Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

One-Trick Pony

Posted by JJ in Federal Elections, Gaia (Saturday January 27, 2007 at 11:09 pm)

There’s no question that sustainable environmentalism should be one pillar of a contemporary political party’s policy structure. Most stable buildings, though, have more than just one.

Liberal Party leader Stephan Dion has suggested that the party will focus its next campaign on the environment, forcing the Tories to deal with a persistent attack on the issue.

The last time such a focused strategy was tried in Canada was in 1988, when then-Liberal leader John Turner focused his attacks on the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. It provided the Tories under Mulroney with a stable, slow-moving target to attack.

Unlike Dion’s leadership campaign pledge to “three pillars”, this proposal will focus a fight on what remains a fairly vague principle. Saying you’re pro-environment is one thing, but eyes glaze over when talk begins of specifics.

While recent polls show roughly a quarter of Canadians most concerned with the environment as an election issue, that represents virtually no increase in six years. Besides which, that twenty-five percent will be split between the NDP, Liberals and Green Party. It’s not as alluring under those conditions.

The other legs of Dion’s original plan, a sustainable economy and social justice, are still resonant issues; and there’s no reason to jettison them when they can both siphon votes from the real opponent — the government. Focusing instead on just one leg means a shakier edifice.

And if the 1988 election should have taught the Liberals anything, it’s that a one-trick pony doesn’t win many races.

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