Monday, December 03, 2007

The unpopular Conservatives hiding behind another appointment

Another perhaps too clever by half move by Harper reported in today's Globe on the environmental front. As talks commence in Bali, Indonesia on new efforts to come to a new agreement to fight global warming, Harper's people announce that leading Canada's "advisory" team in Bali will be former PQ Premier Pierre-Marc Johnson. Once again Harper chooses the political appointment route to attempt to provide his government with political cover on an issue which may yet prove to be their Achilles heel. Pierre-Marc Johnson, meet John Manley. John Manley, meet Pierre-Marc Johnson. You upstanding fellows are charter members of the cover-Steve's-ass club. It's a small and prestigious club that counts few. But I'll bet it'll be growing fast at the rate Harper is going.

It's really quite the admission by Harper, and Baird, for that matter. They are so politically unpalatable to Canadians on the environmental file that they must appoint people beyond their own ranks as front people. It's quite the spectacle. Hopefully Canadians will soon do these Conservatives a favour and put them out of their misery. Let's elect people next time around who we want to be leading on such issues. Not Conservatives who have to import viable talent.

Not that Mr. Johnson is likely to do them any good at this point. If they think he'll in any way help to overshadow Mr. John Baird at the Bali talks, well, good luck to them. The combative, aggressive Baird is in fine form, all ramped up to tell the world it's everyone's-in-or-no-one's-in. He's even ready to dump on a woman in a grocery store who had the audacity to tell him that the Conservatives should be doing more for the environment. Baird took in her comments then apparently took great pains to count her grocery bags - 29 - and then followed her to her SUV. Then he filed away the information in order to bring it out at a politically useful moment where he could undermine criticism of his government. He publicly berated her, no names of course, at a House of Commons Committee meeting this past Friday. You see, no opportunity is too small for this man to seize and wrangle the political living daylights out of it. Never mind that the woman actually voiced an opinion shared by millions of Canadians about the all-excuse Conservative government's environmental performance. So citizens of Canada, think twice when you encounter this Minister of the Crown in public and dare to voice your opinion to him. He just might take a personal interest in you and mock your daring to have done so. He's not about to be lectured to by anyone - including those from opposing parties at the House of Commons Committee hearing, as he stated on Friday. I mean, really, what is this...a minority government or something? The arrogance of Minister Baird is astounding.

This appointment also confirms, obviously, that one of the principal driving forces behind the Conservative political strategy at all turns is Quebec. How well this little move will help to dampen the opposition in Quebec to the Harper environmental position, hard to say. I'd find it hard to believe it would make a significant difference. Johnson's not particularly beloved as a former Premier. And the substantive positions taken by Harper and Baird on behalf of Canada at this summit will outweigh any last minute personnel announcements. If Canada proves to be a saboteur at this thing, in league with the Bush administration or willing to do nothing unless all nations commit to binding emissions, there'll be little p.r. salvaging of that. And all indications are, the U.S. will not be surprising anyone:
By far, the biggest obstacle to forging a new accord by 2009 is the United States, analysts say. Senior Bush administration officials say the administration will not agree to a new treaty with binding limits on emissions.

Instead, President Bush recently proposed that the world’s biggest countries work toward a common, long-term goal set decades in the future, without specific targets or limits, and more immediate goals set by individual nations using whatever means they choose.

In his latest statement on climate change last Wednesday, Mr. Bush said, “Our guiding principle is clear: we must lead the world to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and we must do it in a way that does not undermine economic growth or prevent nations from delivering greater prosperity for their people.”
Those words could just as easily have been mouthed by Mr. Harper. Pay close attention to the Canadian positioning as this thing develops.