December 16, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Green...

...Or from the Conservatives point of view, it's not easy giving the perception that you're green. And therein lies the problem for this government. Not only have they failed to be green, they have failed at being perceived as green as well. This was essentially confirmed by both Mulroney and Harper.

Mulroney acknowledged the failure when he confirmed that the Conservatives were lacking in the green department, "I think there's more work to be done on [the environment], both substantively and presentationally..." (1)

Harper has said he agrees with Mulroney's evaluation of what the Conservatives haven't been able to achieve. (2) However, in a televised spot Harper referred to the greenhouse gas threat as "so-called" and the "perceived effects on [people's] health from the environment over time."(3) This also comes on the heel of Stockwell Day's comments that blatantly shows his skepticism and doubt for the science and evidence supporting global warming.(4) These comments have given the people of Canada some clues to why the Harper government is failing; they don't believe that there is an environmental problem. Their so-called 'Clean Air Act' is proof of that.

Harper has said he will improve his government's environmental policies in the new year, probably beginning with more optics in the form of a cabinet shuffle and the outing of Rona Ambrose. However, it will take more than simple gimmicks to change the public's opinion on the Conservatives green-wash because most Canadians are now privy to the motivations of this government. But more than that, the Conservatives lived up to Canadians expectations on the environment.

Earlier this year, in April, there was a poll released about the government's performance in it's first few months. Since the government hadn't really done anything up to that point, the poll's results were more about the expectations people had.(5) The expectations for their environment performance was poor. If they've already met - and possibly exceeded - people's poor expectations then it's definitely going to take more than a cabinet shuffle and better optics to gain back credibility. And this challenge is only going to become even more tedious because the Liberals are laying the groundwork for a major environmental campaign.

It is not an easy thing for the Liberals to claim they are the new green-conscience of the Canadian government. Their track record is also less than perfect with several failed commitments in their pocket. However, there is a clear difference between the record of the Liberals and the Conservatives. While the Liberals' commitments were generally either too weak or too unreasonable, the Conservatives can't even claim they have tried. Not only have cut a revised and greatly improved Liberal environmental plan and passed the Clean Air Act - which doesn't contain anything substantial - but they also cut funding to environmental and green technology research and slashed the Energuide program that was cost-efficient and effective. Therefore, with respect to the environment, the Liberals hold much more credibility than the Conservatives do and this creates a problem for the Conservatives to climb out of the hole they dug themselves into.

Things are getting easier from that perspective either because as recent as this past week, Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, has also been on the defensive over the Conservatives environmental record.(6) If there is anyone, or any party, that has the credibility and the public's confidence when it comes to the environment it is May and the Green Party. May has also thrown her support, at least in comparison to the other party leaders, behind Dion and his strong focus on the environment. The praise has also been coming the other way. And this has now led to speculation that the Liberals and Greens might possibly try to strategically work together in the event of an election.(7)

Having Canada's most credible party on the environment working together with the Liberals creates a massive problem for the Conservatives. The Conservatives have no environmental credibility and polls are showing they are steadily falling behind the Liberals in support, most notably in seat-rich Ontario and Quebec. Having the Liberals and Greens working together means the Conservatives would have to do more than just create optics, they would have to provide evidence they can and will deliver on the environment. But time is running short. The Bloc are threatening to bring the Conservatives down sometime shortly after the House returns in the New Year. This doesn't give the Conservative much time to table a motion on the environment or much less prove they can be green. Not that we can reasonably expect something significant from a party that doesn't accept there's an environmental problem in the first place.

Like Kermit the Frog says, "It's not easy..."

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Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)