Sunday, December 17, 2006

Winds of Change

The winds of change are blowing. It began earlier this year when Al Gore, the man who should have been president, finally accomplished what the environmental movement could not. He brought the threat of global warming to a theatre near you. Thanks to the box office success of his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," people began to notice when the weather was unseasonably warm, or wet, or whatever. Concern about global warming was suddenly mainstream. Talk about climate change became dinnertime conversation, the punch line of Jay Leno's late night jokes, and the talk of the town.

The next big shift came when Elizabeth May, former Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada and long-time environmental advocate, was elected as leader of the Green Party of Canada. May has impeccable credentials as an environmental leader, author, lawyer and advocate. She is also no stranger to politics and served as advisor to Conservative Environment Minister Jean Charest during the Earth Summit in 1992. Despite her failure to win a seat in the House of Commons in a recent London, Ontario by-election, May has become national news. Her ability to deliver the perfect sound bite has made her a media darling, and as a result, a household name.

Perhaps the biggest news came on December 2nd when Stephane Dion beat out the men who would be king, to become the new leader of the federal Liberals. A former environment minister in the short-lived Martin government, Dion chaired the 2005 World Summit on Climate Change in Montreal

Dion's leadership campaign focused on what he calls the three pillars for the 21st Century: social justice, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. Throughout the leadership convention, the characteristic green scarves that Dion's supporters wore became more and more dominant as he rose to victory, and prompted Justin Trudeau to point to the sea of green scarves and quip, "Look at this. Looks like the Green party to me."

For those who have fought so long and hard to make environmental concerns mainstream policy, Dion's election was an early Christmas present. While other leaders have made promises to protect the environment in the past, none has made environmental sustainability the centerpiece of their platform.

Elizabeth May was quick to publicly congratulate Dion on his victory.

"When Stephane Dion was Environment Minister, he demonstrated a willingness to work towards a united front on this issue of global concern and responsibility," said Ms. May. "I am confident he will bring this commitment to his new role and work with other parties for positive change."

Immediately following Dion's election, the Liberals experienced a huge surge in public support. The Party's national approval rating moved up to 37 percent, placing them 6 points ahead of Harper's Conservatives. In Ontario, the gap was even bigger. The Liberals jumped 12 points to 48 percent, giving them a 16 point edge over the Conservatives. The most dramatic jump was in British Columbia, where the Liberals gained a whopping 20 points to reach a 47.5 percent approval rating. It has been speculated that this jump is largely due to Dion's stand on the environment, a major issue in a province already hard hit by severe weather changes, a primary effect of global warming.

Whether or not Dion gets the chance to prove his promises, the die has been cast. Suddenly, it's getting much easier to be green. Ensuring the environmental sustainability of our policies and practices is becoming as important as balancing our financial budgets.

Already there are rumblings of a federal election in the spring of 2007. It will be up to the voting public to put an X where their concern is, and make sure that protecting and preserving our environment becomes a national priority.


"An Inconvenient Truth" is the perfect last minute gift for everyone on your list: Uncle Rob who drives that huge SUV, your cousin Jocelyn in her full-sized luxury car or your next door neighbor who loves to leave his car running in the driveway every morning. To order in time for Christmas, or to find out more about the movie that finally made climate change the next best thing, visit

To find out more about Elizabeth May and the Green Party of Canada, go to

For more about Stephane Dion, visit


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