Thursday, January 25, 2007

Kobayashi Maru

So the federal Tories have put a nice new shade of lipstick on the pig that is their environment policy and trotted it out to show off to the public.

In fairness, this new policy isn't bad - not by a long shot. There are some good, solid morsels of policy in there.
The problem, of course, is that it doesn't matter if the Tories trot out a 5-year plan that would completely reverse the effects of global warming and terra-form the moon, they are in a classic "no-win" scenario.
The true geeks among the ES Nation will recognize the reference to that in the title of this post. No matter what policy they unveil, or how sincerely they mean it when they talk about the environment, the Tories will always be painted as "Johnny-Come-Latelies" on the environment portfolios. Nothing they do is going to be good enough for the environmental lobby, Jack Layton is never going to give them kudos for anything, claiming it was all "NDP-inspired" policy, and even Stephane Dion, Canada's least effective Minister of the Environment in years, perhaps EVER, was in that job long enough that people assume he knows what he's talking about.

So, what can the Tories do to gain themselves credibility on the environment? At this point, it doesn't matter if they are true believers or just paying lip-service to the issue, they're not credible to most Canadians on the issue (yet), and many Canadians list the environment as their number 1 concern.

Their first option, and the one they seem to be preparing for, is to swim against the current of malcontent, focus on quality policy, try to get some credible experts on-side, and then (if they don't get thrown into an election in the mean-time) go on the offensive, utilyzing the 1,2 punch of "Here's our shiny new policy or program that this environmental scientist of impeccable credentials loves, and oh, here's what Stephane Dion did about this when he was Environment Minister." This is actually an old Liberal trick, "defining the other guy's policy before he can". It works, and the best thing is that Dion's old policies and programs are all on-the-record, so it's not even that difficult to find them. They need to make sure to milk the disconnect between what Dion SAYS versus what he DID - there's still a slow-simmering public sentiment that Liberals aren't always as truthful as they should be.

The second option, which would certainly be a political coup, would be to form an official parliamentary alliance with the Green party on environmental issues. Photo ops with Elizabeth May, get endorsements from them on your environmental ideas, involve them in the portfolio... the rub, as they say, is that there's very little in this for the Greens. Sure, they get higher visibility, but public perception is a fickle mistress, and your first large-scale market visibility being as a lapdog to the governing policy is hardly good politics when your party's appeal is based at least in small part to the perception as "the underdogs fighting against the establishment". It hardly makes sense to announce you're on-side with the government on the single biggest issue your party has, then go out and try to fund-raise to run candidates against the government in 308 ridings across the country.

So, the best outcome for the Tories, an endorsement from the Greens, is only possible if Ms. May loses her political marbles. Every idea they come up with is going to be roundly criticized as inadequate, regardless of whether or not it actually IS, and their largest competitor, who did a crappy job as Environment minister, has done a masterful job positioning himself as the "voice of the environment", despite his on-the-record inadequacy on the issue.

Kobayashi Maru.

As the uber-geeks know, only one person ever beat the Kobayashi Maru scenario - and he did it by changing the rules. So the Tories need their own Jim Kirk to think outside the box adn find them a way out of this no-win, and they need him pronto. Otherwise, when the next writ is dropped, they're going to find themselves, deservedly or not, in a BIG heap of trouble on the biggest issue of the day.

- ES

3 comments:

Jose said...

It's not a Kobayashi Maru scenario. You're proceeding from a false premise.

Harper is in the driver's seat if he wants to take some bold action on the environment he can do so and steal a lot of Dion's thunder.

Harper isn't constrained by what his opposition thinks of him as much as what his base might if he swings to far on this issue. Ultimately if you're serious about curbing emissions you have to stop subsidizing oil and that's not going to be very popular in creationist heavy-corporate welfare for tarsands Alberta.

Enlightened Savage said...

Jose: Not quite sure what creationism has to do with the environment, but I have to fundamentally disagree with at least part of your comment...

You state that Harper can take bold action on the environment (he can) and steal some of Dion's thunder. My point was that even if Harper DOES take bold action on the environment (he likely won't, unless Layton forces his hand), it will be seen as something done out of a sense of political expediency rather than as something done out of a sense of obligation to future generations.

Most Canadians, politically astute or not, who are asked "list 10 of Stephen Harer's priorities" will not include the environment on the list. That's the public perception of the man, and of the party. None of us knows what he REALLY thinks about the environment issue, or how close he does (or doesn't) hold it to his heart. All I know personally is that he hikes, so he probably doesn't want the wilderness closed to hikers. But at the end of the day, this isn't about what the Tories do or don't do on the environment, it's about how what they do or don't do is PERCEIVED.

They can make the environment cleaner. They can fix what's gone wrong. But they can't "win" the issue, politically, because the Liberals, NDP and Greens have been pitching their tents on that mountaintop for years, and no matter what Harper does about the real issues, it will be seen as policy based on political show-boating rather than on values.

Therefore, even if he wins, and fixes the issue, he still loses, and gets no political points for having done so.

Allie said...

Well, we reprogram the simluator then, or pray (global warming won't take prisoners...).

To be honest, politically, we must do everything possible, even if it doesn't look pretty or gets us kudo's, regardless of who thought it was important first - because if we don't it simply won't matter any more which party or person is in power.

All this squabling - which seems to come from the left in demand that this be their pervue only - is only wasting our precious time.

So if we need to change the rules lets change them - Political suicide is a much easier "ending" to come back from, then say, real death.