A Negative, Times a Positive, Equals…

Yesterday’s climate change rally (“Canadians for Kyoto”) in Toronto (part of a series that happened across Canada) was a lot of fun, and served the purpose of making it clear that environmental issues are important to Torontonians and Canadians. There were musicians, comedians, climate change experts, and (just when you thought it was safe) politicians. I spoke on behalf of the Green Party, while Maria Minna and Jack Layton spoke for the Liberals and NDP, respectively. (The Conservatives were invited, but didn’t show. Maybe they forgot to change their clocks.)

I also learned an interesting lesson about image. (Though, now that I think about it, it’s the same lesson I learned in elementary school math class.) For our three speeches, we were asked by the organizers not to attack any other political party, and instead keep to a positive message of what we wanted to see done. I respected that request (I’ll have video evidence of this fact up within a few days), while Maria and Jack, well, didn’t. The result is that the National Post reported on the rally with the headline “Tories knocked at Kyoto rally,” and the following opening paragraph:

Politicians from the NDP, Liberal and Green parties used a rally in support of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change to press political attacks against the Conservative government.

That’s just not true — I didn’t do anything of the sort. What’s interesting though, is that as far as the National Post reporter was concerned, we’d all taken the same low-road. All politicians are the same, you see. All we do is attack each other and resort to mud slinging.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming the reporter. In fact, I suspect he has accurately reported the event the way most people will remember it. That’s the problem. What was supposed to be (and for the most part was) a positive, uplifting, and inspiring event got reported as if it was simply an opportunistic partisan attack-fest. The point is, politicians have that power; if we choose to, we can bring everything down to the lowest common denominator.

It’s something to keep in mind the next time you’re listening to a group of us speak. Who’s raising the level of debate? Who’s lowering it? And what’s the net result? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking we’re all the same; we’re really not.

8 thoughts on “A Negative, Times a Positive, Equals…

  1. OK, as a soon-to-be-former Green member, let me state how I see yesterday.

    Firstly, we have May stating the following “The reality is that the measure of Kyoto’s success is less whether the targets are reached domestically as whether we can demonstrate a significant commitment that shifts our emissions trend lines from ever upward to heading downward. ”

    Therefore, even Elizabeth May is not demonstrating committment to reducing emissions WITHIN Canada. That would seem to be THE point, not a minor consideration as she states it.

    Improvements are being made in emissions as this has been emphasized over the past year. This demonstration appears to be a denial that any improvements are being made. As I understand it, the Conservatives are committed to improving to the environment, not Kyoto. You can make all the flip statements you want about the conservatives but improvements are being made.

    59% of Canadians have stated that they want improvement in emissions but Kyoto is not the sole solution, and the statement of E.May seems to indicate that Kyoto will not solve problems in Canada. Perhaps not the Green Party, but at some point the parties in Canada will need to reflect the wishes of Canadians.

    Is Kyoto the only way to demonstrate the “significant commitment ” of Canadians to this issue? With our NATO and NAFTA stance, a statement of mindless committment to international organizations is NOT one that May can successfully convey.

  2. Good points raised, Chris.

    Jaded Green:

    In the quote you provide from Elizabeth she is in no way stating that meeting our commitments within Canada is a minor point, or that she is not demonstrating a commitment to reducing targets within Canada. I don’t see see where you get that. She explicitly states that we must start reducing our emissions, rather than reducing the rate of increase, which is what we are currently doing, and is what the Liberals did by default, and the Conservatives are doing deliberately.

    There have not been improvements made in GHG emissions in Canada over the past year. Now, perhaps you are thinking of ‘intensity reduction’ which has the amount of emissions reducing per unit of production, but the total output of GHG still increasing due to increased overall economic output. This is nothing new, as we have been seeing this happen for years, likely due to increasing energy costs forcing us all to be more efficient.

    Global Warming demands that we change our habits in a worldwide, collective manner. Kyoto took years to get up and running, and whatever its flaws, it’s a needed first step. To ignore it is akin to arguing over how to renovated your home while it’s burning down around you.

  3. “She explicitly states that we must start reducing our emissions, rather than reducing the rate of increase, which is what we are currently doing, and is what the Liberals did by default, and the Conservatives are doing deliberately.”

    I am a firm believer in the fact that we need to walk before we can run. Yes, we are starting with plans to reduce emission intensity. However it is a first step. I am happy as an Albertan that our govt has mandated emission intensity limits with penalties resulting this year. Certainly I would like more but we are turning a steamship here. Obviously yes, the absolute amount of emissions may increase for a few years.

    The infrastructure changes required in vehicle efficiency, increased use of rail, more urban LRT/bus use, cogeneration facilities and biomass for electrical generation, and a societal change that has better urban design and less commuting will be needed. The nuclear ‘quick fix’ is a bad idea since current reactors use uranium inefficiently and produce a lot of nuclear waste. Fast reactors are probably the better answer but are a couple of decades away.

    I believe in emission improvements but in the engineering world, the quick solution is never the right one.

  4. I didn’t get at all that EMay said that Kyoto was the only way to demonstrate our commitment to global warming.

    In my interpretation, what she said was that Kyoto will ONLY be a success if we shift our emissions lines down.

    I just don’t see the “commitment to mindless institutions” in what you have quoted above. Of course, I wasn’t there, so perhaps there are some things I am missing.

    (Sorry I missed the event. Chris, I heard you were great as usual.)

  5. Hey Chris! As someone who is about to dive headfirst into the GHG emission mecca, I’ll probably be frequenting your site for some smart commentary and debate. Keep up the good work!

  6. thank you for writing this post chris, as well as coming out yesterday. i’m sure you noticed my frustration during the speeches.. so you can imagine my expression when i watched the news last night report on something that appeared to be an NDP event..

    however, i heard an interesting point yesterday, and i wanted to get your view on it. someone suggested to me that the fact that you were not as ‘forceful’ as the other speakers sent the message that you are not as much of a politician as they are. i don’t agree with that statement at all, i believe you were ‘forceful’ on the issue, and there was no necessity to be ‘forceful’ in general to the extent of becoming negative. on the other hand, as in your equation, the positive gets lost.. how much do you think we greens can afford to lose?

  7. Hi Barbora,

    I think you’re right that by not standing at the podium and attacking Stephen Harper I seemed less “politician-like.” I wasn’t acting or sounding exactly like we expect politicians to act. I also followed the rules and kept to five minutes and went on stage alone, while Layton defied the organizers by running close to ten minutes and bringing three other people up on stage with him. Old school politicians have learned to push the rules like that because they feel it’s justified if it leads to success.

    I’m sure it depends on your audience. There were lots of NDPartisans in the crowd who were probably more comfortable with Layton’s style. There were others who were probably more impressed with mine. Lots of people I didn’t know came up to talk to me afterwards, one of them saying that he had been an NDP supporter but that I’d changed his mind and he wants to help me in the next election.

    So, how much can we afford to loose? I’m not sure. What I do know is that doing politics differently is what’s got us this far. In fact, it’s what attracted me to the party in the first place. So, in other words, we’re winning a lot of support that we wouldn’t have if we were more “forceful” or partisan. Like the Dixie Chicks, we’re “taking the long way.” Or, like Robert Frost, the road less traveled.

  8. thank you for your response, chris. i’m glad to hear that you got the response you got, and i have to say that the road less traveled sounds more appealing than cut-throat politics anytime. not that i ever doubted that, but during the past few of days i’ve been more sure than ever that if there’s a niche for us greens in politics, then it’s in the genuinness of our campaigns. : )

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