Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Harper climate

It's time for a new approach, Conservative leader Stephen Harper said yesterday, referring on this occasion to climate change.

"We're not going to meet our Kyoto targets…Our plan is simply to reduce our emissions, not just carbon dioxide, but a range of pollutants. We're going to have our own targets that we think are achievable."

"Buying hot air credits doesn't do anything for the environment and that's not a policy we're going to engage in."

What he had in mind was making public-transit passes tax deductible, an old NDP proposal, in fact--one that attracted all-party support in the Commons in 1999. Harper and some caucus members took what was described as a "hot ride on a Toronto streetcar" to demonstrate their commitment to the plan. He didn’t impress the mayor, but "he’s not a supporter of the federal Conservative Party," Harper noted.

The NDP used to complain, with some justification, that their best stuff was always being stolen by the Liberals. Now, it seems, anyone can raid the treasury. But there was surely more than a whiff of desperation in the wind on this occasion, even if the born-again Conservative proposal was only being used to counter Kyoto obligations.

Cheap transit passes alone will not stop global warming, and the gimmicky nature of the street-car excursion was all too apparent. "I thought it was kind of patronizing," an observer said. "The transit system has been here a long time and I think he's got a somewhat delusional view of reality if he thinks he is going to turn the tide in the GTA." One is tempted to add: if these politicians would only hold their collective breath, we mightn’t have to buy hot-air credits after all.

In any case, perhaps the next thing to expect is Harper heading off to the House on a bicycle, perhaps with a looser leather vest this time, followed by his incredible shrinking caucus pedalling madly to keep up. 15 or so MPs, in fact, were missing from yesterday's meeting. "I imagine all of them have previous commitments," Harper's communications director said.

Meanwhile, the RCMP has decided not to prosecute an Alberta resident with a "F**k Harper" bumper-sticker on his car: something about freedom of speech. The Ponoka detachment had earlier sent him a letter telling him to remove it, alleging it had created "a disturbance" as he drove along Queen Elizabeth II Highway near Red Deer, a considerable distance, as it turns out, from the aforesaid Ponoka, wherever that might be.

Looks like, er, gruelling days ahead for the Conservative Party of Canada.

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