Friday, January 20, 2006

Think Twice, Canada.

In December 2005, Canada led the world at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Montreal. Despite George W. Bush's efforts to derail the Kyoto Protocol, the countries in attendance passed 40 regulations that will slow the rate of catastrophic climate change, the single greatest global threat to life on the planet.

Calling the Kyoto Protocol unachievable, last week Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said that if elected, his government would set their own targets and work toward establishing an agreement with the US, the world's largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. Almost immediately there was a shift in automobile advertising. Gone were the television ads promoting fuel efficiency that flooded the networks after last fall's hurricane season played havoc with US oil production. In their stead, viewers saw a return to the promotion of gas-guzzling monster trucks and SUVs.

A quick check of The Conservative Party of Canada's official website makes Harper's position on Kyoto perfectly understandable. The environment doesn't even appear on the top seven "Key Issues" listed on the site.

This isn't just about consumer preference or political choice. What Canadians need to understand is that the decision we make on January 23rd will not only affect Canada, but ultimately have an impact on the rest of the world. What those who put their faith in economic growth over environmental protection fail to recognize is that it is in our economic best interests to protect the environment. The word "economy" and "ecology" both come from the same Greek word, "oikos" meaning house. Without a balanced consideration of both, we have neither.

Consider the economic impact of last year's violent hurricane season. Scientists have since stated that the severity of the storms was a direct result of climate change. The resulting tens of billions of dollars in insurance claims and health costs, as well as the immediate dramatic increase in gas and oil prices have affected the bottom line of every corporation on the planet, and ultimately the budget of every consumer.

In an eleventh hour attempt to educate voters about the dangers of a Conservative majority government, a group of respected environmental, health, social justice and labor leaders have formed the Think Twice Coalition. The group includes such notables as Elizabeth May, Officer of the Order of Canada, and Maude Barlow, 2005 recent recipient of the prestigious Right Livelihood Award (considered to be the alternative Nobel Peace Prize). What May, Barlow and others are asking is for Canadians to take a sober second look at what could happen following a Conservative win on January 23rd.

"We believe Canada is at risk. We are in danger of electing a Bush-like Conservative party that will undo social programs, gut environmental legislation and devolve powers to the provinces in a way that will destroy the fabric of the country," the group stated in a January 12th news release. "We are standing up for Canada. We need more than just a vote for change. We need to vote for a Canada with strong social programs and environmental protections and fairness for everyone."

The members of the Think Twice Coalition steer clear of endorsing other parties or political platforms and state that they are not making a personal attack on Harper. To the contrary, they consider Harper, "Very intelligent with a coherent and deeply held philosophical orientation." The issue is that Harper's orientation, indeed the orientation of all political leaders, needs to be examined and understood.

Unfortunately, far too many Canadians don't even bother to vote, let alone take the time to understand the issues, and then exercise their democratic right. Voter turnout has declined steadily since 1984 when 75 percent of Canadians turned out to the polls. In 2004, only 60 percent of Canadians voted. In the 18 to 24 age group, a mere 38 percent of eligible voters actually cast a ballot in the last federal election. To quote Anne Hansen's timeless essay, Democracy is Not A Spectator Sport, "Imagine the unprecedented impact on governmental policy if every citizen woke up and exercised the right and the responsibility to speak and act for positive change."

Imagine, indeed.

RELATED WEBSITES

Canadian voters have a responsibility to fully understand the platforms of all of our major political parties, and to vote with their conscience, not just for the party that the latest poll predicts is likely to win. Exercise your constitutional rights and check out:

The Conservative Party of Canada
The Green Party
Liberal Party of Canada
The New Democratic Party

The Think Twice Coalition

1 Comments:

Anonymous CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Come now, has the leopard changed its spots?

Interesting article in today’s Toronto Star by David Crane, which summarizes the discomfort felt by many at Harper’s apparent “evolution” (as Harper describes it). Some extracts follow (my capitalization):

“Crane: Has Harper really moved left?
Jan. 20, 2006. 07:48 AM
DAVID CRANE

.... Yet big questions remain about what a Harper government would be like. Has Harper really changed from a right-wing ideologue to a middle-of-the-road Conservative? IS THE NEW HARPER MORE THAN SKIN DEEP? OR IS HIS CAMPAIGN SIMPLY AN EXPEDIENT RESPONSE TO INTENSIVE CONSERVATIVE POLLING?

Harper's history is of a strong believer in small government and especially a weak national government, devolution of power to the provinces, as well as being a social conservative seemingly more in tune with the religious right than mainstream Canadian values.

In a telling profile by Marci McDonald in Walrus magazine of members of the so-called Calgary School, a group of Alberta academics who have an almost pathological dislike of both the federal government and Ontario, Harper's neoconservative credentials as part of that group are spelled out. THE ARTICLE QUOTES TED BYFIELD, A LEADING VOICE OF A QUASI-SEPARATIST WESTERN CANADA AND HARPER SUPPORTER AS SAYING AFTER THE 2004 ELECTION, "THE ISSUE NOW IS: HOW DO WE FOOL THE WORLD INTO THINKING WE'RE MOVING TO THE LEFT WHEN WE'RE NOT."

On Canada-U.S. relations, he says he would "demand" the United States repay the duties on Canadian softwood that it illegally collected. But what does that mean? Harper has said he would have supported the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, has talked of a customs union with the United States, shares the Bush administration's opposition to the Kyoto accord and other strong action to deal with climate change, and would review Canada's position on ballistic missile defence.

On the big issue of the fiscal structure of Canada — the division of spending and taxing powers of the federal and provincial governments — Harper believes in reducing the role of Ottawa and handing over powers and revenue to the provinces. He calls this correcting the "fiscal imbalance" but is vague on what this would mean.
The danger is that it could end up meaning a much weaker national government able to act on behalf of all Canadians.

The single most damaging promise he has made is to replace Canada's initiative on early childhood development and replace it with a family allowance of $100 a month for every child under 6. Harper's plan is based on the idea that women should stay at home and not work, since they are the main beneficiaries of his proposal, while early childhood development is about ensuring youngsters are ready to learn when they enter the school system.

In many respects we are entering uncharted territory. It would be easier if we knew which is the real Stephen Harper.”

January 20, 2006 10:46 AM  

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