Getting What We Deserve

Posted on Friday, December 23 at 09:21 by Reverend Blair

Is Martin being hypocritical, merely bashing the US as part of his election campaign. Yes. His record on environmental matters is dismal and we’ve increased emissions. He has steadfastly refused to bring any programs that weren’t strictly voluntary and things have gotten worse instead of better as a result.

That doesn’t make Martin’s criticism of the United States wrong. It should be noted that the Bush government has had little or nothing to do with the slowing of greenhouse emissions in the United States. The progress that has been made is largely due to the actions of the mayors of US cities and the initiatives of states striving to reduce their own pollution.

The US has had an extremely negative influence on Kyoto and any possible future agreement. The message from George Bush and his supporters has been clear. Not only do not they think that US should be not be part of any binding international agreements, but they would greatly prefer that other nations not be part of such agreements either.

In Buenos Aires in 2004 the US delegation did everything possible to undermine attempts by other nations to deal with their own greenhouse gas emissions. The result was a weak agreement between nations for non-binding discussions.

We witnessed the same sort of behind the scenes actions in Montreal recently. The US was pushing hard to discourage nations that were thinking of signing Kyoto not to sign. Those nations that were already part of Kyoto were being encouraged to drop out and refuse to sign any future deals. A document was leaked to The Independent outlining a US strategy to undermine any agreements on dealing with global climate change.

According to Andrew Buncombe at The Independent, “Put together by a lobbyist who is a senior official at a group partly funded by ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil company and a fierce opponent of anti-global warming measures, the plan seeks to draw together major international companies, academics, think-tanks, commentators, journalists and lobbyists from across Europe into a powerful grouping to destroy further EU support for the treaty. It details just how the so-called "European Sound Climate Policy Coalition" would work. Based in Brussels, the plan would have anti-Kyoto position papers, expert spokesmen, detailed advice and networking instantly available to any politician or company who wanted to question the wisdom of proceeding with Kyoto and its demanding cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. It has been drawn up by Chris Horner, a senior official with the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute and a veteran campaigner against Kyoto and against the evidence of climate change.”

With that sort of thing going on, the United States and its leaders deserve to be roundly criticised. Paul Martin may have done a dismal job at meeting Canada’s Kyoto commitments, but he has not been involved in attempts to scuttle the work of other countries in meeting their goals.

David Wilken’s charge that the rhetoric of our politicians is damaging Canada/US relations is ridiculous, though not as ridiculous as our leaders’ charges that the US should not make such statements during elections. We’re talking about a country that routinely funds foreign political parties in an attempt to sway foreign elections in favour of US interests. It’s better to have them talking openly through official channels because it keeps Canadians suspicious about the motives of the US.

Stephen Harper is certainly not above a little America bashing himself. He criticised Wilkens for speaking out during a Canadian election and when Harper released his platform on Canadian sovereignty in our north, one of the things he highlighted was the United States sending submarines through our waters without asking permission. “As prime minister I will make it plain to foreign governments, including the government of the United States, that naval vessels travelling in Canadian waters will require the consent of the government of Canada,” Harper said. He didn’t mention if he intended to place any restrictions on the US should they make such a request, but his point was clear. Standing up to the US is worth some votes in a Canadian election campaign.

Again, Mr. Harper is not wrong. Canada should protect the sovereignty of its land and its waters. All of the unmanned surveillance planes and ice breakers on earth will not keep the US from sending nuclear submarines through our waters though, and it is highly likely, given Mr. Harper’s record, that he would do anything about it if they did so without permission or that he would even consider withholding such permission from them. There’s an election on though, and Mr. Harper knows where the votes are.

The problem with Mr. Martin and Mr. Harper criticising the United States and George Bush for some cheap and easy election points is not that it may harm US/Canada relations or that they are being hypocritical or that they are flip-flopping like fish in a net. We are in an election, and hypocrisy and flip-flops are half the entertainment value of such endeavours. Relations with the United States will improve a bit when our election is over and improve drastically when George Bush leaves office.

The problem is that relations with the US will improve after our election is over because neither Martin nor Harper mean what they are saying in order to gain those cheap election points. No matter who wins the election, he will begin casting come-hither glances towards Washington in hope of gaining an invitation to Bush’s ranch to play make-believe cowboy for a weekend. Martin has little inclination for establishing a Kyoto plan that would be effective enough that he could criticise the US without being hypocritical. Harper has no compunction to tell the Americans that until they prove that such passage is safe and that no sonar that may harm sea life will be used, they cannot use our waters.

Both Martin and Harper, if confronted with the reality of their failure to act after some tough election talk, will no doubt cite trade issues. They will willingly, even gleefully, dive back into their roles as lackeys for corporate America. Any criticism of the White House will again recede to carefully worded mentions of strongly worded telephone conversations. The needs and aspirations of Canada and its citizens will once again take a back seat to corporate profits and Canada/US political expediency. The comfort zone of our main contenders for Prime Minister of Canada is in the pockets of those that can provide them positions on corporate boards or heading up think tanks.

We should encourage the tough talk. Our political leaders should be all too happy to criticise the United States during our elections. The criticisms are valid even if those who speak them are just taking cheap shots to pick up a riding or play to a particular demographic. Perhaps if each of them play the hypocrite often enough and loud enough it will remind us that we do indeed get the government we deserve and if we tolerate such men in these positions we deserve all they take from us.

[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on December 28, 2005]

Note: actions of the mayors o... document Chris Horner criticised Wilkens Mr. Harper’s record, may harm sea life

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