Canadian Election Drops Environmentalism

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My green building blog isn’t about partisan politics or environmentalism per se, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t make a bit of an observation in these veins regarding the results of Canada’s federal election yesterday.


Since green building is driven by global environmental concerns (I’d welcome a dissenting voice that could convince me it was simply driven by energy efficiency.), it does get connected to political events and environmental movements, if only tenuously.


So, what to make of Canada’s latest election results? The first thing I would note is that the Environment dropped right out of the picture among the major parties early in the campaign. As a serious issue, it was relegated to the Canada’s Green Party, which actually didn’t say much about it, and also won no seats in the election.


The Liberals, who lost ground to the Conservatives, launched their campaign under leader Stephane Dion’s “Green Shift” program, which promised to lower personal taxes and to impose a carbon tax on the country. Did anyone in the Liberal Party market test this plan before trying to explain it to the masses?It was a communications disaster, way too complicated for an election campaign, and the Liberals dropped it like a hot potato half way along.


The Conservatives loved it. They twisted it like a pretzel and pretty soon everyone was wondering if they could afford a new tax. More important, however, was how the global economic turmoil of recent weeks intervened in the middle of the election campaign, and environmental issuesquickly became second fiddle to economic ones among most voters. Right or wrong, it’s a bit a political psychology that everyone would be wise to take note of.


The green question the day after the election, though, needs to be what will get environmental issues back in the minds of Canadians? Liberal Leader Dion came to his leadership with a green mantle (quite literally) and now may be doomed to another leadership review for his enthusiasm. The Conservatives in 2006 under Stephen Harper abandoned the Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and set up three more years of consultations on an intensity-based approach to green house gas emissions produced by industry.


The environment was a leading issue among Canadians prior to the election, and it will naturally return to public policy debate when the now somewhat stronger Conservative minority government opens Parliament again. It will be interesting to watch how the issue develops. In the meantime, need I remind anyone that the polar ice cap is still melting.

I’ll look at some green election numbers in my next post.

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Colin Laughlan