Friday, January 12, 2007

An impending battle

Nathan Cullen has reported back on the NDP's talks with John Baird. And while Baird seems to be relying on an easily-debunked excuse to avoid action on climate change, it looks like Baird himself may be entirely willing to work on the NDP's terms:
Canada's rookie environment minister says he will face a tough fight with some Tory colleagues on green issues, according to an NDP MP who met with John Baird this week.

MP Nathan Cullen says Baird conceded to the concerns during a get-acquainted meeting in Vancouver with Cullen and federal NDP Leader Jack Layton.

"He expressed there's reluctance within some parts of his caucus," Cullen, MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C., said Thursday, referring to NDP demands for dramatic action to counter climate change.

"He acknowledged that some of the suggestions we have made, some of the policy suggestions are difficult for his members to accept."

Pressed for more details, Cullen noted: "(Baird) just said he'll have a fight on his hands when it comes to some issues."...

"(The Tories) have painted themselves into a corner on this," said Cullen.

"(Baird's) the guy that's supposedly going to get them out of this and he's got a lot of work to do."

Cullen said Baird did not detail specific plans though he agreed to help smooth the progress of committee hearings on the Tory's widely criticized clean air act.
Given PMS' well-known control over his caucus, it's surprising that Baird would use internal dissent as a reason for not taking action. And it's entirely entirely likely that the real problem comes from the PMO's own lack of will to take effective action, not from "reluctant" backbenchers.

That said, it's striking that Baird himself seems to have implied a willingness to take the other side. After all, it wouldn't make much sense to talk about a fight if Baird wasn't willing to try to convince the rest of the Cons to accept real action. Which means that if enough public pressure can wear down the remaining resistance (whether it's at the top or at the bottom of the Cons' power structure), there appears to be a real chance to put an effective environmental plan in place.

Update: John Ivison points out some more reason for hope:
But it is clear that change is in the air. Responding to a suggestion that the government's Clean Air Act might be watered down by the freshly struck legislative committee that is taking a look at the legislation, (Baird) looks quizzical. "Watered down? Beefed up, maybe," he said.

He is keen to get the legislation into committee later this month. "The immediacy of this challenge is not lost on me. We have got to move the ball forward. We don't need any more studies. What we do need is to begin to take action."
Given the Cons' general refusal to admit errors, it's doubtful that we'll see any stronger condemnation of its strategy to date than an implication that it could stand to be "beefed up"...and the determination to take action rather than consulting the environment to death also looks like a plus. Though it's of course still an open question whether Baird's actions will match his positive language so far.

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