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Capturing the Global Warming Agenda

By Stuart Hertzog
October 9th, 2007

Campbell’s Hawaii awakening is a skilled political ploy

Campbell receives Gore's blessingBC premier Gordon Campbell’s announcement of his intent to reduce provincial greenhouse gas emissions by 33% by 2020 has serious political implications for the BC Green party.

Campbell may indeed have experienced a personal epiphany while reading European journalist George Monbiot’s seminal book Heat on a beach in Hawaii last Christmas.

If true, BC’s latest apocryphal legend will be evidence that miracles still can happen.

More likely, Campbell was aware that public concern about global warming and climate change had reached a critical level. With his government’s poor performance on the environment, the soft Liberal vote was showing signs of going Green or even — heaven forbid! — NDP in 2009.

Something had to be done, and fast.

Public image coup

True or false, the book-beach-and-blinding-light story is an effective public image coup that is boosting the BC Liberals’ tattered environmental credibility into a global political orbit.

Long-time Campbell observers know that this astute politician is highly skilled at capturing a public issue and turning it around to serve his own political agenda.

Wasn’t this supposed to be “the most open government” BC has ever seen, and the last provincial budget touted as being all about solving homelessness in BC?

His capture of the global warming agenda is nothing less than brilliant. No less than Arni The Governator and Global Guru Gore have publicly endorsed BC’s Premier as an environmental hero and saviour of the planet.

Whether being doubly blessed by these notorious US politicians will translate to eco-sainthood for Campbell, remains to be seen.

Promises, promises

But unlike the recent puppy-dog enthusiasm for the Premier shown by interim BC Green party leader Christopher Bennett, my response to Campbell’s pronouncements is more reserved.

Long-time Campbell observers know that this astute politician’s public issues management technique is to make promises that garner votes but which cannot ever fulfil their stated mission.

It’s a widely-used technique of the new era of Managed Democracy that we’re now entering.

In this case, Campbell has given himself enough wriggle room to drive 50 buses through—not those 50 buses will overcome even the lower mainland’s transit deficit, let alone encourage commuters throughout the entire province to start using public transit.

No reason to vote Green

The Greens’ political problem is that with Campbell an environmental hero, there will be no reason to vote Green in 2009. Why bother, when the BC Liberals will be doing such a good job of saving the planet?

It will take more than puppy-dog thinking for the BC Green party to convince swing voters to give up their allegiance to their usual mainstream options and vote Green in 2009.

The party will have to come up with an informed and intelligent critique of Campbell’s entire election platform before it will be seen as a serious option.

But if the party’s public performance to date is anything to go by, that may be asking for just a little too much.

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