Which political party made a concerted effort, since day one, to shut environmental groups out of the government thought process? A careful reading of the history to this point shows a consistent pattern of snubs, a lack of consultation, attempts to eliminate environmentalists from international delegations, pretty much complete disdain and acrimony. The reason, the last thing in the world the environmentally bereft Conservative Party needed was a bunch of expert opinion shaping their bandaid policies. Any political party that would release the original Clean Air Act as credible and substantive, clearly couldn't engage people in the know, for fear of laughter. The Conservatives failed to engage the environmental groups because they didn't take the problem seriously, up until opinion polls and bad coverage demanded a partial revision. If there was an initial disconnect between the federal Conservatives and the environmental groups, the fault clearly lies with the hostile attitude of the government.
The Conservative complaint, the Liberals had the audacity to consult with experts in crafting their plan. Pardon me, but I expect my government to seek the advice of those in the know:
The grievances between the Conservatives in particular and some in the environmental movement broke out into the open a month ago during an appearance Environment Minister John Baird made at a Commons committee. He suggested Matthew Bramley of the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank, had helped write the Liberal environmental plan called the Carbon Budget.
"I do know the Pembina Institute is a very well-respected group with a lot of very smart people," he said as he defended the government's plan for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
"I also know that they helped write the Liberal plan. They're naturally going to defer to the plan they helped author."
Bramley with the obvious response, simple dodge and weave:
"We released an in-depth careful analysis of the government's most recent proposals on greenhouse gases at the end of May, and the only response we've had from Minister Baird is an apparent attempt to attack our reputation instead of dealing with the substantive issues we raised," Bramley said.
Funny, I don't see Baird making the same accusations, as it related to the devastating conclusions of the supposedly friendly CD Howe Institute.
The article reveals this tidbit, as supposed proof of bias:
But a Liberal insider who spoke on condition of anonymity said Bramley was intimately involved the Carbon Budget, and even helped draft questions for Liberal MPs to ask of various witnesses during committee hearings.
"Nothing went into the plan without Matthew Bramley's prior approval," said the Liberal.
You have a plan that environmentalists unanimously agree is flawed, and then the fact that the opposition solicits advice somehow translates into partisanship? I would like to ask NDP MP Nathan Cullen if he had any consultations with environmentalists about potential flaws in Baird's plan. I guarantee the answer is yes, unless of course Cullen is incompetent and doesn't do his homework. Political parties constantly seek the advice of expert opinion, on a hole host of matters, particular ones that are as complex as GHG's. The Tories completely shun Bramley, then are surprised when he seeks influence elsewhere. NOTHING to see here.
The article also takes a shot at Louise Comeau of the Sage Centre and Climate for Change. The hilarious part, the criticism of partisanship begins with:
She also provided advice, while at a previous job at the Sierra Club of Canada, to the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney.
The article criticizes Comeau for helping craft the Liberal's 2005 plan:
Comeau acknowledges she was consulted on the Liberal Kyoto plan called Project Green in 2005, but insists she was not involved in the actual writing of the document. One former government official saw it differently, saying Comeau was deeply involved in the formulation of the Liberal plan. Comeau also commented on the plan in the media as an environmentalist.
Again, what a travesty, using one of the most seasoned people to formulate policy. I am mortified!
But author Jamie Heath, a former chief of staff to Layton and formerly with Greenpeace, says Comeau and others are far more critical of the Conservatives than they were of the Liberals - even though the Liberals were unable to meet the commitments of the Kyoto Protocol themselves.
"People like ... Louise Comeau need to be intellectually honest in that you can't validate extraordinarily backwards policy from the Liberals, and then the moment a Conservative party comes into office demand that Kyoto targets be met come hell or high water," said Heath.
You have two approaches. One engages the expert opinion, which makes them feel like they have a voice in the process. The other alienates the experts, essentially stifles opinion and treats them as outsiders. Partisanship aside, which of the two would lead experts to be more or less sympathetic? If you feel you can influence, you are probably less apt to be critical, whereas hostility is met with hostility. Human nature doesn't translate to conspiracy.
The article, thankfully, ends with this from Steven Guilbeault
"This is an attempt by the Conservative government to shut down criticism of their policies by trying to intimidate and discredit people who voice their disapproval of their policies," said Guilbeault.
"They are trying to send a chill through the environmental community. The fact of the matter is their climate change policies deserve to be roundly criticized and that is why the Canadian environmental community has been unified in their condemnation."
I don't worry about "cozy" relationships with politicians, especially given the current climate of us vs them. I want environmentalists engaged in the process, and I see any appearance of partisan preference as a testament to Conservative hostility. Can we not ask the same questions of industry, which by all accounts clearly have the government's ear? What I find really troubling, the Conservatives puke out this nonsense, and reporters find it necessary to cobble together mostly nothingness to lend credibility.
Not surprising, the Conservative apologists find misguided vindication.