Saturday, October 26, 2019

Voters Opt for Status Quo on the Climate Crisis

Climate crisis, what climate crisis?  Voters went to the ballot box on Monday and opted for more of the same, returning Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to government – albeit in a minority form.  Job one now, according to the Prime Minister, will be to hustle along the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

It is true that by keeping the reigns of power out of Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer’s hands, a moderate victory for the climate was achieved.  Scheer had promised to act quickly to kill the carbon tax – one of the most important tools in the toolbox to help reduce emissions.  With experts concluding that the Conservative plan would have led to more emissions, not fewer, it was pretty obvious to voters that NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s characterization of Scheer as “Mr. Deny” was apt. 
Mr. Deny and Mr. Delay

But Monday’s ballot box victory for climate change is about to be completely wiped out by Prime Minister “Delay”. The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, if completed, will lock in decades worth of tar sands production.  It was former Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley’s plan to almost double tar sands output by 2030, using new pipeline capacity to move bitumen to markets.  

What would a doubling of the tar sands mean for Canada?  Prime Minister Trudeau has long claimed that the Trans Mountain project is in Canada’s interest.  He couldn’t be more wrong.

What is in Canada’s interest is getting serious about the climate emergency.  This isn’t an environmental issue.  It’s a clear and present threat to our global economy, to world peace, and to human rights.  A planet warmed by an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius will be a much different place than the one we inhabit now. With more floods, forest fires and droughts in the areas that grow our food, we can expect significant numbers of people to be displaced, resource wars, economic collapse and chaos.  Climate refugees are already on the move – and anyone who thinks they won’t be coming to Canada needs to think again.  

This isn’t hyperbole.  Children marching in the streets understand this. They know hundreds of millions are likely to die. They’re begging the adults to use the science to inform their actions.  They are telling us in clear terms that by ignoring this peril, we are putting their future at risk. But we adults aren’t listening.  The kids can’t vote, after all.

By opting to return the status quo to power, Canada has decided to once again put off taking any serious action to reduce emissions.  Trudeau might have claimed that his Party’s plan will achieve our Paris targets, but reports published by Environment and Climate Change Canada – an agency of his own government – tell the real story: we won’t even get two thirds of the way there (see: “Trudeau's claim that Canada is 'on track' to meet 2030 climate target is misleading,” CBC, September 25, 2019). That’s not climate leadership. It’s what we call in polite company “pretending”.

Some have suggested that the Liberals plan strikes the right balance for the political environment.  Those who make this argument – many of whom are in the media – clearly fail to understand what the climate crisis actually represents to the real world, rather than to the world of politics. 

The reality is, we either slow down global heating, or we don’t.  We either hold warming at 1.5 C or we risk triggering runaway heating events, like the massive release or arctic methane from melting permafrost.

The only acceptable political choice to make in this climate emergency is the one that is also moral and just to future generations: stop investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure like pipelines, and wind down the production of fossil fuels.  That choice, however, was not on offer from either Mr. Deny or Mr. Delay.

(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)

Originally published online and in print as, "May: Canadians opt for status quo on the climate crisis," at the Sudbury Star, Saturday October 26, 2019 - without hyperlinks.

Monday, October 21, 2019

May 27 2019: The Day the Green Party of Canada Lost the Election

Dateline - May 27, 2019.  The seeds for the Green Party's eventual poor showing in tonight's election were sown on the day that the Green Party of Canada found itself at  the height of their power and influence.  On that day, Paul Manly was sworn in as the newly-elected Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Ladysmith - only the second Green MP ever be elected by Canadians.  Manly had invested time energy into a campaign, which (for many) led to a surprising upset win on May 6 2019.

Greens had been racking up victories: just before Manly, the PEI Greens had returned 9 MLA's to Charlottetown, and formed the first-ever Green Official Opposition.  In New Brunswick, a provincial election saw three Greens elected.  And in Ontario in 2018, Green Party leader Mike Schreiner was sent to Queens Park by the good people of Guelph. 

Expectations for a serious breakthrough in the October federal election were high, as the NDP sagged in the polls and even the Liberals under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were looking more than a little run-down.  With, what at the time appeared to be a growing threat to the Conservative Party on the political right in the form of Maxime Bernier's People's Party, Greens were buying in to the Green Surge big-time.  Including me! (see: "Greens to be Ignored No More," Sudbury Steve May, May 7 2019).

Elizabeth May
But things started to go off the rails - and much of it was, in my opinion, completely avoidable.  We Greens like to brag that 'we do politics differently' but after more than 10 years in the Green Party, I'm far too often left shaking my head in exasperation and lamenting that Greens don't really "do" politics at all.  

Mission: Possible Problems

"Mission: Possible" - the Green Party's climate change action plan, was released on May 16th (see: "Elizabeth May unveils Mission: Possible – the Green Climate Action Plan," Green Party of Canada, May 16 2019).  Although concerns about Point 13 had been percolating on social media for days, the story about the Green's wanting to ban foreign oil imports and build refineries in Alberta broke on the 27th (see: "Green party calls for ban on foreign oil imports, using Alberta bitumen instead," the Calgary Herald, May 27 2019, and "Elizabeth May's 'Canadian oil' idea would be the end of Canadian oil," Don Braid, the Calgary Herald, May 27 2019 and "Greens call for ban on foreign oil imports, using Alberta oil instead," CBC News, May 27 2019).  

Once the cat was out of the bag, it didn't take much public head-scratching for environmentalists to wonder just where the Green Party was coming from on Point 13 - especially since Greens had gone to some lengths to tell others that we were the party who would unequivocally say 'No' to new fossil fuel infrastructure like bitumen pipelines and LNG.  But apparently new refineries didn't quite make the cut.
Alex Tyrrell

Quebec's eco-socialist Green Party leader, Alex Tyrrell - no friend to Elizabeth May and the Green Party of Canada (see: "Elizabeth May ordered deputies not to associate with leader of Quebec Greens," Ethan Cox, Riccochet, September 15 2016) couldn't quite wrap his head around the Greens new-found love of building refining capacity in Alberta as part of an exercise to end foreign oil imports - and more importantly, decided to be very public with his condemnation (see: "Elizabeth May wants to only use Canadian oil — a plan Quebec's Green Party leader can't support," CBC As It Happens, May 30 2019).  The media loves a good fight between partisans of the same colour, and this was no exception.  The pitched battles continue to take place throughout the summer (see: "Green rift opens over federal party’s stance on Alberta’s oilsands," Alex Ballingall, the Toronto Star, July 17 2019) leading to a moderation of the Green Party's position that included something like using oil from Newfoundland's Hibernia oil for Quebec (see: "Mission: Possible - Clarification of Green Party's Energy Transition Plan," Green Party of Canada, May 30 2019) to the point that no one could really figure out where the Green Party was at on this issue.  Including many Greens and Green Party candidates.

Of course, Greens have no one to blame but themselves for this.  Back in 2014, grassroots Greens at the General Meeting in Sidney, B.C., adopted a policy that was promoted by the Party during the 2015 election (see: "May says Green Party would support refineries, not pipelines," the Globe and Mail, October 10 2015).  That the party hasn't taken the time to modify this policy - or eliminate it altogether - says either something about the merits of the policy (and there are some) or the reality dysfunction of the party's policy process (props to one of my favorite sci-fi authors, Peter F. Hamilton - I've been trying to work that term into a blog now for years...).

Critics (both inside and outside of the Party) were, in my opinion, right to point out that the difference between now and 2014/15 is that the world's scientific community have given us just 12 years (are we down to 11 yet?) to get our collective acts together on seriously reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the point that any mention of new fossil fuel infrastructure is going to come under scrutiny.  The fact of the matter is - grassroots approved policy or not - the refinery/upgrader initiative didn't need to end up in the Green Party's platform (and it point of fact, it didn't) or occupying the position of one of just 20 points in Mission: Possible - the Party's climate plan (whereas something like funding municipal transit systems was given a pass in that plan).
Jody Wilson-Raybould


But perhaps the biggest problem for Greens on May 27th was about something that didn't happen: when Independent MP's Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott announced that they would continue to sit as Independents in the House.  For the better part of the month of May, Elizabeth May appeared to be dropping hints that Wilson-Raybould and Philpott might be getting ready to join the Green Party (see: "Door open for Wilson-Raybould, Philpott to join the Greens: May," News 1130, April 4 2019, and "Wilson-Raybould and Philpott will soon decide whether to join the Greens, May says," CBC News, May 8 2019).  Riccochet reporter Ethan Cox even cited 'inside sources' in the Green Party suggesting that the two Independent MP's were ready to sign on with the Greens - just two days before they didn't (see: "Are Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott going Green?" Ethan Cox, Riccochet, May 25 2019).  

There was no good reason for Elizabeth May to be engaging in public speculation about the future of the two Independent MP's unless the game was fixed.  Keeping this story in front of the media for over a month only made sense in the context of the story ending with the positive decisions of Raybould-Wilson and Philpott (or maybe even just Raybould-Wilson) joining the Green Party of Canada.  

Although CBC broke the story late on Sunday, May 26th (see: "Wilson-Raybould, Philpott won't run as Greens in fall election," CBC News, May 26 2019), Wilson-Raybould and Philpott both announced on Monday, May 27th their intention to remain independents.  What ought to have been a massive coup for the Green Party turned into yet another missed opportunity.  

And then it turned into something worse.

Fire in the Belly

Completely mishandling the situation, it was reported that Elizabeth May was prepared to step down as leader of the Green Party should newly-Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould want to wear that mantle for herself (see: "Elizabeth May offered to quit Green leadership if Wilson-Raybould wanted it," Canadian Press, May 27, 2019).  Voters - and Greens - were left to wonder just whether May's heart was in the upcoming campaign, and whether she was secretly hoping that she could sit this one out as leader.  That May had apparently approached Wilson-Raybould during 'her very first conversation' - presumably back in April - was a bit of a slap in the face to Greens (see: "'A mistake': Elizabeth May disappointed Wilson-Raybould, Philpott rejected Greens," CTV News, May 27 2019) - who have a pretty vigorous, grassroots process in place for electing new leaders.  May's phrasing also left her open to criticism from the left that the Green Party really was the "Elizabeth May Party" complete with transferable leadership powers, kind of like North Korea.

The damage, though, was serious.  The Green Party would go on to fight the 2019 election without the benefit of two highly-regarded former cabinet Ministers.  There would be more mis-steps, mistakes and misunderstandings that would lead to the Party's polling high of 13% dissipate in the final days of the October campaign, back to their more 'normal' 6% pre-Election night count (and I predict it will likely fall even further once all of the ballots are added up this evening).

Momentum Lost

Imagine the election campaign that might have been - with left-wing environmental groups lining up behind a surging Green Party as the 'best option' to advance their interests.  The summer surge could have continued to build with the mounting excitement brought to the Party with Wilson-Raybould and Philpott.  Perhaps additional star candidates could have been recruited - especially in key ridings.  And rather than heading into the campaign polling around 10%, the Party might have had instead been capturing between 15% and 20% - firmly above the NDP.

But instead, our momentum shifted - and we lost the initiative.  Rather than being in a place where our leader and candidates were calling the shots, we quickly found ourselves on the defensive - and we'd pretty much spend the summer and the campaign trying to explain ourselves to voters - rather than talking about the good things we wanted to do.  There's only so much media oxygen set aside for a fourth party - and most of that is focused on the sort of game-playing that politicians like May hate - but that media consumers seem to love.  

Former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell
Policy - as I've said many times before - and as noted by others - just does not matter during an election.  Image, sound-bites, and most importantly - the perception of momentum conferred upon parties by the polls - that's the stuff that really matters.  Greens, do you hear me?  

Things would have been completely different for the Green Party had we understood that there were no votes to be gained in Alberta or elsewhere by promoting refineries - and had JWR and Philpott convinced themselves that they could actually have been re-elected under our Party's banner. 

May 27, 2019 appears to have been the zenith for the Party. We might not have known it at the time, but it was all down hill from there.  I'll explore this a little bit more in my next blog post - reminding readers about First Nations water systems, Warren Kinsella, conscious-voting, grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory in New Brunswick, lacklustre debate performances, and the Party's inability to get our message out - or its act together.

And I'll ask whether maybe it's time we Greens think about packing it in.

(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)

Crystal Ball Gazing: #Elxn43 Predictions

At the outset of the election campaign, I made a prediction – that Canadians would be electing a Conservative majority government on October 21.  There were several things which informed this assessment, but largely it ultimately boiled down to the following:

-That this election would be fought on one primary issue: how much the electorate hates Justin Trudeau.

-That the Conservative Party and it’s 3rd Party advertising allies have a whole bunch of money to spend to convince voters to hate Justin Trudeau

-A lacklustre NDP campaign that would lead to closer results in ridings, electing a few more Conservatives, and ultimately returning fewer New Democrats to the House. They would be almost completely wiped out in Quebec – but the NDP would still do better than pre-campaign polling suggested.

-A stronger Green Party that would lead to closer results in ridings, electing a few more Conservatives – but the Greens would still fail to do nearly as well as pre-campaign polling suggested.

The Party Leaders
After reflecting on what’s really transpired, I’m not sure that enough of these predictions bore fruit – Yes, the Conservatives and allies threw a lot of money around at biggest issue of the campaign: the integrity of Justin Trudeau. But whether it’s as determinative as I had initially thought, I’m far less certain, given that the integrity of Andrew Scheer has also been a big campaign issue (one that I did not predict).

As far as the NDP and the Green Party goes, I think I mostly nailed it.  I am not at all surprised that the NDP has done better than pre-campaign polling, given the strength of their leader (whom I’ve been following for years).  And I am not at all surprised that people have, once again, turned their backs on the Greens as a party with whom votes just can’t be parked with (a serious issue for any Fourth/Fifth party, like the Greens).

What I did not predict was that the Bloc Quebecois would experience a resurgence.  I had thought that the Conservatives would pick up more seats in Quebec than they appear poised to do.  And to an extent, this has been the largest factor in my shift from a prediction of a Conservative majority to a hung parliament wherein the Conservatives end up with the most seats and the largest share of the popular vote.

In part what also informs my prediction are the polls – which have consistently shown the Conservatives and Liberals neck-and-neck.  What I think we’re going to see is which parties get our their vote tonight – and which don’t.  The Conservatives are set to over-perform, while the Liberals and the Greens will underperform.  I actually think the NDP will receive a little bit of a bump as voters make their final decisions at the ballot box.

Watch for the Conservatives to pick up seats in the Atlantic Provinces and in the Greater Toronto Area. And the odd pick-up in other regions will give the Conservatives a slight edge on the Liberals in terms of seats once all the votes are counted.

Further prediction: If Trudeau concedes defeat tonight, the Conservatives will govern – with the support of the Liberal Party, at least for the Throne Speech and budget.  If he does not concede tonight, whether he concedes later or goes to the GG with a plan to govern, the Conservatives will not form government.  So I will be watching very carefully what Trudeau says – or does not say – tonight.

Here are my predictions for the popular vote count. I am not predicting seats – except for the Green Party, because I’m sure Greens who read my blog might have a little more interest in my thoughts on that.

CON – 37%
LIB – 30%
NDP – 19%
BQ – 7%
GRN – 5%
Other – 2%

Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott will both be returned to parliament as Independents.  Maxime Bernier will not be returned to parliament. 

And the Greens, after waiting for the final ballots to be counted in Victoria and Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, which will both be lost in squeakers, will see only two Greens elected – Elizabeth May in Saanich-Gulf Islands, and Paul Manly in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

If the Liberals or Conservatives win a majority, look for Elizabeth May to signal that she will be stepping down from her position as leader of the Green Party at some point (it will be vague).  If it’s a minority situation, I would not expect May to say anything about the Green Party’s leadership.

That’s likely to be the only potential leader-resignation tonight. I get that some are suggesting that if the Liberals win a majority, Scheer may resign – or if the Conservatives win a majority, Trudeau might resign.  I don’t think either is likely to happen tonight.  And no matter what happens, I can’t see NDP leader Jagmeet Singh resign tonight – even if he loses his own seat (which I really can’t see happening).  And Max Bernier will not resign even when he does lose his own seat.

Some final predictions: After a close race in Nickel Belt, Liberal incumbent Marc Serre will defeat New Democrat Stef Paquette.  The race will not be as close in Sudbury, and Liberal incumbent Paul Lefebvre will be returned to Ottawa.  In both ridings, Liberals take top spot, followed by the NDP, followed by the Greens, followed by a (somewhat surprisingly) PPC nipping at the heels of the Green Party.

Now, bring on the results – and let me see how poorly I’ve assessed the situation.

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own and should not be considered consistent with the policies and/or positions of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Nickel Belt West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce Debate Highlights

I attended a really interesting debate last night that, unfortunately, meant almost nothing to anyone.  Hosted by the West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce, Nickel Belt party candidates gathered in Sturgeon Falls to face off against one another in front of an overwhelmingly partisan crowd, including a large contingent of "Team Serre" Liberals clad in soccer shirts.  If there was an undecided voter anywhere in the group of about 60 people, they must have been very confused.

Thank goodness for the media, though - the West Nipissing Tribune was there to report back to the wider Sturgeon Falls community.  What the Tribune reports will have a far more significant impact on how Nickel Belt voters in the eastern part of the massive district felt about the winners and losers of the debate than the actual debate itself.  

(from left to right: Aino Laamenen, CPC; Casey Lalonde, GPC; Mikko Paavola, PPC; Stef Paquette, NDP; Marc Serre, LPC)

West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce

Kudos to the West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce, though.  They hosted this important community function, and it was by far one of the smoothly run all-candidates meetings that I've attended.  Starting and ending largely on time, the questions asked by the Chamber and those selected from the audience were about important, local issues to West Nipissing - an often-overlooked part of the Sudbury-centric Nickel Belt.  

The Chamber also went out of its way to make sure that the debate didn't descend into the sort of free-for-all anarchy that the televised leaders debate did.  Strict moderation on time limits, while affording everyone an opportunity for a second shot at the question (including a rebuttal, if needed) created a really good opportunity for the candidates to get the word out about their platforms.

People's Party Candidate Mikko Paavola

This field of Nickel Belt election candidates is one of the strongest I've seen - even though all struggled a little bit last night with making the "local" connection in the context of Sturgeon Falls/West Nipissing in their answers (meaning their Sudbury bias was showing) and at least one last night was visibly not on her A-game.  But even the addition of the PPC candidate last night didn't hurt, I dislike reporting given the threat their party is to Canada's values.  But I can't deny that Mikko Paavola did his party credit last night by answering most questions by relating them back to his party's platform - in other words, providing voters with the sort of information that might help them decide whom to vote for based on where their party stands on particular issues.

Liberal Party Candidate Marc Serre

You'd think that would be a given for most candidates in a debate - but it isn't. And last night was no exception.  Sometimes candidates believe that they are able to skate through debates by moving things in a different direction. And that's exactly what the two perceived front-runners did.  We certainly learned a thing or two about Liberal MP Marc Serre's past four years in Ottawa - and what he believes he has personally done for West Nipissing and Nickel Belt.  But I don't think voters have much of an idea what his future plans are - or what the Liberals are proposing to do.  Serre spent most of the night coasting on his record.  But he also appeared to be the most knowledgeable person in the room about the ins and outs of how to get things done in Ottawa.  Four years on the government side's back benches will do that.

In fairness, Serre wasn't exactly the strongest candidate for the Liberals in 2014, but he nevertheless took down a bit an NDP titan in Nickel Belt's former MP, Claude Gravelle (NDP) - a serious scrapper if there ever was one.  Serre is far more polished this time out, and it's actually a bit of a joy to listen to him talk about his record in both official languages.  And he's not afraid to mix it up either with his political opponents when there's cause. And last night provided a little bit of that.

New Democratic Party Candidate Stef Paquette

In contrast to Serre, the NDP's Stef Paquette seemed more than a little lost when it comes to the ins and outs of how governments work, or what programs and polices can do.  Or even his own party's platform.  Paquette instead chose to rely on what seemed to me to be a smarmy style-over-substance but without much style, which he used repeatedly to attack the other candidates with, most particularly Serre.  This tactic might pay off to those who value and are motivated by political theatre in election season - and let's face it, there are a lot of people that fit into that category.  Certainly the New Democratic partisans in the room were impressed with Paquette, but I am certainly very interested in how his non-policy approach played out with the media.  

Green Party Candidate Casey Lalonde

While Serre and Paquette provided the biggest contrasts of the evening, I think that if anyone present was able to put their partisan interests aside, the only candidate of the beside Paavola who provided detailed information at times on her party's platform while giving voters ample reasons to select her for MP was the Green Party's Casey Lalonde.  And even Casey was a little off of her game last night.

I know, I'm biased.  I'm trying really hard to park my bias when I write about these debates, but it's not as if it's something that I can stow in the closet completely.  Still, I know Lalonde's performance came as a complete surprise to just about everybody in the room last night, except for me (and maybe for Casey herself).  When the moderators told the candidates before the debate that there was a last minute rule change that gave candidates half the originally-planned amount of time to answer questions (from a minute and a half to just fourty-five seconds), I knew that only one candidate was going to benefit - and she did.

Lalonde has a rare gift in politics - but an important one.  She's got the gift of precision and synthesis. Without the use of notes which every other candidate relied on, Lalonde last night offered up a clinic to all in the room on how to think and speak on the fly, condensing elements of the Green Party's platform with her own personal experiences and knowledge of the issues, providing juicy-gel packed responses to all of the questions asked. That she speaks rather fast (all the time!) certainly didn't hurt either (if politics doesn't work out for Casey, she might want to consider a career as an auctioneer).

Conservative Party Candidate Aino Laamenen

Finally, the Conservative Party's Aino Laamenen appeared to be more than a little off last night.  After a decent and no doubt surprising-to-some performance at the 100 Debates on the Environment, Laamenen relied heavily on Conservative Party talking points and relating personal stories to the crowd which failed to connect or resonate, as they were only tangentially relevant to the questions asked. 

Now for some details.

Land Acknowledgement

It fell to Paquette to provide last night's land acknowledgement - and he was the fourth candidate to speak on a panel of 5 - and they all spoke after the introduction by the Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber's oversight on this was unfortunate - and kudos to Paquette for rectifying the matter.  It's 2019.  There's no reason to get this kind of thing wrong any longer.  That said, I don't want this observation to detract from the well-ordered debate that the Chamber hosted.  And I'm sure they'll get it right the next time - right?

Climate Change

Although the focus of the Chamber's debate was on the local, small businesses that the Chamber champions, climate change certainly came up throughout the evening.  Since it's an issue that is near and dear to me, I'm going to take some time to focus on it.

I was extremely pleased to see Liberal MP Marc Serre engage in some on-the-spot fact checking on this topic, as Conservative Lamamenen kicked off the climate change discussion reading her party's talking point about what a terrible thing the carbon tax is and how it takes money away from people.  Serre was quick to jump in and remind everyone present that the government's plan includes a tax rebate which the PBO has said will leave most Canadians better off.  I suspect Laamenen claimed the rebate on her taxes, so it's interesting that she would have omitted acknowledging its existence - again.  Good for Serre - whom I've heard was instrumental in his Liberal caucus for ensuring the rebate portion of the federal carbon backstop would be primarily rebated to individuals and families. 

Paquette, however, proved to be a significant disappointment on climate change - again.  And this surprises me, because Paquette seems to be personally in tune with a number of other environmental issues of the day, and perhaps for the first time, the NDP has a credible plan to tackle the climate emergency (albeit still less than what Canada needs right now).  Paquette used his time on the topic of climate change to bash Green candidate Lalonde (for being critical of the Conservative's plan) and bash Serre and Justin Trudeau for providing Loblaws with a subsidy to purchase fridges.  

Let me comment a little about this.  I get where the NDP is coming from with regards to their opposition to 'corporate welfare' (although it seems to me that lately that opposition has been strictly targeted to businesses whose leaders have contributed to Liberal campaigns), but when I hear a New Democrat go after the Liberals for funding a project that will have a serious impact on reducing green house gas emissions by promoting a greater degree of energy efficiency - well that's why it continues to be clear to me that the NDP just doesn't understand the climate emergency.  Paquette invoked those Loblaws fridges twice last night in an attempt to smear the Liberals.  The format of the debate gave Serre little chance to respond, so Paquette's 'corporate welfare' point appeared to resonate - but for anyone paying attention, all it did was further muddy the waters on whether the NDP - despite a decent platform - really understands what the climate emergency is all about.

The PPC's Paavola, though, left no doubt in anyone's mind that he didn't believe that climate change was a thing.  Citing 'natural occurrences' and saying "Canada is only a small percentage of climate change," he tried to shame the others as 'climate alarmists'.  You could hear the eyes rolling.  But as I wrote earlier, he was at least able to coherently convey his Party's stance on the issues.

Lalonde and Serre provided the most credible responses on this topic - although Serre did go on to make one of the most wild and untrue claims of the evening when he said that all of the emissions from the Trans Mountain pipeline were factored into the Liberals plan, and that the Liberals have no intention of expanding oil production in Alberta.

Sorry, Marc - you're either misinformed, mistaken or deliberately repeating a completely misleading Liberal talking point.  First, about those emissions: while it is true that the National Energy Board looked at the total greenhouse gas emissions that are expected to be generated from constructing the twinned pipeline, it only took a basic look at upstream impacts and failed to look at downstream emissions impacts at all.  Critics have cited this as a deficiency in the review process for years and years - so long, in fact, that when Serre ran as a Liberal candidate for the first time in 2014, his party was promising to change the review process so that all greenhouse gas emissions would be factored into a review.  It's one of the failings of his party that while in government the Liberals failed to keep their promise.  And now Serre was caught last night trying to pretend that his party did keep it.

Second, about expanding oil production in Alberta.  While it is true that the purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline by the Government of Canada will not in and of itself lead to expanded production of the tar sands, remember that the only reason the Liberals bought the pipeline in the first place was to see the twinning job completed.  Not only will the twinning project cost between $10 and $13 billion (of taxpayer's money), it will lead to an almost doubling of production in the tar sands.  The only reason the pipeline needs to be twinned at all is because Alberta and Canada are planning on expanding production. So claiming that the pipeline won't lead to further production was completely disingenuous.

That no one called Serre out on what had to be the biggest lie of the evening did not reflect particularly well on any of the candidates, in my opinion.  I suspect a different outcome tonight if he Serre tries to pull this same fast one again.

More Fact Checking

At one point in the evening, the NDP's Stef Paquette tried to credit his party with bringing in a national medicare plan.  Liberal Serre was having none of that - he gave a mini-clinic of his own on the history of medicare in Canada, while making a strong point about federal-provincial issues.  Serre quite correctly pointed out that it was a Liberal government that brought in medicare.  

At another point in the debate, on a question pertaining to Veterans, People's Party candidate Mikko Paavola did a little fact-checking of his own - using his cell phone to look up his party's position on veteran's issues.  Good for Paavola to use his ability (and the extra time he had as the last candidate to answer this question) to look up the answer, and good for him to praise the free WiFi available at the Marcel Noelle Centre (and good of him to let everyone else in the room know about it), but I'll be honest here - I'm not sure this is what candidates ought to be doing in the midst of an all-candidate's debate.  That said, I am rethinking just how I actually do feel about it after Paavola's mid-debate 'fact checking' last night.

On the matter of indigenous relations, the NDP's Paquette, after effectively railing at the Trudeau government for not having an indigenous Minister of Indigenous Services, took a swipe at the present Minister's Irish ancestry.  Paquette had been in the process of making a cogent point - that the NDP would ensure that an indigenous person filled the role of Minister - but ended up sounding off-putting by insinuating that the current Minister, Liberal Seamus O'Regan, who Paquette characterized as an "Irishman" somehow impacted his ability to be an effective Minister.

Fact check here.  O'Regan was born in Canada, not Ireland. His father, also named Seamus O'Regan, was Irish - but his mother was not.  So I get that maybe characterizing Seamus as being "half Irish" would have been technically correct. But what would actually be most appropriate would be to identify O'Regan by what he really is - a Canadian and a proud Newfoundlander - rather than trying to denigrate him and his Liberal government via his Irish heritage.  I'm surprised Paquette went there, because he had been effectively making his point before turning off many in the crowd, like myself, who have an Irish or Newfoundland heritage.

Up Next

I'll link to the West Nipissing Tribune article when it appears, as I believe that the way that last night's debate is discussed in the media will have more of an impact than the debate itself.  I find it interesting that today, Abacus Data is declaring Jagmeet Singh the winner of Monday's nationally televised leader's debate based on polling of people who watched the debate (or part of it) AND on those who didn't watch but heard about it from others.  Think about that for a moment.  From whom did they hear about the debate?  From family and friends who might be partisan?  Maybe. But more likely from the media - which, love it or hate it, still matters.

(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)