With all the talk about soul searching and rebirth, the obvious question for Liberals is what should be the cornerstone issue of the "new" party? When you look at the challenges ahead, the one issue that Liberals can embrace to convey a future relevance is the environment. The previous Liberal governments have largely failed to show any substantative vision on a myriad of environmental issues. The symbolism of Kyoto aside, the Liberal Party has failed to demonstrate leadership on the environment and offered timid remedies.
Yesterday, we saw Ontario's McGuinty government offer a refreshing glimpse into a potential future path. Canadians are increasingly realistic about the seismic changes necessary to protect our air, water and natural places. The time is ripe for a bold, visionary platform that offers tough choices and accepts the unavoidable consequences. Canadians are largely ready to accept the cost of change, if they see a coherent plan.
It is encouraging to hear candidates like Brison cite the environment as the key issue moving forward. However, all too often we have heard politicians speak to the environment, only to see half measures that don't acknowledge the real peril. Just as past governments have installed infastructure programs to kickstart sick economies, we need a massive injection of money, within a clear path, to change direction.
If you put up a solar panel, the total cost should be tax deductible, or better yet the government will pay a sizeable percentage. All the monies collected through the federal gas tax should go back into environmental initiatives. The federal government should speed up the glacial process when designating new wild places. Efforts should be made to purchase, in concert with the provinces, land from private interests to expand the "unharvested" portion of our natural landscape. Corporations that pursue aggressive environmental requirements should be rewarded with incentives, while cronic polluters with no social obligation, should be penalized. What the economy designates as profit should include the equation of social cost.
If you want vision and leadership that redefines who the Liberals are, I can't think of another issue that demands forward thinking. It will be interesting to see if we move beyond the empty lip service, and tertiary tinkering that is woefully inadequate. Who will address the elephant in the room?