Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics


Posted by JJ in Strategic Planning, Gaia (Friday June 30, 2006 at 8:36 am)

With word out that Canadians are worried about global warming, the Still-Chilled Wonk figures the usual Liberal sites will soon be “freely thinking” about two things:

  • How big a mistake it is for the Tories to dump Kyoto
  • Why it’s important that the Liberals promote Kyoto

Both of which ignore the real problem: credibility.

It’s politics, not Captain Planet, that they’re playing with, so a theme song, youngsters with heart, and snappy tights just don’t cut it. Repeating “Kyoto” won’t work for the Liberals for one main reason: they blew it.

It doesn’t matter how many studies suggest that the last-minute proposals of the Martin government in 2005 could have mostly met the protocol’s requirements — which, by the way, is the policy equivalent of being mostly pregnant. The Liberals sat on the issue for over a decade while conditions deteriorated. And that, more significantly than meeting the targets at the end, is part of the problem. During the Liberal mandate, more pollution, rather than less, was the norm, even as they proclaimed themselves, over and over, to be committed to Kyoto; and that means that their inaction allowed the situation to worsen — far more serious than merely not improving.

Which means that, even if implementing Kyoto should be the first priority of a Liberal government, promising that isn’t the way to get to government. Having spent so long messing things up, the Liberals don’t have the credibility to make that pledge. It’s the NDP who have that credibility; and let’s not be stupid, helping the NDP isn’t a way for Liberals to win (no matter how much blather you hear about uniting “progressive” forces) — it’s a way to ensure that the Conservatives come up the middle in more Ontario ridings. Liberals, like Tories, must play to win. It’s a little thing called desire that the Tories show by setting out to challenge their parliamentary allies on their own turf. A stark contrast with the Liberal electoral tactic of being your strategic second choice.

All of which means that what Liberals need to take advantage of this public mood is a creative response — a new message to take to those concerned about the environment. They need to build credibility on the issue without constantly dredging up a reminder of their past inadequacy. It’s a difficult task, not least because it can go so very wrong; but it’s a chance to differentiate themselves from both the NDP and the Tories, show themselves in a new light, and carve out a constituency, and connections with it, that could support them for decades to come.

That’s what you call a crisitunity. The question remains: is the party crafty and creative enough to seize it?

*See crisitunity, language lovers! JJ

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