Changing the Channel

Riding on the bus this morning I was pondering how good Québec Premier Jean Charest looked standing up to Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment, this week. 

On Monday, Mr. Prentice attacked Québec for establishing California standards for car emissions which are tougher than the Xeroxing of U.S. federal fuel economy regulations that Mr. Prentice had his staff do in order to create national mileage regulations for Canada.  Prentice talked about Quebec going alone when in fact there are 14 U.S. states and four other provinces in Canada that are all going down the same road.

I campaigned for California standards for several years working very closely with U.S. environmental organizations because they are better than the federal fuel economy standards and require continuing improvement.  Our plan back then was to surround Detroit and make the car companies say uncle.  They did, but managed to convince the Obama Administration to accept weaker rules than California.

Mr. Prentice's attack appeared to come out of no where just a few days after he had announced Canada was reducing its weak climate change target to a weaker one.  Or, as many people understood it, replacing a lie with and worse lie, while changing nothing.  He was being pummeled across the country by environmentalists and the media.

Whenever the government gets into trouble it reaches into its bag of tricks and tries to change the channel as they say. It's basically the old adage 'the best defense is a good offense.'  So he attacked Quebec's car rules.  He also took a shot at Alberta's management of the tar sands, but no one took that seriously.

Meanwhile, Premier Charest is in India on a trade mission not selling maple syrup, but another major Québec export: asbestos.  You know one of the most documented cancer causing materials in the world?  A product banned in the United States and Europe and only sold to third world countries with poor environmental laws and poorer enforcement. Last week, Québec doctors and scientists called on Québec to stop exporting asbestos.

Indian activists, working with a little help from Sierra Club and Canadian activist Kathleen Ruff, were waiting for the Premier.  They had organized the kind of reception no traveling salesmen wants: demonstrations and media coverage accusing Québec of dumping toxic asbestos.  There were a number of stories in the Québec media and the Premier was looking a lot like a major apologist for a toxic industry.

The Premier is under fire for supporting the asbestos industry exports to developing countries and looking very much the bad guy.  Jim Prentice is under fire for backing away from action on climate looking very much like the oil industry shill that he is.

Then somebody changed the channel. Out of nowhere, comes the attack on Québec and they are both on the national news.  Charest now in shinning armour as the premier leading the charge on climate change.  Prentice getting great reviews from his anti-Québec climate change denying base of supporters in Alberta.

No more stories about asbestos.  No more stories about the feds backing down on climate change.  Who has their hand on the remote control?!



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