Saturday, October 4, 2008

Election update

Like many Canadians, I missed the English leader's debate the other day, and I'm ashamed to say that I didn't even make much of an effort to read the news coverage the next day. Maybe I'll catch it on Youtube. But from what I'm reading now, it seems as though people were most impressed with Elizabeth May and Jack Layton. That's just wonderful; at this rate Harper will win 200 seats*, with the NDP and Greens fighting over the scraps of the Liberal party's carcass and the Bloc gaining ground in Quebec.

I did watch most of the French debate, and coming away from that, I was most impressed with Dion and his reasoned defense of the Green Shift. Harper was on the defensive most of the night, and was evasive in answering (or failing to answer) many questions. On the environment, he's at a clear disadvantage. And the worsening economic news is good for the opposition parties, as they will blame the Conservatives for it.

Honestly, that last attack is unfair. Harper has been PM for less than three years, and the deterioriating economic situation is largely out of our government's control. Our exporters depend on the US import market. Our stock market tracks with the US stock markets. Our financial sector (which, by and large, was smart enough to avoid the subprime mess) can't help but be affected by a crash south of the border.

From my perspective, the most obvious argument against Harper is not the economy but the utter cowardice of his environmental plan. Using 2006 as a CO2 baseline? "Intensity-based" targets? What this means, essentially, is at the same level of production, industries will need to reduce their emissions of CO2. It sets no hard cap on emissions. In fact, emissions could end up decreasing only slightly (or even increasing) by 2020 under this so-called plan.

You won't find an environmentalist (or economist) in the entire world who thinks this is a good policy to fight climate change. It is a farce.

Realistically, there are two options (or three, since a carbon tax can be combined with a cap and trade market), and both of them involve putting a price on carbon. It's the only thing that makes sense. The Sierra Club gives the Liberals a B+ and unsurprisingly gives the Greens (who advocate both a strict carbon tax and cap and trade market) an A- on this issue. The NDP gets a B, advocating a cap and trade policy only, since Layton can't be seen as agreeing with the Liberals. Since the Greens have no possibility of forming a government, and the NDP are a bunch of jackasses, that leaves the Liberals as the best option for those serious about changing our wrong-headed environmental policies.

*Or not, new polling suggests that the Tories actually lost ground after the debates, mostly in Quebec and Ontario. Still, I'm fearful that surging Green and NDP support will just translate into more Conservative seats.

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