Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Insincere Environmentalist

Jeffrey Simpson has an interesting column on the Prime Minister's rush to go green. This point is relevant:
You don't have to be a cynic, just an experienced observer of Canadian affairs, to appreciate that the vast majority of Canadians won't follow any of the details of the various parties' environmental policies -- unless one of them proposes to impose a tax.

What will therefore count politically when election judgment day arrives are not the specifics of this or that policy, especially since the Conservatives are now borrowing somewhat from previous Liberal ones. Rather, what will count are perceptions about which leader and party seems most committed, sincere and competent to deal with climate change. The political choice, therefore, will not be about policies as much as sincerity and values.

But in politics, the ultimate judgment won't be about policies, but about perception of who really believes what they are saying.

I completely agree, ultimately sincerity and real passion will seperate the politically motivated from the genuine. Despite Harper's "green" blitz, I think he will still have a hard time selling himself as the environmental Prime Minister. Of course Harper says the right things, he will be able to point to pieces of legislation, but what can't change, his natural body language and inflection that reveals indifference. Stephen Harper isn't passionate about global warming, he just isn't. The environment was an afterthought in the Tory platform, as evidenced by his first choice for Minister. Harper can scramble, but he will be hard pressed to convince Canadians that his new found concerns are a product of real conviction.

People can criticize Dion, but there is no disputing his passion when he speaks on the environment. Dion comes alive when he muses on sustainability and the threats to the planet. Layton is quite articulate and emotional, conveys a real tone of urgency when he speaks on environmental issues. May is generally riveting whenever she opens her mouth on global warming. Contrast these politicians with Harper's wooden, analytical rhetoric on the environment and he clearly loses the sincerity test.

This issue will come down to question of political expediency vs natural concern. The last year, and before, demonstrates a clear pattern, wherein Tory concern is directly related to public demand. Harper can roll out programs forever, but in the end, he will still have to "sell" his vision to Canadians. Contrasted with the other leaders, I suspect the next election will reveal Harper as the convenient environmental champion, a by-product of the ballot box, as opposed to real leadership. It's not about the environment, it's about re-election, Harper's lack of sincerity will reveal the fraud.


Olaf said...


Perhaps your right. Interesting how Simpson and Coynes efforts on the same topic were almost complete opposites: Simpson thinks they care about sincerity and passion, rather than action; Coyne thinks they only need to show action (any action) to pacify the electorate. I'm sure there's a bit of truth in both.

But, in Harper's defence, he really doesn't get "passionate" about anything, so him not seeming passionate about the environment was hardly a surprise. But you're right, Dion does light up.

Aaron said...

I really enjoy reading Jeffrey Simpson’s take on politics, but I think that he has left out something in the article that you link to.

Governements have a considerable amount of discretion between elections especially when one party has a majority. Promises are frequently broken. And initiatives may be allowed to die quietly in the day-to-day administration even while the government makes a public display of favoring them.

Although the perception of “sincerity” is presented as a murky concept by Simpson in the article, it is not an unintelligent question for a voter to ask.

Based on the foot-dragging by the conservatives over the last year and Stephen Harper’s own past statements, Canadians have good reason to suspect that promises concerning the environment will not be kept or allowed to fail by slow or even intentionally incompentent administration if the conservatives are re-elected.

In an important sense, it does not matter, though I doubt this will be the case, whether the Conservative promises look better on paper than the Liberals. I don’t believe that the Harper party will keep their promises on global warming.

Anonymous said...

Your only reason, Aaron, for accusing the Conservatives of deliberately sabotaging environmental legislation is your own bias. On the other hand, we have 13 years of Liberal lies and inaction on the environment upon which to our assessment of their future actions.

I think the voting public is smarter than you think they are. We will find out at the next election.

Mike said...

"On the other hand, we have 13 years of Liberal lies and inaction on the environment upon which to our assessment of their future actions."

And 13 years of the Conservatives\PC\Reform\Alliance not calling them on it because until a few weeks ago, the didn't care because they didn't (and indeed most still don't) think global warming was real.

So the Liberals dropped the ball and the Conservatives happily let them.

In short, jon, shut the fuck up.

Steve V said...

And, in 13 years, all the Conservatives could come up with was a pathetic paragraph in their platform. STFU indeed.

BTW, if you criticize the Liberal plan, you essentially criticize all the latest Tory announcements, because it's all rehash. Can't wait for tomorrow, when the "doer" re-introduces the same program he cancelled last year.

kenchapman said...

How much money and effort has it cost the taxpayers to cancel the "Liberal therefore it must be bad" environmentaly programs just to have Harper dust them off and pretend they are his own announcements.

Ideology trumping purpose and the Harper political focus sucks and I bet it is expensive to reinstate all the stuff he cut because it was "Liberal" at least in his mind.

I am told you have to add yellow to Tory blue to get green. Harper is doing that but his green looks very much like the Liberal Red in content and context that he cancelled because he did not think it was important.

Harper's minority government is being test driven by Canadians. So far it does not hold the road very well and is subject to erratic lane changes, over steering and sudden changes in direction - even when on on the straight (and narrow) parts of the course.

Is the Harper the kind of leadership you can to trust with your future and that or your children and grandchildren?

Anonymous said...

ken chapman,

You pose some questions that you think have easy answers. The answers will surprise you.

Yes, Canadian's are ready to trust a new vision of Canada. Canadian's are starting to care again. That has translated into them firstly wanting fairness (LPC mis-translated this into politically correct government). Canadian's are now walking away from that and are looking for a Green Party or an NDP Party, or a new Liberal Party, ... or the CPC.

The answer is in who can articulate the vision.

The best question now becomes. which answer will make it through the media screen.

Whose 5 second sound bites will sound cold and callous? Whose 5 second sound bites sound warm and comforting?
Whose 5 second sound bites sound bold and assured? And, what mood are you in, whaich message will you feel drawn to?

So ken, the answer that breathes life into Canada into the future is the CPC answer. The answer that will capture the public's attention is still unknown.

I do know one thing. The sooner Harper can negate the LPC advantage on Dion's media green-ness, the worse off the LPC becomes. Each policy announcement is a nail. A revamped Clean Air Act is a whole bag of nails.

Green strength or NDP strength hurts Dion immediately Harper, only in the long term.


Anonymous said...

There will be some in the electorate, beyond the koolaid addicts like tOmm, who dont' care who thought up which policy first or where it came from. Good policy is good policy.
That being said, it would be incredulous to see the MSM eat up this donkey-sh*t and call it supper without mentioning that the same 'New Government' spent the past 12 months trashing and repealing the same plans. While nimrods wearing Tory tinfoil maybe able to hide their sh*t-eating grin behind their obedient nods, just where and when will the cracks start to show for a party that not only paid attention to and delivered the commandments on knocking climate change science, but has been circle-jerking with some of the biggest polluters and eviscerators that you can find on this planet.
Thankfully, Simpson and Wells, as usual (and this includes the final months of Martin's torturous reign) have it right.

Anonymous said...


Wow, that's a lot of ugliness considering you didn't acknowledge the truth in what I said.

You bring up a good point about the environemnt. It is often said that the CPC (or elements within) don't buy the science of a changing climate. You know what, that is a pointless position.

To the environmental "user" and the environmental manager, whether the climate is changing because I'm drinking kool-aid, or whatever it is you have in that pipe, the cause is meaningless. The point is adapting to the changes. Mitigation is 5% of the solution and requires global action, adaptation is how we survive and prosper.