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.