Wednesday, August 12, 2015

UPDATED: Signifying Nothing

It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5

In the above quotation, the beleaguered Macbeth, facing his final battle, is talking about the meaningless of life. He could just as easily been talking about election campaigns.

As I noted the other day in a brief post, speaking truth during an election campaign can be a perilous pursuit indeed. Just ask Linda McQuaig, who opined on Power and Politics that much of Alberta's bitumen may well have to be left in the ground if we are to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius , a view supported by serious research.

The anaphylaxix that sets in when truth and politics meet is the subject that Seth Klein, the B.C. director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, writes about in today's Star:
... the McQuaig episode is illustrative of a larger problem: namely, that our politics do not allow for serious — and truly honest — discussion of the most pressing issues of our time.

McQuaig was accused, by the prime minister and many others, of heartlessly ignoring the economic needs and employment anxieties of Albertans.

Honest leadership would mean speaking frankly about climate realities. It means acknowledging that a new global climate treaty is coming, that it will require that Canada leave much of its oil, natural gas and coal reserves in the ground, and that in anticipation of this eventuality Canada must invest extensively in renewables and green infrastructure that will allow us to leap into this transition.

There are a lot of jobs in this necessary future, and these should be championed, instead of simply pointing to the jobs that will (and must) disappear.
But the reality of climate change is but one of the subjects considered verboten on the campaign trail:
Canada needs a comprehensive policy response to address inequality — one that restores progressivity to our tax system, and that boosts the social wage and earnings of low- and middle-income families. Instead, we get to witness the unfortunate display of the NDP critiquing the Liberals’ well-advised proposal to create a new upper-income tax bracket; the Liberals critiquing the NDP’s welcome plans for national child care and a federal minimum wage; and the Conservatives dismissing of all the above.
Seth Klein goes on to suggest that the spectacles of denial and caution among our political leaders may ultimately prove counterproductive to their goals:
New data from Innovative Research Group, reported in the Hill Times this week, suggests parties looking for the progressive vote will gain electorally the stronger their positions are on the environment, civil liberties and health care — since these are areas where people feel very strongly one way or another.
But don't tell that to either Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulcair. With their eyes on the prize of electoral victory, there is little appetite for a truly inspiring vision.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, the United Church of Canada is showing real leadership, having voted to sell off fossil fuel assets worth $5.9 million and instead pump funds into renewable energy co-operatives in a landmark decision on Aug. 11.


  1. We are rewarding willful ignorance, Lorne.

    1. I always remember a Soviet reader's reaction to A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, about the gulag system under Stalin: "Better a bitter truth than a sweet lie." It is clearly a philosophy with which many disagree.

  2. If it's honest leadership you want, Lorne, she'll be delighted to receive your support.

    1. Sad, isn't it, Mound, that we can only find one leader who holds that value?