Sunday, October 21, 2007


Stephane Dion is apparently trying to counter the growing perception that he's lost any claim to oppose the Cons on principle by drawing at least one line in the sand where he'd actually stand up to the Cons. But on a closer look, it's hard to imagine a more empty statement of "principle":
In Winnipeg yesterday, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion pledged to stop any anti-environmental Conservative legislation.

While Dion stopped short of saying Liberals would defeat a confidence motion to trigger an election, he said the party would not support legislation that could endanger the environment or Canadians in general.
So what's wrong with the statement? Let's note first that Dion's "pledge" is limited to saying the Libs "would not support" anti-environmental legislation...when it's already been made clear that the Libs aren't formally supporting the throne speech either, but merely refusing to vote against it so that the Cons can pass it. And it's hard to see that apparent loophole as an accident given the Libs' obvious fear of an election anytime soon.

But it gets worse. After all, it's seemingly agreed by all parties that the current state of Canada's environmental statutes is far short of satisfactory. Otherwise the Cons wouldn't have introduced their now-dead Clean Air Act originally, and the opposition parties wouldn't agree on the importance of the amended version of the bill.

From Dion's non-threat, though, the Libs apparently don't plan on bringing down the Cons unless they propose legislation to change the status quo. Which suggests that whatever gaps exist in the law as it stands - and however weak the Cons' environmental regulations (which set out any actual greenhouse gas emission targets) may be - the Cons can avoid an election triggered by environmental issues as long as they simply avoid putting any legislation up for a vote.

Now, it's not impossible that the opposition could itself get something done, particularly if it cooperates to pass the amended terms of Bill C-30. But it's clear from Dion's failed attempt to look tough that the Cons won't face any real pressure from the Libs to improve their own direction. And that should leave all the more reason to doubt whether Dion will ever present a substantial opposition to Harper's government.

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