Saturday, March 10, 2007

Wrapping Up The Green Font Series

Original Questions
Why did it become an issue?
How big an issue is it, really?
Can the Greens actual get votes?

The Globe & Mail may still have 97 parts left in their Environmental series but I'll be wrapping mine up today. There are two questions from the original six I asked which still need to be answered; namely, will this change anything in the next election and, if so, what?

Is this a ballot question? Or is it the new healthcare?

Some Answers:

-I think it was already a significant ballot question in the last election.

-If Harper continues as he has people will still be highly worried and be looking for someone who looks like they will do something. If Harper puts in some kind of plan, I think a number of people will be satisfied even if the plan does not go far enough.

-This will be a ballot question, but in a negative sense.

-You know, it's tough to guess. Not a ballot question - not yet, anyway. The new healthcare.

-As for the question of how big an election issue will be ... that's a good one, and I don't know the answer. Like I said, for several elections, the enviro wasn't a big issue as all, as best as I can recall. If "something else" (a recession? PQ winning in Quebec? a new terrorist attack - again, God forbid) comes along, the enviro may sink down the list again.

My Take

This is one I've gone back and forth on since last fall when it really seemed to pop up as an issue out of thin air (or, hot air, I guess). I think I've finally settled more on the "it will be an issue" side of the spectrum. Even derisively calling it "the new health care" may have been unfair, because the two tier health care scare was an issue in the 2000 campaign.

That's not to say it will be the main ballot question - only that it will move some votes. It seems elections often come down to personality and leadership and with all the parties inching closer together as far as policy, it might not turn into the massive wedge issue the Liberals desperately hope it will become. But after watching provincial governments "go green" and seeing the sustained world wide attention around it in the punditry and general population, I do think it will be one of the top 2 or 3 policy issues people will be basing their vote upon.

If this becomes a ballot question, which party does it help the most?


-Factoring it all in, I'd guess the Liberals would benefit most, but it's hard to say.

-People who value the environment are turning away from the NDP in huge numbers either to the greens, or perhaps to give Dion a chance and hope he keeps his promises. And people who used to vote NDP for protest are tiring of Jack, and seeing increased credibility of another party that is fresher to vote for in protest. This means the NDP's main group of supporters still remaining is the group who believe they are better than libs to deal with social issues.

-The obvious answer would be the Greens. However it also helps the Liberals as long as Harper is unable to salvage his image on the environment.

-It will help the Liberal party the most because the Conservatives are perceived as anti-environment.

-No one (has a plan). Yet.

-If Dion plays his cards right, it should be the Liberals. He's making it the party's prime issue, so if he can't win with it, the party's in trouble.

My Take

Yeah, obviously it helps the Greens the most - that's the easy answer. And, as for the Bloc, it probably won't make a difference for them one way or the other. I also think it's probably fair to say this will hurt the NDP more than it will help them, just because some of their votes could get siphoned off to Elizabeth May.

As for the big two, that's still up in the air. The environment is likely an issue the Liberals are perceived to be better at. But, at the same time, if Kyoto is the wedge and you have four parties on one side and the Tories on the other, it really doesn't help the Liberals unless they can convince Green and NDP voters that:

a) A Harper government would be disastrous
b) They'll do as good a job as the Dippers or Greens on this issue

So, while it's kind of a cop out to give an "I don't know", that's really where I sit on this. At the very least, the Liberals need to have a few more arrows in their quiver than just the green enviro one.



  • Thinking about it, it might actually help the conservatives, especially if the NDP gets a coherent platform on it. Since, as you say, the other 3-4 parties will split the leftwing vote on it, even if the Conservatives may lose some moderates, they might pick up some seats on vote splitting.

    It really depends what kind of swing there is, and if the Conservatives have a good policy on it (at least one that people don't mind). If they only bleed a few points, but everyone else bleeds a few points to the Greens, they could gain. But if the net from it is 5 points from the Conservatives to the Greens, then the Liberals could do the best from it.

    By Blogger UWHabs, at 12:46 AM  

  • Liberals flubbed this one by pushing for Kyoto goals to be achieved by 2012. An unattainable and unrealistic goal is not a good policy platform.


    By Blogger Peter, at 1:34 AM  

  • This is not a ballot box issue. It might be if we were paying 50 cent/litre gasoline, but the last time I looked, it's shot up to over a buck/litre in most parts of Canada. Should that trend continue (gas increases for this year are expected to overtake last year according to analysts) then voters are going to be concerned about the price at the pumps more than yucky boring ol' climate change. I agree it might have some capacity to move votes, but there are far bigger challenges on the horizon, namely the prospect of an economic slowdown or recession (as predicted by Alan Greenspan). The high price at the pumps can only further damage the auto sector and manufacturing for already established reasons and the last time I looked, there's a lot of cars being built in Ontario and Quebec - further cuts means people in those provinces are going to be more interested in finding a job than carbon taxes or vague notions of emissions trading. Personally, I think the next election is going to be about Stephen Harper. Voters are going to ask themselves: "Do we want this guy to have a majority? Do we really want a control freak at the helm with a majority?" If this is the case, voters might begin to look favorably on Dion if he packages himself as the "anti-Harper" - open, amendable to consensus, non-secretive and willing to learn the ropes.

    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 5:14 AM  

  • This is not a one dimensional issue. I think Dion has been trying to dumb down his message too much for the media and the soundbytes. As I see it, this is how each party treats the environmental issue;

    The NDP know that they will never get their plan through, so their wider environmental platform is largely window dressing, and not serious public policy. Like everything they do, it has not been analysed for cost or impact on the economy.

    The Conservatives are purely reactionary in their adressing of climate change. They see the polls pointing to the environment as the number one issue, so they are doing whatever they can to appear to be helping the environment. They are in campaign mode, and they will do or say anything to get a majority.

    The Liberals (under Dion) has a plan that is tantamount to Environemntal Keynseianism. Use the problem of rising tempretures as a reason to justify public investment in innovative technologies, waste reducing process's and higher education for the engineering sciences. Like the space program, its a way to spur the economy along and increase Canada's technological advantage over other markets.

    I think the Liberals have been largely ineffective in communicating this. They have not been able to draw any sort of contrast between their own and the Conservative plans.

    By Blogger BenParsons, at 9:18 AM  

  • Here's my serious input for the day:

    This week, we learned that fish like tuna are verboten from a child's diet (and we should all drastically cut down on it too) because of mercury content.

    The only party who sees the environment as an issue bigger than just GHG emissions are the Tories.

    Tell your media buddies not to talk about the toxic soup we live in or it will hurt the Progressive Quartet!

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 11:00 AM  

  • In the next election, the NDP will target the Liberals, not Harper. Saving themselves depends on it.
    The NDP will quote all the Liberals who have criticized the Liberal record, such as Christine Stewart and Eddie Goldenberg.
    The NDP will point out how after doing nothing about Kyoto, many of the Liberals went on to lobby for greenhouse gas emitting businesses. Goldenberg for pipelines, Chretien representing Calgary oil companies in Iran, John Duffy for the bromine industry.
    The Liberal record on the environment will only be taken seriously by the Liberal cult-member kool-aid drinkers.
    This will benefit the Greens and NDP, but the vote split will likely help the Conservatives.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 12:01 PM  

  • I remember in this series we were talking about the question of what are people willing to pay. I argued elsewhere that you won't know until you ask them.

    A couple of days ago, the University of Alberta Students' Union held a referendum on adopting a U-Pass system that would turn your student ID into a bus pass for Edmonton, Sherwood Park, and St. Albert. It was sold as an inexpensive service, and as a motivation for people to do the right thing for the environment. If they've already got it, they're more likely to use it. The cost per year to the student was set at $75. 84% of students voted in favour of it.

    Now, that sample is representative of damn near nothing, and there was more than just the environment at play. But 84%? Even the conservatives in Alberta don't get those kinds of numbers.

    By Blogger Gauntlet, at 12:12 PM  

  • Gauntlet:

    That's 84% of university students who, for example, aren't burdened by mortgages, child care, the experience of managing a career and a host of other life experiences. That's not to say they are "naive about the ways of life", but I would argue that most Canadians can't afford the luxury of youthful optimism when they're trying to make ends meet. Campus is a fertile ground if idealism where the social thrust of expressing that idealism is as real as the all night drinking binges and party atmosphere after exams are done. Sorry, it's just not representative of the experiences most Canadians live with.

    By Blogger Sean Cummings, at 2:09 PM  

  • 84% voted for government subsidized environmentalism. Colour me unimpressed. Given that transit fare is 2.50 per trip, that means that 84% of students voted for a pass that if they take 30 trips on city transit they get their money's worth. To put that in perspective, that is 2 trips a month to Jasper Avenue to party per month, and you are getting your money's worth. U of A students voted for their self interest, which is cheap transportation. That vote just makes economic sense

    By Blogger fartcatcher, at 4:54 PM  

  • yeah, I tend to think most people voted in self-interest for the U Pass.

    The real question is how many people who don't take enough transit to make it worthwhile voted in favour. That would be an interesting case study.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 7:46 PM  

  • Here's a heads-up from Associated Press. They've seen a draft of the IPCC's report second part.

    It's about nthe consequences of warming.


    By Blogger JimTan, at 11:00 AM  

  • Lot's of things can be done by individuals and governments.


    By Blogger JimTan, at 11:10 AM  

  • A lot of people can say "the environment" (or healthcare) is THE issue, and yet have differing preferences on how to address the problem.

    Firstly, folks having an environmental "awakening" are not likely to be conservatives in the first place.

    Secondly, there will almost certainly be a backlash against any proposed environmental plan. 40% of Ontario's economy is linked to the auto sector - the Tories could even get Buzz on their side (not that they'd want him).

    Harper only needs to play to the 40% of the public needed to give him a majority, while the Greens, NDP and Liberals fight over the other 60%. Wait until we see a plan from the Liberals before we judge how serious Canadians are about the environment.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 2:12 PM  

  • Hosertohosier said

    “Firstly, folks having an environmental "awakening" are not likely to be conservatives in the first place.”

    Here I have to disagree. Environmental awakening cuts across the political spectrum. It depends on how you are affected. You won’t be amused when wheat fields dry out, or forest fires threaten your summer cottage. Nor when the mosquitoes migrate from Manitoba.

    By the same token, resistance to the cost of environmental protection will arise in all economic groups. This is the new political landscape that the strategists will have to learn to navigate.

    I am appalled by the knee-jerk reaction of the deniers. The way that they attacked and distorted science reminds me of the Intelligent Design issue. Now that was a demonstration of the intelligence of evolution deniers.

    Dion and the environmentalists have got a big job ahead of them. That is the real possibility that the Americans will finally get rolling and take the technological leadership.

    That’s bad news for Canada because of our heavier usage of energy. We could end up paying the Americans for technology and carbon credits.


    By Blogger JimTan, at 3:22 PM  

  • The Calgary Grit predicts the Liberals will win the environmental vote. There is such little bias into that analysis that there's no way the green party stands a chance. After all, Dion named his dog that lives with him in his suburban mansion that he gets to and from through his SUV kyoto.

    By Blogger lord phobal, at 6:23 PM  

  • Yes, Yes!

    The greens will vote Dion, because the alternative is harper. The lefties will vote Dion because the alternative is harper.

    However, the center must vote Dion for things to happen.

    In the end, we must act together to face a threat far greater than Al Qaeda.

    That means that the greens can't have everything their own way. Everyone must pull their own weight.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 12:15 AM  

  • By Blogger mmjiaxin, at 8:01 PM  

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