when they stood up to speak in Parliament. Hoping they’ll remember the environment without help when there are no cameras present is a little too much to ask
Right now they are playing their Green Game because they know it plays well with the Canadian Public. But until the House actually votes in legislation that curtails emissions from car and industrial smokestacks sufficient to meet even the bare minimum asked of by the Kyoto Accord, it won’t be anything but a game.
The real losers in this game are going to be all of us; the planet, and anybody who is able to come after us without being born with an oxygen tent built in.