Must-reads: Kevin Libin and Barbara Yaffe on Alberta’s image problems; Konrad Yakabuski on nuclear power; Haroon Siddiqui on the US-India nuclear agreement; Vaughn Palmer on the BC carbon tax.
Politicians in peril
From saving the planet to rebranding a licence plate, Canada’s elected officials are making summer difficult for themselves.
Can Stéphane Dion sell Canada on his Green Shift by summer’s end? The question is crucial, says the Toronto Star‘s James Travers, because a fall election would expose him to a leadership review at the party convention in December, where only a “winning campaign” would be likely to save his hide. So even if Dion quite reasonably decides he needs more time, he’ll be besieged by people inside and outside the party accusing him of stalling simply in order to avoid that review. Travers knows what you’re thinking: “Regardless of when the election is, he will eventually face a leadership review,” so why worry? Because delaying until 2009 might buy Dion an extra two-and-a-half years of leadership (and sideways glances from Michael Ignatieff), that’s why.
The Vancouver Sun‘s Vaughn Palmer is concerned that BC Premier Gordon Campbell’s carbon tax (by virtue of being far more “ambitious” than those of neighbouring jurisdictions), and the accompanying cap-and-trade system (by virtue of uncertainty, since it isn’t designed yet), are threatening the “commitments to growth and investment that got him where he is today.” The resource sector is particularly imperiled, he argues, since its “prices are set by international commodity markets,” making it unable to pass the tax burden on to consumers.
Suggestions that American mayors opposed to the US purchasing oil from Alberta’s tar sands come to Fort McMurray to judge for themselves are potentially “dangerous,” Barbara Yaffe argues, also in the Sun, considering that many in the industry acknowledge how far they need to go in terms of boosting their environmental performance (and, we’d suggest, considering the tar sands look like absolute hell). Indeed, Yaffe suggests the $25-million “image campaign” Ed Stelmach launched in the spring was money that could have gone towards just that goal. “PR campaigns, advertising and websites will not take the oil sands where the petroleum producers hope to go,” she very reasonably concludes, “and where Canadians have a vested interest in seeing them go.”
The National Post‘s Kevin Libin reports on another misbegotten branding exercise out of Edmonton—the Stelmach government’s idea to replace the simple, elegant “Wild Rose Country” on the province’s licence plates with “Strong and Free,” which has been branded as “obnoxious” and “straight out of Crawford, Tex.” (though nobody seems to object to its use in our national anthem, as Libin notes). The point of this multi-million dollar exercise seems to escape most Albertans, Kibin notes, and delays in unveiling a new layout suggest it may eventually be scrapped. Still, if you ask us, the people who should really be up in arms are British Columbians, who are now forced to drive around proclaiming their province “The Best Place on Earth.”
G8, not so great
The Star‘s Haroon Siddiqui believes the most important event that transpired at the G8 summit was the nuclear agreement between George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which affords India “access to American—and, peripherally, other Western, including Canadian—nuclear fuel and technology, even though it hasn’t signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and has no plans to.” This is emblematic of India’s move out of the Russian orbit and into the American-Israeli one, Siddiqui opines, and while it’s very controversial, he says the “humble and honest” Singh can probably muster the votes to survive it.
The Globe‘s Lawrence Martin bemoans the timid, Bush-placating do-nothingness of the G8 leaders in the face of dire global “crises of energy, hunger, climate and economics.” He’s so angry, in fact, that he brands the Japan get-together a “ritualistic cocoon”—an epithet hitherto reserved for modern-day Ottawa—and turns on Barack Obama for his recent transformation from an “inspirational idealist” to “a middle-of-the-road panderer.” (It really is ghastly Obama actually has to get elected before saving the world.) “In stable times,” Martin argues, “these leaders and political stars like Mr. Obama can perhaps be excused for conformist, clubby comportment. But not when the world is on this slope.”
While Silvio Berlusconi this week fearlessly touted the idea of building 1,000 more nuclear plants around the world, the Globe‘s Konrad Yakabuski has this funny feeling that widespread nuclear expansion may be “the best idea since crop-based biofuels.” It doesn’t produce carbon, it’s true—but neither do wind and solar, he notes, and it’s quite possible they’ll be financially competitive with nuclear by the time those 1,000 reactors come online. In the meantime it costs a bloody fortune, Yakabuski argues, and as ever, it “leaves behind the most deadly waste known to man.”
In the Edmonton Sun, Lyn Cockburn says she would “applaud” the deportation of American army deserters back whence they came if she believed “there was any justification for the seemingly endless war in Iraq,” but since there isn’t, she thinks we should be “neighbourly” and let them stay. Then, a few short paragraphs later, she provides the missing justification: “If [US forces] were to pull out immediately, the country would likely sink instantly into civil war.” She’s right on both counts, we’d say—there was no justification initially, but there arguably is now. Which just goes to show that when you enlist in the army, neither you nor a foreign judge has any say in where you get sent or what you’re told to do there. Back to America with the lot of them, we say!
Isn’t it a weird and wacky sign of the times we live in that car salesmen are now called “brand specialists,” inconvenient things have “convenience charges” applied to them and mental defects are now called “differences”? the Globe‘s Margaret Wente asks. Yes, she concludes, it’s certainly very weird and wacky, and mildly annoying too. And away she goes to the cottage in her new Subaru.
The Post‘s Jonathan Kay believes Christopher Hitchens’ account of being waterboarded cements his position (Hitchens’, that is) as “the finest English-language opinion writer in the world right now.” And in concluding the practice is torture even as he continues to support the War on Terror, Kay believes he offers writers and editors of all stripes a valuable lesson: be “true to your own gospel,” no matter what your “following” wants from you. “Doing so won’t help you get famous (unless you happen to also have Hitchens’ spectacular level of talent),” Kay writes. “But it will ensure that what you do publish is something you can be proud of once the fleeting tide of e-mail plaudits from your following has washed in and out of your inbox.”