A litre for the times

“This will actually screw everybody across the country.”

– Prime Minister Stephen Harper


Happy 141 st birthday Canada. The planet may be edging toward an environmental crisis — the United Nations Environment Programme calls climate change “…one of the most critical global challenges of our time.” — but this is the level of public debate in our country. The prime minister calls the Liberal party’s proposed Green Shift “crazy economics. It’s crazy environmental policy.”

This is from the same man who is suing the Liberal Party over allegations he lied about his involvement in the Chuck Cadman affair. What leader in a British parliamentary system sues the opposition?

Of course, “leader” has been a quaint, archaic term in Canadian politics for some time. We’ve been through many leaders in recent years but few that truly led the country. Most were satisfied with managing Canada and maintaining an up to date accounting of votes so as to stay in power.

But as the country prepares to celebrate its 141 st birthday next week it could use some true leadership. As the population ages and the shortage of skilled labour becomes more acute, as the disparity between rich and poor continues to grow, as the economy teeters and inflation threatens, and as our reliance on carbon-based energy continues to damage the planet, there has been little in the way of vision or leadership from federal politicians.

Instead, we get attack ads.

Politics, like other sports, is mostly about winning. It is for Stephen J. Harper just as it was for John A. Macdonald, and for the 20 prime ministers in between them. A majority government is the real goal; leading the country is just an occasional, annoying secondary requirement.

But at certain times in Canada’s 141 years there have been opportunities to do more than just manage, more than just count the votes and the victories over the opposition. This would appear to be one of those times.

In the last two years, since climate change has become accepted as fact by all but the most mule-headed right wingers, polls have consistently shown that Canadians are concerned about climate change and the environment and want something done. But — quel surprise, these are Canadians being polled — there is less enthusiasm for doing something when it is perceived to have a negative impact personally. Hence, as we get closer to July 1 and the introduction of the British Columbia Liberals’ carbon tax that received such favourable reviews in February, there is more grumbling and increased resistance.

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