Wednesday, June 4, 2014

UPDATED: Parsing Justin Trudeau's Words

Like many, I have real reservations about Justin Trudeau's capacity for the kind of leadership that reflects a mature and nuanced mind. While many praise him for his spontaneity and unorthodox pronouncements, I look for substance and an indication of policies that suggest a significant departure from the mindset of the Harper Conservatives. Thus far I have found little to encourage me.

All three of our major federal parties are largely silent on the issues that should be preoccupying us, one of the most pressing, of course, being climate change. Because of the amount of carbon being emitted by fossil fuels in general, and by the extractions taking place in Alberta's tarsands in particular, anyone looking to young Mr. Trudeau for a new direction would be well-advised to pay close attention to his public musings on the subject.

Here is what he said back in February about the proposed Kinder Morgan oil pipeline to Vancouver:

Pipeline policy in general is one of the most important responsibilities of a Canadian prime minister and of a Canadian government – to make sure we can get our resources to market. We are a natural resource economy and we need to be able to do that. However, we need to do that in the right way. A right way that is sustainable, that has community support and buy-in, and that fits into a long-term strategy of not just a sustainable environment but a sustainable economy.

Because of that I have been a strong promoter of the Keystone XL pipeline and also a harsh critic on the way the prime minister has approached pushing the Keystone XL pipeline. To my mind, the only thing that has prevented Keystone XL from getting approved already in the United States – and what has allowed it become such a polarizing issue, with celebrities weighing in and all sorts of people having very strong opinions even though there is not necessarily all that many facts going around in many of the conversations – is that the prime minister hasn’t done a good enough job of demonstrating a level of commitment to doing it right and upholding environmental protections and regulations.

If you think that sounds rather suspiciously like a version of what politicians say when they meet opposition ("We need to communicate our message more effectively"), I think you are correct.

The Toronto Star has been running a series called Energy Wars. In yesterday's segment, entitled Pipelines define environmental struggle, here is what Mr. Trudeau had to say about the ever-growing opposition to pipeline expansion:

“The fact is that the oilsands have somehow become a poster child for climate change” ... “That is a failing of both government and industry for allowing that to happen because they weren’t doing enough to reassure people that the environment is a priority.”

Am I being overly cynical here? In my attempt to parse the Liberal leader's words, the discouraging interpretation of his statement I draw is that the tarsands suffer because both the Harper regime and the oil industry have not sufficiently 'massaged' the message. In other words, they haven't done a good enough job of faking sincerity about environmental concerns.

As things stand now, I will not be supporting young Justin in the next federal election unless substance takes precedence over style in his public pronouncements and policies.

UPDATE: Just so I don't leave you with the impression that Trudeau is our only opposition climatic coward, check out Thomas Mulcair's thoughts here.


  1. The truth is, Lorne, the only political leader who is willing to take on Big Oil is Elizabeth May.

    1. That is regrettably true, Owen. I think her willingness to speak unsparingly on key issues is why the Mound has put his vote there. Unfortunately, the kind of circular thinking that afflicts most of us, that a vote for the Greens is a wasted vote, diminishes the prospects of her and her party being heard widely.