Sunday, January 17, 2010

Democracy In Action

I fail to see the negative within an organic exchange between a "put yourself out there" Ignatieff and a group of environmental activists. Given our current state of staged photo ops and cautious message management, a bit of spontaneous friction is welcome from this quarter. I have Greenpeace on my sidebar, I've given in the past, no "attack" on the Liberal leader makes me any less inclined to support, nor to do I see an ideological conflict. The video in question:

I think most fair observers would give Ignatieff some credit for his recent tour, in the sense that it allows for unscripted expression, it denotes a certain grassroots conversation. I've watched a few videos from the various stops, and Ignatieff has been put through his paces throughout, some tough questions accompanied by nimble and engaging response. If there is one thing our political discourse needs, it's this type of forum, any "risk" an afterthought. Uber partisans like Stephen Taylor rush to find any "protester" to discredit Ignatieff's initiative, but that is the useless domain of robotic HACKS. Liberals shouldn't fear any potential "blow back", because really I see it as wind in the sails, more than anything. Let's get some spice into the conversation, let's get engaged, let's debate and let's not fear dissent.

Greenpeace has a vital role to play within the environmental conversation. Their role is awareness and ensuring important issues make it into the public domain. The presence of Greenpeace pushes the envelope, they apply pressure on our political leaders. In this instance, a conflict over the tar sands, which quickly turned into a consideration of the ideal vs the practical. I agree with Ignatieff, the tar sands are a reality, it's hard to envision any scenario where the energy simply lies in the ground untouched, in the name of environmental consideration. To take that view in totality means one must ignore the other powerful forces at play, as well as jurisdictional realities. Ignatieff can't turn off the taps, and the policy proceeds with that sober consideration in mind. I have no qualms with this view, because it's simply a "sky is blue" position.

However, none of this is to say the tar sands shouldn't be attacked, pressured, embarrassed, decried. That is the counter required, the essential part of the puzzle that will lead to the best possible scenario moving forward, the better practice arrangement.

Stephen Harper hasn't put himself in ONE potentially unflattering appearance since he's become Prime Minister. It is so PATHETIC, this supposed man of the people, that he actually refused to appear on CBC last year, if had to respond to a question from A voter. Think about that reality for a second, what that says about our democratic debate. After you consider the micro-managed, propaganda machine approach, it's hard to find any fault in a guy who gets up on stage, confronts a mostly non-partisan and potentially hostile crowd, takes all comers and answers every question. Looks like democracy in action to me, or more rightly something I'd like to see more of from our political class. Agitation is healthy, voluntarily putting yourself within that medium, welcomed.


Northern PoV said...

I agree with the main point of your topic: Iggy should be lionized by the media for leaving staged photo ops for the dark side.

The problem is, wtf does he stand for? I have heard him speaking on TV regularly and live three times, a speech, a debate and a bear-bit q&a. He may speak English better than Dion but his communication skills fail him regularly.

I would be a much more enthusiastic Liberal if I knew where my leader stood and liked his policies. Pandering to Alberta (where we ain't gonna win a seat in the foreseeable future) will bring Greenpeace down on you ín a most deserving way and send voters to Jack and Lizzie.

That's my problem with Iggy. I hear pandering and platitudes. And I think that is why he continues to fare poorly in those polls you are so fond of.

Steve V said...

I don't see it as pandering, I see it as realizing a simple reality. Anybody who actually thinks the tar sands will be shutdown, doesn't live in the practical world. You aren't shutting them down, no matter what Ignatieff says or thinks. What you can try to do is acquire some credibility within that jurisdiction, so when you enact tough regulations, it isn't met with outright hostility. We can all live in never neverland, or we can accept the political and practical realities, then try to formulate the best possible regime moving forward.

The poll dig was unnecessary.

Steve V said...

Greenpeace keeps the pressure on, but I've never once considered the logical extension. Unless self interest and provincial jurisdictions suddenly disappear, it's pure folly to think that oil sits in the ground, untouched. NEVER happens. So, then the question becomes, how do you manage it? It's here were a union can exist, or more rightly pragmatic compromise. That's the end game here, anything else is fantasy.

Gayle said...

"(where we ain't gonna win a seat in the foreseeable future)"

Maybe not, but someone in the liberal party has to start doing the work to rebuild in this province instead of writing it off. Defying expectations on this issue might be a good start.

cls said...

It's been so long since I've heard a political leader actually talk to, and even debate with, the public it that it was refreshing to watch. No bubble, no invitation-only crowds,no handlers screening who could ask questions, and no cops hurrying protesters out of the way. Ignatieff looked very strong, accountable, and like a politician who understood that debate is part and parcel of democracy.

Steve V said...

The fact the Libs have virtually no chance in Alberta, it will play no role relating to their electoral chances next election, negates the "pandering" compliant.

Jerry Prager said...

As a Canadian citizen opposed to Harper's Prorogue, Ignatieff should come to the Facebook group, start a discussion topic by identifying himself, and then face that bear pit for three or four hours some day, he might emerge bruised and battered, but I'm sure he could hold his own there.

1500, away from 200,000 members, open discussions about conservative abandoning Harper, and scores of other topics, including the Liberal Governance conference.

weeble said...

I am not sure where Northern PoV would have seen pandering in your video clip. I thought Igantief handled the demonstration very well. Ultimately, the people can vote for whichever leader or party represents their views. If the Green Party states that they will shut them down, vote for them if that is what you want.
It is a very naive view to think you can wipe away the livlihood of an entire segment of the population without some consequence...but hey, go for it.
It won't happen, but we have to find ways of managing its environmental impact and Ignatief said that.
These town-hall meetings are great. As much as a leader needs vision, they need to listen. Our current leader has all the ideas. What do we need Parliament for, just gets in the way of what I want to do.
Trust me...actually Nixon comes to mind, there are similarities.

Tomm said...


It is very good the way Ignatieff handled the protesters. He deserves credit for that.

It is also something that differentiates him from Harper, another element in his public personna he needs to forge.

Your defense of Greenpeace is not something I can agree with. I use to be a member of Greenpeace until I became aware that their activism was over-running any real truth.

Isn't this the same group that rams ships? lies about Canadian's clubbing baby seals? puts spikes in trees to make them dangerous to saw? climbed onto the Parliament buildings before Christmas as a media stunt? led the way with the other ENGOs in Copenhagen to embarrass Canada instead of acting against real global villains (e.g. China)?

Your support of Greenpeace should be re-considered.

Holly Stick said...

This blog has good posts on the effects of the tar sands, including this one about the questionable quality of Alberta's environmental monitoring:

Frankly Canadian said...

A true leader has the consideration of the entire country not just one segment of the population or region of the country. Having grown up in Alberta many of my friends and family members rely on the “Oil Patch” or “Tar Sands” for their livelihood. I believe most Albertan’s do care about the environment and want to do their part in its preservation, however talking about shutting down an entire industry (even as impossible as it is) just alienates the province even further. Alberta always seems to be defending their rights and freedoms when going to the polls and the party who stands up for them the best usually wins with large majorities. This to me seems to be no different then Quebec worry about themselves first and foremost when they vote. Canada needs a leader who can bring the interest of “ALL CANADIANS” together in one solid platform, and I believe Mr. Ignatieff is definitely on the right track, certainly better then the present Steven Harper who wants to divide the country in order to conquer the country. Good post Steve, when I went to see Mr. Ignatieff speak, he had to deal with very difficult crowd as well, and he did a very good job of it, it was the “Green Shift” town halls. I certainly prefer a leader who is not afraid of its people and who would rather engage them, then stifle them.

Northern PoV said...

Iggy tried to place himself in the middle ... between shut-down-the-tar-sands and today's unchecked rampage to oblivion.
Trouble is, Stelmach and Harper sound the same.

Who said humans would leave the oil there forever ... but hearken back to the "Berger report" era, when we had better governance in Canada. Berger recommended a moratorium on development issues until the native-rights and environmental issues were solved - AND we did exactly that.

The conflicts between energy, jobs, environment, business - we've been there as a country and stared the $$-boys down before (or at least slowed them down while we got decent regulations into place).

How about a meager beginning "No further tar-sands projects approved until we solve the big environmental issues in extraction and refinement." I don't hear anything like this from Iggy.

Northern PoV said...

OK My comments on winning seats in Alberta were poorly presented.

If we are going to win seats in Alberta, it will not happen when we mimic the incumbents.
Linda Duncan and Anne McCleland are proof there are progressive votes to be had in Alberta ... if one espouses progressive policies.

Anonymous said...

I agree Northern PofV. It troubles me that Ignatieff has never once suggested delaying expansion of the Tar Sands until we can determine whether or not carbon storage is going to work, or solve the problem of leaking tailings ponds. It could very well be that the Tar Sands cannot be made "sustainable", but he never even considers this possibility. Sure the oil is in the ground, but maybe the price to extract it is just too high in terms of environmental destruction and quality of life.

Steve V said...

If you're actually paying attention, he has spoke to slowing down development. At least thatks how I read his "klondike" analogy.

Northern PoV said...

But Steve,

as you know, most folks are generally paying attention to other things
(goes to my point about his communication skills)

More mumbled metaphors from Michael means little to us great unwashed

Steve V said...

So, it comes down to some elitist jab, to cover your ignorance? You made up your mind a long time ago. I believe his comm skills are just fine, unless you have a deaf ear. Whatever.

Steve V said...

On another front, FB group just passed 200000 members.

Anonymous said...

In the speech that Ignatieff gave to the Chamber of Commerce in Edmonton last year, it's true he warned against treating the Tar Sands like the Klondike and advocated for long-term environmental and social sustainability. At the same time, however, he argued that their development is crucial to Canada's economic future and should not be slowed or shut down. It seems to me that he wants to go ahead with development without the necessary environmental safeguards in place and I can't agree with that.

Steve V said...

Well, I don't agree with that either, if true. I also don't think we have the complete picture as of yet.

Northern PoV said...

Not meant as an elitist jab ... many of the elite are just as disengaged as the lumpen proletariat (unlike the denizens of blogland who I wouldn't bet include much of the elite)

my point is: on this issue Iggy sounds just like a oil corp spin doctor or a Tory pol.

In general, he has been unable to use the media to articulate any position that resonates with his base let alone the wider public.

Northern PoV said...

Not sure if anyone reads comments on day old posts ... and that is fine by me cause I really don't want to give fodder to the opposition...

anyway, a young writer in the WFP nailed Iggy today
"No doubt Ignatieff is a deep-thinking man, but his changing position on higher education should raise questions as to whether his policy positions are dictated by what is easy, rather than by what he thinks would be best for the country."

the writer does not come across as a Con (I read a couple of other things he wrote)

Iggy is still in pundit-mode imho.

He visits places (Quebec, Kurdistan, Alberta, academia, etc) examines their issues (often feels their pain) and today still muses out loud as though he is reporting and commenting on a story. (As he was during his pre-2006 days).

This is a recipe for disaster and out of it we get the Israel-war-crime flip flop, the Quebec-nation-fiasco, today's spanking from a normally sympathetic newspaper and the painful meandering on the tar sands.

Iggy has yet to figure out his message - he has yet to properly articulate the directions he wants to lead.
So going without the safety net is only going to help if he can find his message and distill it for the cartoon-media-polling-nightmare-environment we have sentenced ourselves to.

Steve V said...

Except if you include his arguments on renewables and efficiency. It's all part of the same equation, so it starts to make more sense in totality.

As for articulating policy, I've criticized this "lack" as well. Hopefully, this idea that you don't release anything until a campaign has been put to the CURB, because it's pure folly to think you can define yourself within a unpredictable and short campaign.