Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Connecting the Dots Between Ambrose, Baird, Prentice,Kent..and Carson

The blindness of the Harper Conservatives with respect to the Rule of Law and Parliamentary tradition has already received some attention in the media.There is one other comment about the Conservative record that has been insufficiently stressed, however: their attitude toward the Environment portfolio.  Do they see climate change as a real, substantive issue that Canada must take the lead on? Or do they just see the peoples' flawed beliefs about climate change as a problem to be managed? 

When the Government came into power in 2006 Rona Ambrose was the envy of every ambitious young politician in the Western world when she was assigned the job of tackling global warming.  Only this was a Conservative government , so  Ambrose's main function was to tell that incredulous world that , since the Liberals had dragged their feet on Kyoto implementation, the Conservatives would have no choice but to do the same thing.  But when Harper found that the public wasn't buying, he switched to Baird, followed by Prentice, Baird again, and now Peter Kent. 

The common thread that runs through all of these appointments is that they are not seen primarily as policy jobs at all,  but as different communications strategies.

 Rona Ambrose was the "youthful, telegenic" approach;
John Baird was the "combative and aggressive" approach;
Jim Prentice was the "soporific" approach ( and probably the most successful of the three);

When Prentice left  the job was delegated to Peter Kent, who as a professional journalist would be better able to manage the media.

And finally, there is Bruce Carson. Who else would put this  dis-barred  backroom 'old pro' in charge of the Canada School of Energy and Environment and in charge of  water contracts for First Nations reserves?  Something tells me he wouldn't be David Suzuki's first choice.
What all of these appointments show is that Harper sees the environment in general and climate change in particular  purely as  public relations problems to be "managed" by communications strategies, not as the most serious substantive policy issues of our time. I am confident that no other major  party in this country would behave in that fashion, not even the Chretien Liberals at their most cynical.

No comments: