As was predicted, the Conservatives won the federal election last night, but were held to a minority. Other spaces will analyze the significance of the political shift to the right and so on; I’d like to make a few quick comments and mention what this implies for environmental issues.
1) The Liberals managed to win 103 seats, so it may be that Conservative win was more about punishing the Liberals temporarily for the sponsorship scandal, and less about the country embracing any right-wing agenda. Harper and crew will have to take a very centrist approach on many issues if they hope to keep the Liberals at bay in a future election.
2) Ongoing suspicion of a right-wing social agenda (e.g., Harper’s reluctance to come right out and say he supports “a woman’s right to choose” an abortion, and the gay marriage issue) was what likely prevented a Conservative majority. A lot of this fear was hyped up by the media, which tends to be left-leaning in Canada. If Harper can show over the next year or 18 months that he truly has no radical right wing social agenda, and if he otherwise governs wisely, he could win another election, and possibly a majority next time. People are fed up with the patronage, the violent gun crime, and especially the tax burden and enormous so-called “surpluses.”
3) The most startling results were the total shut out of the Conservatives in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Two NDP wins were the only break in Toronto’s sea of red. This indicates, of course, a deep urban/rural split. Harper will only be able to put together a future majority if he can adopt policies that appeal to the urban elites.
4) Even people who are not Conservative should welcome the news that there is now a broad-based, national alternative to the Liberals. Canada was becoming like a one-party state, with all the corruption and cronyism that implies. Hopefully we’ll have at least two strong parties that can take turns governing from now on.
5) You’re going to hear a lot in the weeks to come about how the Conservatives are anti-environmental. I have several thoughts on this, starting with the premise that most of that is bunk. The Liberals do a good job of “looking” like they care about the environment, while in fact do little about it. At least with the Conservatives we might get a bit of frankness. The recycling and composting industries, and waste management in general, will not be affected much by the political change. Those industries’ issues are mostly municipal and provincial.
6) I respected Harper for having the guts to say during the campaign that he’ll get Canada out of the Kyoto agreement. To urban elites, this probably sounded akin to his gay marriage mutterings. If and when he gets us out of Kyoto, you can expect all kinds of negative press coverage about how this proves that Harper is a sort of George Bush. However, let’s set aside how the famous “hockey stick” diagram of supposed rising temperatures has been totally discredited in the scientific community (although I gather Environment Canada still uses it, which is outright fraud in my books). Canada was the “boy scout” at the Kyoto talks and was totally out-negotiated into agreeing to terms that are terrible for this country, while many European countries got off scot free. The USA — our largest trading partner — has not, and will never, ratify Kyoto. A big part of our economy is energy exports to the United States, so under Kyoto we pay the penalty for emissions, while our biggest customer does not. It’s ridiculous and very unfair. And China and India are also not covered by Kyoto. So, while I think emissions reductions and energy efficiency are important topics, I am completely in favor of Canada abandoning the Kyoto agreement, and you should be also, even if you think global warming is occurring and is man-made.
There are other environmental issues, but this is the big one, and I’ll write more about it another day.