George Monbiot wrote a real porcupine of a column this week, excoriating Canada on its failure to act on climate change. The headline read, «Canada’s image lies in tatters. It is now to climate what Japan is to whaling.»
Brilliant! Just what smug Canada needs, a real seeing-to by an environmental wise man. Monbiot, a hero of mine, had earlier written a toned-down piece for the leaden opinion page of Canada’s dullest newspaper, the Globe and Mail. I wish he hadn’t done that.
The headline was «Please, Canada, clean up your act.» Canada was not now the «corrupt petro-state» of the Guardian piece. Monbiot in the local version seemed to treat Canada more like a student who had let not just himself down, but had brought sorrow to the entire school. Monbiot wanted to add his voice to those «pleading» with Canada’s hard-right minority government to change its ways.
The fact is, there are many green and hopeful things to be salvaged from Canada’s sorry situation and the wise Monbiot knows this.
Out of something as misty as mere indecision, Canadian voters have turned their country into a political freak show. Canada’s Conservative government, run by an ideologue named Stephen Harper, does not represent Canadian voters on saving the air we breathe and temperatures we can cope with. When it comes to climate change, Canadians are as earnest and decent as they ever were.
Yes, Canada’s record on carbon emissions is disgraceful, shameful, loathsome etc. The tar sands of northern Alberta are an international scandal. But the problem is not in a former Prius of a country turning into a Hummer. Canada’s dilemma is much more interesting that that. It is the decline of a democracy (partly as its media died, thank you Conrad Black) and the descent of a nation into a political stasis, and it could happen to any country that doesn’t mind the political store. What takes place when a nation can’t decide on a government and lets a rightwing minority, quivering with hate, have just enough power?
Catastrophe, that’s what.
Countries supposedly get the government they deserve. I’m not sure Canada deserved Harper. Canadians can agree with Judge Monbiot’s assessment but ask the court to take into account our previous, as Rumpole would say.
First, no one disagrees more with Harper’s refusal to slow climate change than Canadian voters. Indeed, more than three-quarters of Canadians say they are embarrassed that Canada hasn’t taken an international lead on the issue, a recent poll revealed.
Even Albertans – home of the tar sands because they need the money and who is to say them nay – agree on this. Quebeckers, the sophisticates of the nation, are 86% in favour of Canada taking action. Toronto, while suffering economically, is maniacally devoted to hemp, bicycling and meticulous recycling rules. We hate green garbage incompetents. We love the Kyoto protocol, we want to prostrate ourselves in Copenhagen next month, but until we make our mind up about whether to make Michael Ignatieff prime minister, we can’t.
May I humbly beg for patience with my country, which is stuck like a beaver in a dam of its own making.
Second, Canadians are still smart and decent. Only the government hews to the party line. On every issue, from abortion rights to rendition for torture to fair treatment of non-white citizens who had the temerity to take a holiday and can’t come home because they lost weight and don’t quite look like their passport photo, Harper is determined to turn Canada into America-lite. He doesn’t mean the America of Obama. He means the America of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, with its private affluence and public squalor.
American travellers used to shove a Canadian flag on their backpack for better treatment overseas. I’m sorry that the reverse has happened and Canadians now switch the conversation to Obama as quickly as possibly before the subject of clubbing seals arises.
We have shamed our better natures. But we Canadians will rid ourselves of Harper and rise again to be the decent and intelligent nation you Brits once patronised with such delight.
Heather Mallick, a Canadian journalist.