Canada’s New Liberal Leader – First Green PM?

chrisale, The Oil Drum: Canada
In a stunning victory, Stephane Dion is the new Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and has a good chance of being the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Todays Liberal Leadership Convention was truly something to behold. Not only was it full of odd twists and drama, it produced a result that I don’t think anyone could have predicted. I believe what has happened here is the Political Establishment has been turned on its head, and in todays modern, mature, western Democracies, that is truly something to behold. I think this also signals a major shift to the Green side of the spectrum for the Liberal Party of Canada.

A little background. Stephane Dion had 3 main rivals. An academic and man-of-the-world (but not Canada), Michael Ignatieff, a former Premier of Ontario and turn-coat Left-wing New Democratic Party Leader Bob Rae, and a charismatic, but relatively unknown, Gerard Kennedy.

What appears to have happened, is that a sort of grass-roots, young, progressive force has taken over the Convention in Montreal. Both Gerard Kennedy and Stephane Dion claimed large numbers of young delegates, and after Kennedy dropped off the 3rd ballot and declared his support for Dion, it propelled Dion to victory over the other two more experienced and far-better-funded teams.

Normally this would be nothing more than a changing of the guard… and we could anticipate more of the same old stay-at-home politics. But with Dion, I expect something different. He is the first leader of the Liberal Party that will make the Environment as important in issue as it is to say, the NDP, or even the Green Party. If his speeches and past record as Environment Minister are anything to go by, Stephane Dion brings a level of young exuberance and political forward thinking that issues like Sustainability, Environmental Stewardship and Peak Oil need to really get the attention they deserve.
(3 Dec 2006)
Some quick background. The Liberal Party in Canada are roughly analogous to the Democrats in the U.S. and Labour in the U.K. They were in power for most of the 20th century. After the Liberals lost the elections in early 2006, the Conservatives assumed power under Stephen Harper. To the dismay of environmentalists, the Conservatives began backing away from the Kyoto Treaty – although not to the degree that U.S. President Bush has. Since the Conservatives only have a minority government, there is a good chance that elections will be called soon and the Liberals could return to power, but this time with an explicitly green leader .

The comments at the original article provide more background in Canadian politics.

At Gristmill, David Roberts writes:

Dion has made environmental issues the center of his public life and his campaign. He’s a big backer of Kyoto (he even named his dog after it!). See here and here for two remarkable speeches on how to make a greener Canada.


On Dion

John McGrath , Gristmill
…To understand the dynamics of this leadership race, you need to understand a few things about the Liberal Party’s place in Canadian politics. The Liberal Party has been the semi-permanent Party of Government in Canada, having run the country for the bulk of the 20th century. Liberals — sometimes arrogantly, if not undeservedly — see periods when they are out of power as deviations from the norm.

The lingering problem for the Liberal Party — which contributed indirectly to its recent electoral defeat — has been a deep division between two factions, respectively loyal to the two previous Liberal Prime Ministers, Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. Declaring my biases: While I’m not a Liberal voter by nature, I was a much bigger fan of Chretien than Martin.

For the past decade or so (until this January), the Liberals were running the country more-or-less competently when it came to fiscal matters, but basically letting a lot of things keep going on cruise control without any government control, most obviously environmental issues. Under the Liberals, carbon emissions have grown way beyond any level we can bring in line with Canada’s Kyoto obligations. The Conservatives now in government, while blaming the Liberals for this situation, have given up even the pretense of complying with Kyoto.

Enter Stephane Dion. As the Minister of the Environment for two years, he did not have a lot of things to chalk up as successes. The reality of Canadian politics, however, is that the Prime Minister has an incredible amount of control over his cabinet and over the Parliament — much stronger than even Bush’s hold on the GOP Congress. We can’t really say whether Dion’s brief record as a middleweight Environment Minister gives any indication of his future success. He was serving two Prime Ministers who did not prioritize the environment. He has made the environment one of his “three pillars,” and if the Liberals win he would be the first explicitly green Prime Minister the country has ever had.
(3 Dec 2006)

Canada’s new Liberal leader says he’ll honor Canada’s Kyoto commitment if elected
Associated Press via IHT
The new leader of Canada’s Liberal party said Sunday he will honor Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto protocol if he unseats Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in an election widely expected next year.

Stephane Dion reiterated his commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions in his first press conference since winning the leadership of the Liberal party — which ruled Canada for most of the last century.

Dion was environment minister under former Prime Minister Paul Martin and he is a strong supporter of the Kyoto Protocol to cut greenhouse gas emissions — he even has a husky dog named Kyoto. Harper’s government has effectively opted out of the global accord, a position that Dion railed against during his campaign. The U.S. has not signed the protocol.

“The plan we had in 2005 that Mr. Harper just burned with greenhouse gases we’ll enable us to respect our commitment to Kyoto,” Dion said. “Not only will we will honor our commitment but strengthen our economy with more energy capacity, more recycling than waste. We’ll have the best plan for energy and climate change that we’ve ever had.”
(3 Dec 2006)

The red-green show: Shades of things to come

Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star
The Liberals are betting this combination can beat the deep-blue conservatism of Stephen Harper
MONTREAL—Stéphane Dion can be described as a mix of Liberal red and environmental green — seasonally appropriate hues, but also perhaps the next big political-fashion combination for 2007.

Elected on the strength of a healthy youth push within the party, Dion’s win also served as a rebuff to the old party establishment, most of whom had lined up behind either Bob Rae or Michael Ignatieff.

Dion rode to victory on his reputation for unity — within the Liberal party and as a former intergovernmental minister — and also his strong environmental pedigree when he was the minister in charge of that department under prime minister Paul Martin.

…At the big NDP convention in Quebec City a few months ago, Layton was poking fun at all the Liberal leadership candidates, with the notable exception of Dion. Rattling off the list of the other candidates’ flaws or foibles, the only thing Layton could say about Dion was that he was “a man of principle and conviction and therefore almost certain not to be elected leader of the Liberal party.”

That remark may be thrown in Layton’s face a few times in the days and months ahead

…Duffy says that by electing Dion, the Liberals may be following the red-green trail blazed in the 1990s in Germany and France, when those countries were governed by coalitions of socialist and environmental parties.

“What’s happened here today may be part of a larger tipping point,” Duffy says. “What we may be seeing here is the rebirth of the Liberal party as a mainstream environmental party.”

The strong environmental current at this gathering was fed by the heavy representation of youth at the convention — about 30 per cent of the delegates were under 30. It made for a certain anti-establishment streak to the proceedings.
(3 Dec 2006)