Monthly Archives: September 2008

We’re still spewing

Didja see this? Apparently not in any Canadian news source, at least as far as Google News is aware.

The Global Carbon Project posted the most recent figures for the worlds’ carbon budget, a key to understanding the balance of carbon added to the atmosphere, the underpinning of human induced climate change. Despite the increasing international sense of urgency, the growth rate of emissions continued to speed up, bringing the atmospheric CO2 concentration to 383 parts per million (ppm) in 2007.

That’s at the very upper end of the projections made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Pretty much a worst-case scenario. And Canada looks ready to give a majority government to a party that wants to do absolutely as little as it can possibly get away with on the subject.

I’m just sayin’.

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A shortage of options

Columnizing for CBC.ca, Simon Jackson pumps up the idea that a growing bloc of young voters is keen on something like my own brand of environmentalist conservatism: seeing sound long-term economic policy and sound long-term environmental policy as pretty much the same thing, and wishing desperately there were somebody to vote for who seems to really get that.

Jackson surveys the bleak electoral landscape:

All of the current parties have elements within their platforms that should be attractive to Young Green Tories.

Jack Layton’s NDP has placed an emphasis on “green-collared jobs;” Stéphane Dion’s Liberals have the Green Shift that marries a tax on pollution with massive income tax cuts; and the Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have a strong emphasis in investing in green technology, such as capturing carbon, that would benefit both the environment and the economy.

Yet each party also appears to have a fatal flaw when it comes to attracting Young Green Tories: the NDP is still viewed as the party of old-school socialism; the Liberals are perceived to be suffering from a leftward retreat and sponsorship-scandal hangover; and the Conservatives are feared to be insincere in their support for the environment.

The Green party appears to have the best hope of rallying Young Green Tories — at least with their talk on the campaign trail of “catering neither to the left nor right but rather to those who believe in sound fiscal management and strengthening our economy while ensuring that it is sustainable.”

Indeed, this purposeful approach of the Greens — reading correctly the mood of many of today’s young activists — may be what is contributing to their surge in popular support in recent polls.

That said, as Andrew Steele of the Globe and Mail noted recently in his online column, when the Green platform is assessed closely, the party still has fringe elements of the old-school activist community that may ultimately be the stumbling block to an electoral breakthrough.

Two thoughts. First, the notion that “the Conservatives are feared to be insincere in their support for the environment” is the best wry understatement I’ve read all months.

Second, I’m not sure the Greens are really surging. They’re doing OK in the CBC’s Harris-Decima poll, 12 per cent, though probably not well enough to win any seats. Nanos has them at six. The Strategic Counsel’s battleground-riding polls (PDF) show a bit of a surge, and then a subsiding. Neither here nor there, though, since I think the underlying point about the Greens’ crunchy history showing through a bit too much is accurate.

With the election campaign reaching the midpoint, it looks to me as through the Liberals are probably the best environmental vote, but they leave so much else to be desired that it’d be a nose-holder for sure.

The Green Shift for beginners

We put together what I think is a pretty good primer on the Liberals’ Green Shift for the Citizen today. Here’s senior writer Don Butler’s main explainer piece, and my analysis of why the Liberals are having such trouble with their sales job.

The Green Shift isn’t central: Dion

This is one of those semi-gaffes that sinks campaigns.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said today that his Green Shift plan featuring a controversial carbon tax is not a major part of his election platform.

“You have said it was but never me,” Dion told reporters.

His surprise declaration follows by a day campaign appearances in the Toronto area where he failed to mention it once in his speeches.

Dion released the Green Shift plan in June in Ottawa with great fanfare. It proposes to tax fossil fuels while cutting taxes for lower and middle income Canadians.

“I have always said it was an important policy for Canada. I strongly believe it would be good for Canada,” he told reporters.

You can see what he’s getting at. Dion and the Liberals aren’t just running on the Green Shift. They do actually have a bunch of other ideas and proposals, which they’ve been trickling out as the campaign progresses, as parties will.

But that’s not what he said, and what he said is that the platform plank that he’s allowed everybody to believe is central to the Liberal campaign is not, in fact, central to the Liberal campaign.

I suspect this is a mortal wound.

Paul Martin’s the best you’ve got?

When we call Joe Clark, John Turner, Kim Campbell and Paul Martin “former prime ministers,” it is technically true. But, I mean, come on…

Four former prime ministers – Kim Campbell, Paul Martin, Joe Clark and John Turner – and leaders in academia, science, business and the environment have united to demand the federal government do much more to deal with climate change.

The diverse group, which also includes students, steelworkers and authors, is expected to release a statement in Toronto Tuesday calling for “steep cuts” in Canadian greenhouse gas emissions and deployment of “climate-safe technologies at a staggering rate.”

While the group claims to be non-partisan, it is clearly dissatisfied with the Conservative government’s performance on what many consider the most pressing issue facing the planet.

These were really, really, really bad prime ministers. Only Martin actually won an election and that was another technicality — he really just sort of notched an election along the Liberals’ long decline. In fact, the secondary members of the group

Stephen Bronfman, the Hon. David Peterson, Prof. David Keith, Katherine Giroux-Bougard, National Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students, Prof. Andrew Weaver from the IPCC and the University of Victoria, Ken Neumann, National Director for Canada, United Steelworkers, Kashmere Dahliwal, President of North America’s largest Sihk temple and Dr. Marlo Raynolds from the Pembina Institute

— while a somewhat random collection of luminaries, probably collectively shine brighter than the most embarrassing living losers in Canadian politics.

Which is a shame, because the group’s signature policy recommendation, that some sort of policy be adopted that prices carbon at not less than $30 a tonne, ought to be taken seriously in the public debate.

An environmental policy, this ain’t

Cutting taxes on diesel is not what you’d call “green.”

Stephen Harper pledged Tuesday that a re-elected Conservative government would halve a federal tax on diesel fuel. The prime minister is expected to contrast the move with the carbon tax on diesel fuel that is a centrepiece of the Liberal party’s Green Shift plan.

The Tories will take to two cents per litre the four-cents-a-litre excise tax. The Tories say that would cost the federal treasury $600 million a year.

As Stephen Gordon writes, “it takes two serious and pressing problems – the deteriorating fiscal situation and greenhouse gas emissions – and makes them both worse.”

Why study something when you already know you won’t do it

What a good, small-c conservative idea this would have been.

Government officials have abruptly cancelled a comprehensive study into the benefits of using tolls, congestion charges, parking levies and other “urban transportation pricing mechanisms” to help reduce pollution in Canada’s largest cities and pay for more public transport.

The study, which had been commissioned this week by Transport Canada, was to have examined “how pricing can be used as a tool to induce greater efficiency and sustainability in urban transportation,” according to a request for tender document. A government spokesman told the Globe and Mail Saturday that the government did not wish to push forward with the study.

But I suppose it’s hard to let sound economic thinking get in the way of sound political thinking.