How Shale Gas Changes Everything: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the upcoming demographic shift
Not enough retirement savings, out of control healthcare costs, a lack of skilled workers, the uneducated unemployed, the future of Canadian content in the Internet age, inaction on climate change, Canada being excluded from new international alliances in international affairs – there certainly is a lot of soothsaying at Can150 and most of it is of the doomsday variety.
One participant indirectly alluded to this during a discussion on Canada’s energy future – looking back on long term planning based on predictions surrounding the dual energy crisis’s of the 1970s. The predictions of high priced oil forever and the plans for making this the foundation of our national economy collapsed soon after the plans were implemented when oil prices collapsed. In this context I don’t know if we should hope that our experts are wrong and their prognostications won’t come to pass.
The seeming theme of the conference – that the only solutions to these problems are so politically unpalatable that we are doomed to failure - might seem familiar to participants of the Aylmer Conference (huge debt, pension collapse, constitutional change).
While journalists and MPs might be searching for ‘magic beans’ that would make measures talked about popular (ahem, Green Shift 2 – Back to the Future) platform writers and pollsters may look back at the conference as an exercise in agenda setting on a massive scale.
Setting the theme leading into a probable fall election as doom and gloom (but not directly linked to the immediate economic situation) may do the most to recalibrate the playing field. It is possible Liberals with a prescription of bitter medicine contrasted to Tory denials will reconnect them with Canadians as competent managers.
And believe you me – this is a media exercise. The party is educating the media on the storms ahead while immersing them in an environment full of ‘senior liberal sources’ and Canadian opinion leaders. This is the closest thing to a post debate spin room I have seen in Canada (and it is lasting 3 days). When else has the media been corralled for an entire weekend on one holistic subject – challenges to Canada’s future.
So will this conference change the agenda, setting up the Liberal Party for a coherent election campaign in the fall? As I sit in the foyer, a CBC reporter conducts a stand up where she reports on the seriousness of the challenges and the Liberal Party’s openness to take on the tough challenges - I would say the mission may be half done. We will see if the Ignatieff front bench will be able to capitalize on this brand of seriousness in the weeks and months ahead.
Will Ignatieff ask about the issues of the day in question period over the next weeks or will he build a wedge in the approach to Canada’s serious problems – only time will tell.