Thursday, September 04, 2008


Canadian Election to test Green Policies of Liberals

With one day to go before heading for the Gatwick jumbo, I thought I'd do a brief post on the upcoming Canadian election. It's not official yet but the campaign is virtually underway. Until arriving in Montreal my knowledge of Canadian politics was limited to knowing that in the 1993 election their Conservatives had been wiped out electorally, managing only two seats. Since then they have recovered and in January 2006, Stephen Harper, their new leader, acceded to the leadership of a minority administration.

This meant accommodating the Liberal opposition and the other two minor parties, but during this summer relations have broken down and Harper decided the only option for him as an election to establish a proper mandate. This went against his previously expressed policy of moving to a fixed term system, but, as we know, politics is always a pragamtic process....

In terms of policies, the contest will be interesting for us as the Liberals, bravely perhaps, have decided to go for a green manifesto. Stephane Dion's Green Shift plan entails a new tax on oil, diesel and all carbon emitting fuels and redistribution of revenue collected (calculated at 15 billion Canadian dollars) in the form of tax cuts for business and individuals. Harper has made is his chief target and in response has spoken glowingly of the economic potential of northern and Arctic Canada which he suggests is ripe for exploitation.

So, this is, I think, the first real electoral test in an industrialised western country, of how genuine its commitment is to green-save- the- planet sentiments. My argument has always been that consumers do not really mean it when they support green arguments: they are too addicted to consuming. My cynical analysis would suggest Harper gets his mandate and Dion, the Liberal leader will be left to lick his virtuous wounds.

So what do the polls say? Well yesterday the Montreal Gazzette ran a poll showing Harper winning 50% of respondents as 'best PM' with Dion polling only 20%. However, while the environment was the key issue for 28% of people, health and the economy were no less salient. This suggests the Liberals might have to fight a personalised campaign to sully Harper's personal suitability, but it's early days in the campaign so far. At least Harper avoided the Gordon Brown error of building up talk for an election and then abandoning the idea with disastrous consquences.

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