Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Liberal Hubris + The Rising Tide Calling for Action on the Climate Crisis = #ClimateScam

"If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging," - Will Rogers

Perhaps Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party was bouyed this week by the headlines like "Liberal bleeding after SNC-Lavalin affair seems to have stopped: Leger poll," (CTV News, June 14 2019), "POLL: Trudeau Liberals Appear To Have Stopped Bleeding Support But Can The Conservatives Be Bloodied?" (LINK, June 18 2019), and "Poll shows sunny days continue for Justin Trudeau in Quebec" (the Montreal Gazette, June 19 2019).  

Or perhaps it was headlines about how the other parties are failing to connect with Canadians that might have put a little bounce in their step: "Conservatives feel the heat on climate change" (the Toronto Star, June 16 2019), and "NDP offers a New Deal for fans of interventionism, protectionism and fiscal insanity" (the National Post, June 17 2019). 
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - the National Post
I mean - other than to point to Liberal optimism regarding their re-election chances - how else to explain what has to be one of the most significant displays of cognitive dissonance shown by any political party anywhere in the world - one that assumes that the voting public is primarily comprised of suckers?

Seriously.  How else can one explain how it came to be that the Liberal Party voted to declare a climate emergency and recommitting the the nation to meeting our Paris treaty climate targets on the evening of Monday, June 17th - and less than 24 hours later, that same Liberal Party approved building a new bitumen pipeline which will see production in the tar sands almost double by 2030, and lead to annual downstream emissions greater than those produced by the entire province of British Columbia.

Again - who do the Liberals think voters are?  Suckers?  There's really no other way to interpret this.

Things Fall Apart. The Status Quo Cannot Hold

Look, I understand completely that those wedded to the status quo think that Trudeau and the Liberals simply did what had to be done in order to maintain the facade of a climate consensus - even though Alberta, under new Premier Jason Kenney has rejected the carbon pricing aspect of that so-called consensus.  Status quo pundit Aaron Wherry, writing for status quo-supporting CBC, probably explained it best: 
Aaron Wherry - Youtube

"That neither Scheer nor Elizabeth May would end up very happy was inevitable. The hope, from the outset, was that somewhere between the loudest proponents of a pipeline and the loudest opponents, there could exist a significant number of voters willing to accept Trudeau's bargain.(see: "Like it or not, Trans Mountain is what a pipeline 'compromise' looks like," CBC, June 18 2019).

Of course Wherry writes as if this decision was a political decision - somehow devoid of any connection to the physical world.  Yes, I suppose that there does exist such a thing as political compromise (although I would argue that a decision that makes no one happy probably doesn't fit that bill - but Wherry and the CBC have the status quo to maintain, so go nuts).  But what appears to be lost on pundits like Wherry (and sorry if it seems that I'm picking on him here - because he is far from the worst) is that you can't compromise with chemistry.

You can't compromise with the reality that pumping more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere isn't going to "help" reduce the impacts of the climate crisis in this time of climate emergency.

But that's the fantasy the Liberals want us suckers to subscribe to.  It's that fantasy - that we can continue to burn, baby, burn, while simultaneously reducing emissions - that the Liberals are already campaigning for re-election on.  You and I know it's complete crap. And we also know that there are many other Canadians who reject taking meaningful action on the climate crisis.  But they're not likely to vote for the Liberals anyway.

People They Come Together.  People They Fall Apart.

The Liberals have really put themselves in a pickle here.  They are, on the one hand, trying to accuse the Conservatives of having zero credibility on the climate crisis (which is true), but on the other hand completely lacking in credibility themselves. The want voters to buy into the former, while ignoring the latter.  I'm sorry, but I think voters in increasing numbers are going to see through that.
Chantal Hebert - the Toronto Star

Chantal Hebert, however, doesn't see it that way.  She believes that the damage to the Liberal brand over Trans Mountain has already happened - and that this decision won't have much of an impact on the electorate.

"When it comes to this file the ruling Liberals paid the political cost up front, when they salvaged the project by taking the pipeline off the hands of its private sector owner. As of that point, many of the climate change activists who had high hopes that the prime minister was serious about addressing the issue decided he was all talk and no walk." (see: "Trudeau’s pipeline support may not be the political problem some think it will be," the Toronto Star, June 18 2019).

From where I'm sitting, I respectfully disagree.  I think a lot of the "activists" had already walked away from the Liberals shortly after Paris when it became obvious to anyone paying attention that Trudeau, having embraced Stephen Harper's inadequate emissions reductions targets, and allowed the National Energy Board to continue doing its thing - I think those actions spoke to climate change-concerned voters who gave the Liberals an assist in 2015.  The final nail in the coffin was likely Trudeau's 180 on electoral reform.  Most of those "activists" were never true Liberal supporters anyway (why would they be?) - and if they supported Trudeau in 2015, it probably had more to do with stopping Harper than it did with any optimism that Trudeau would do much to tackle the climate crisis.

But let's not quibble about specifics.  Hebert believes the "coalition" or whatever one might call it - was already broken, so this week's moves by the Liberals won't rattle loose many more supporters.  

Here's why I think she's likely to be wrong.  

Pride Goeth Before a Fall

Timing matters.  Trudeau handed a gift to the Greens and New Democrats by foolishly declaring a climate emergency on Monday, and then approving a pipeline on Tuesday.  If anyone thinks that Greens and New Democrats are going to stop talking about this hubris on the part of Trudeau and the Liberals - guess again.

And it really is hubris - a demon that the Liberal Party of Canada has some wrestling history with.  I know that the Liberals are entitled to their entitlements, but you do this enough and voters can't help but notice.  The bleeding from the LavScam scab might have finally stopped, but this week the Liberals picked open a fresh wound - call it #ClimateScam or whatever - it's going to bleed throughout the summer.  

Thing is, it's already been bleeding. In an earlier post of mine from last week, "Is the Green Party Ready to Capitalize on the Liberal Party's Collapse?" I took a close look at some of the trends that we've been seeing emerge in the lead-up to the October election.  My main thesis was that the Green Party needs to figure out how we're going to prepare ourselves for the level of support that we are likely to have in the days before the writ drops.  I remain concerned about this issue - and a recent poll from EKOS does not ease my anxiety no matter how much it might provoke me to jump and scream with delight.
EKOS Polling - from Burnaby News Now, June 18 2019
Earlier this week, EKOS pegged the Green Party's national support level at 13.2% - statistically ahead of the NDP, which had fallen to 12%.  That's a huge story - one that Greens on social media have been quick to promote.  And why wouldn't we?  It really is a huge story - although one that needs to be taken with a grain of salt, given that EKOS always tends to over-estimate the level of Green support.  That, however, might be in part due to voters changing their mind at the ballot box.  Anyway, whether EKOS is optimistic here or not - this is just one poll, and we ought never get too excited about a single poll.

But it does reinforce a trend. There is no denying the polls show the level of Green Party support rising.  And Green parties at the provincial level here in Canada, and elsewhwere in the world, are all generally seeing an increase in support.  The trend isn't just national - it's global.  And I think Hebert neglects to consider that it's not activists who are driving this trend - but instead a population that is becoming increasingly woke to the climate crisis.  

And once woke, there's a good chance that the electorate is going to stay woke - thanks to demographic changes that now show that in 2019 millennials are the largest cohort of (potential) voters.  

The 100th (Climate) Monkey

Could we possibly be witnessing the emergence of the 100th climate crisis monkey?  Ya, I think we are - the tide is so high right now, there's no turning it back.  I think that Justin Trudeau is going to find himself playing the role of King Canute now.  I suspect that globally, he's going to have some company.
Already progressive voters are seeing through Liberal hubris.  The real story of this week's EKOS poll isn't how the Greens and NDP have switched places nationally.  The real story is buried in the provincial voter intention breakdown.  It starts in British Columbia, where the Green Party, now polling at 24%, has displaced both the New Democrats (13%) and the Liberals (22%).  Watch what the polls say about battleground B.C. over the next month.  I expect the story to be a collapse in Liberal support there.

But take a look at what's going on in Quebec, too - where the Greens have inexplicably risen to 15%.  And I say "inexplicably" for good reason.  The Party has almost zero history in Quebec.  We don't exactly offer a Quebec-friendly array of policies - it's not that we're anti-Quebec or anything like that - it's just that we've never really given thought to Quebec, specifically. Our leader doesn't speak french all that well.  And the provincial Parti-Vert has found itself almost at war with the federal party in the recent past.  There is no good reason why Greens should be at 15% in Quebec - especially when the NDP is down to 9% there.

And in Atlantic Canada, the Green Party is consolidating it's position as the 3rd place party.  Maybe a New Democrat or two can get themselves elected in Newfoundland and Labrador - but the Maritimes have closed their doors to the NDP.
Greg Malone - courtesy

And even in Newfoundland and Labrador, Greens are making a play.  It was announced yesterday that comedian and social activist Greg Malone - one of Newfoundland and Labrador's most well-known citizens - will be representing the Green Party in Avalon (see: "Codco star Greg Malone to run for federal Green party in Newfoundland this fall," the Canadian Press, June 18 2019).  I still think Malone has his work cut out for him - but his public support of the Green Party just upped our profile on the Rock in a huge way.

#GreenSurge and #ClimateScam

Again, this is all just one poll - but if these trends hold, the Liberals are going to be in deep trouble when the writ finally drops.  The #GreenSurge is undeniably real - as is the current collapse of the New Democratic Party.  The Liberals themselves may only lose a few points over the summer months, but if Trudeau finds his party at 25% in the polls, facing off against a Green Party that is consistently polling between 15% and 18% nationally (and, say, 30% in BC), the Liberals are done. Done done done.

I caution that this is not to say that I expect the Greens to pull off some sort of huge victory in October - because I don't.  What I do expect is that the narrative that the Liberals will try to use on voters again - the old "vote for us because the Conservatives are scary and a vote for the NDP and Greens is wasted" - well, that's not going to work.

This week's dissonance matters.  And the worst part for the Liberals is that it didn't have to go down this way.  Why on earth did no one in the Liberal brain trust tweak to the fact that the optics of declaring a climate emergency one day and approving a pipeline the next might not be in the Liberal Party's best interests?

Hubris.  There's no other explanation.

And hubris will be the Liberal Party's undoing.  Welcome to #ClimateScam.

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own, and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the Green Parties of Ontario and/or Canada)

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