Thursday, January 26, 2006

What to do with Kyoto?

Harper has repeatedly said his government would scrap the Kyoto Accord, replacing it with "a made in Canada" approach. For anyone paying attention, the Harper plan would essentially leave an unregulated private sector to unilaterally determine how best to deal with global warming. No money allocated for new technologies, no incentives to change business practices, just empty, ambiguous words. Harper's approach takes its cues from Alberta's open hostility to any threat on big oil and gas interests. Klein has already stated that should Harper become PM, one of his first priorities should be Kyoto.

Given the makeup of this new parliament, I would argue that Harper may not have the political capital to effectively kill Kyoto. Essentially, Harper is surrounded on all sides, with no possibility of the necessary ally. Layton made it clear in the days prior to the vote that Kyoto was non negotiable for the NDP. Duceppe, and more importantly Quebecers, favor Kyoto. Therefore, it would be foolish for the Bloc to compromise with the Conservatives. The Liberals, no matter who the leader, are sure to present a solid roadblock to any talk of backing out of Kyoto. Where does Harper go to fulfill this central promise?

Kyoto could represent the first major disappointment for Albertans who see this government as an extension of the province. Alberta can push the issue, but this confrontational approach could very well undo the government, for little political gain. Maybe I am overly optimistic, but I don't see a scenario where Harper satisfies this commitment.

Harper must be pragmatic, or risk a Joe Clark like experience. Kyoto is untouchable in the minds of the opposition and is central in the mind of many westerners. This leaves Harper between a rock and a hard place. Despite the power brokers of the Conservative Party, I suggest that political survival is paramount and therefore Kyoto may remain in the short term. I hope so anyways.

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