Sunday, January 14, 2007

Choosing the right side

David Suzuki weighs in on John Baird's time as Environment Minister. And while it's remarkable how low Suzuki's expectations were set based on Baird's predecessor, some of the conversation seems to hint that Baird knows better than to try to play both sides of the street when it comes to climate change:
"Mr. Baird called me within two hours after he was appointed. When I called him back, he said completely out of the blue, 'David, I want you to understand, I'm not a flat Earther'," Suzuki said.

"He said I believe the information scientists are accumulating about global warming. I'm not denying its occurrence. Well to me that was a huge step up from what the previous minister had really been saying. So that was a very good start."...

However, Suzuki pointed out that former environment minister Rona Ambrose also approached him shortly after her appointment.

Ambrose said all the right things and seemed to have the best intentions, but failed to deliver substantive policies to improve the state of the environment, he said.

The onus is on Baird to get things done and set himself apart, Suzuki said.

"I think we've got to wait and see now that the photo op is done. Now let's see what can be actually delivered in terms of very hard targets and timelines to actually begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions deeply."
It's not exactly clear who Baird is painting as a "flat-Earther" - whether it's Ambrose herself, Harper, or simply an effort to invent a straw-man who can be portrayed as even more irresponsible than the Cons. But given Baird's expectation that he'll have to fight his own caucus to get anything done, it seems likely that at least a few Cons would have to fall within the scope of Baird's term. Which figures to have some internal ramifications for the Cons - but may also hint at what kind of policy the Cons are now willing to work toward.

After all, Baird's rhetorical shot at climate-change deniers seems likely to win him enemies among groups which have supported the Cons in the past...not to mention some of the Cons' own anti-science MPs. And a party as politically calculating as the Cons doesn't seem likely to accept that kind of loss unless it was going to be accompanied by some corresponding gain among more environmentally-concerned voters. Which in turn could only happen based on a policy strong enough to win over both the NDP's support in Parliament, and the favour of Suzuki and others outside it.

Of course, it'll still take some strong negotiating from the outside to ensure the best possible result. But unless the Cons have completely ignored the obvious lesson from Ambrose's tenure (that nobody's going to be fooled by talk not backed up be substance), it looks like they have little choice now but to work toward a strong environmental program.

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