David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

Climate Change will still be an Issue after the 2019 Election

Brandon Sun, October 29, 2018 – David McConkey

Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives will win the 2019 election.

There: I wanted a strong opening. Got your attention, eh? Of course, I can’t make an accurate prediction for an event one year from now. But I do not make a prediction as much as I make an observation. And I do not make an observation as much as I make a lament.

What am I trying to say? I suspect that Scheer and the Conservatives will make ending the carbon tax the main issue of the 2019 election. That will echo the elections of 1980 and 2008. We saw how those elections turned out. And they revealed something disconcerting about both our politics and our democracy.

In 1980, the Joe Clark Conservative government presented a budget that offered “short-term pain for long-term gain.” The budget included an increased tax on gasoline. In 2008, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion proposed a “Green Shift.” The proposal called for an increased tax on fuels like gasoline.

Up against Clark in 1980 was Pierre Trudeau. Up against Dion in 2008 was Stephen Harper. Both Trudeau and Harper ridiculed the notion that Canadians should pay more taxes now to create more benefits later. Trudeau and Harper in effect said to voters: “You don’t need to worry about the future. And you won’t have to pay any more taxes.”

Trudeau won in 1980 and Harper won in 2008. The winning election messages championed short-term thinking and the promise of no more taxes. So, a Scheer argument next year to forget about the future and stop the carbon tax should win the day. And should win the election. Elementary, my dear voter!

But, hold on, haven’t I greatly simplified the situation? Of course I have – I am trying to make a point in 750 words! Naturally, there are plenty of other factors contributing to an election outcome. Leaders matter. And campaigns matter. And one could argue that Trudeau (senior) and Harper were better leaders and better campaigners than Clark and Dion. By this analysis, all things being equal, Trudeau (junior) will cut off Scheer with sheer charisma. (Apologies for bad punning!)

But however the 2019 election plays out, we still have a huge problem. Climate change is one of the world’s top existential issues. A carbon tax has been recognized across the political spectrum as part of the solution. But our politics – even our democracy itself – are woefully inadequate to deal with this challenge. We have relegated one of the most crucial issues of our time to a feeble forum indeed.

During an election, it is easy to dismiss climate change with an attitude of “What, me worry?” Climate change may not exist. If it does exist, humans may not be the cause. Compared to China and India, Canada has almost no impact on global carbon emissions. Anyway, before we have to face a changed climate, we’ll all – happily – be dead!  

An election also presents an opportunity for politicians to flatter us voters. And an opportunity for us voters to flatter ourselves. We shouldn’t have to pay a carbon tax; we have to heat our homes in winter and drive our cars to work. We are virtuous and hard working! We are so virtuous and so hard working that we shouldn’t have to be bothered with something as annoying as climate change!

The case for the carbon tax is much harder to make. For starters: like, who wants to pay more taxes? But also: do we have to defer to scientists and experts? Be inconvenienced now to prevent something bad in the future? Be concerned about Canada doing the right thing and setting a good example on the world stage? Go to all that effort to make big changes in our way of life? (Hey! We don’t want to be that hard working!)
 
So, my conclusion and my lament: we are trying to grapple with an existential global issue in one of the worst ways possible – parochial partisan politics. Make a flippant prediction in this space about an election a year away? That is easy. Suggest a way that we can go beyond our narrow political divisions to think instead as farsighted global citizens? Sorry, that may be too hard.

* * * *
See also: 

Voting Results Reveal New Generation Gap

I am Becoming More Conservative

Politically Incorrect Issues This Election

A History of Struggling to Grasp Climate Change Reality

What You Need to Know About Climate Change  Sam Harris Podcast

Stephen Harper is the New Pierre Trudeau

 

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