Monday, December 04, 2006

New leader

So I'm not exactly quick off the mark on this one and I'm sure half the bloggers in Canada have probably already commented, but I like the choice of Stephane Dion as the next Liberal leader. Although it was hardly a shocker. You could see him coming from a mile away.

I find him an interesting choice, but not for the reasons I heard many people talking about on CBC. It isn't over his strong federalist beliefs and how they will play in Quebec. And it isn't over the quality of his English, which after 10 years of Chretien is an idiotic argument.

No, the thing that interests me most is that out of the four men (and really, all four were very qualified to take over the leadership. The worst that can be said about the race is that it's a pity there wasn't a woman who had a better shot.) he was the one who was obviously the most pro-environment. And that the Liberals perhaps sensed something that I have for awhile now. That Canadians are ready to make the environment one of their top concerns.

The environment has never been a real issue in an election. Always a minor issue behind more important ones such as the economy, education and health care. But I guess it says something when most Canadians appear to be pretty happy with those three issues right now. They're hardly fixed and perfect, but they're not screaming for attention either.

But what does appear broken is how environmental issues are being handled. You know they are if they're giving a fringe party like the Greens a serious look. Coming in at six per cent in the last poll I saw. Ironically, I suspect those in the environmental movement probably owe some thanks to the Conservatives for that. The Liberals for years have muddled environmental issues. Putting some money and talking some talk, but nothing seemed to get done.

Now that Conservatives have come in and cleared things up. They've introduced a plan that is almost universally hated. Canada's environmental stand is being ridiculed internationally. And if there is one thing that Canadians tend to dislike, it is being mocked on the international stage. Plus I think there is a feeling that something needs to be done now. There is a sense of urgency, which has never really been there before.

So right now there is this moment...and it it might be gone before an election can be held next Spring...where Canadians clearly want leadership and ideas on environmental issues. They are also probably more willing to accept new legislation and ideas to protect the environment than they have ever been. They just want someone competent and not scary (which the Greens can be sometimes) to lead them there.

Which is one of the big reasons why Dion won. Of all the leadership contenders, Dion was seen as the one who would actually do something on the environment.

That's not to say that Dion is a lock to get elected. After spending most of 2006 in a shadow war, the real thing will get going in the new year. It'll be interesting to see how Prime Minister Harper and Dion match up. And I guess we'll see soon enough how serious Canadians are about the environment as well.

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