Stephen Harper has just completed his ninth tour of the North. These tours provide the prime minister with an opportunity to serve up warm rhetoric. On this occasion, Harper saved his most heated words for Vladimir Putin. But he said nothing about the North's increasingly warm atmosphere. Jeffrey Simpson writes:
Nowhere in Canada is the impact of climate change more increasingly evident than the North. And yet, the words “climate change” are never heard from Mr. Harper in the North, as if the idea they connote are so distasteful that he cannot bring himself to utter them.
Every summer, surrounded by the evidence of Northern climate change – melting ice, widening sea lanes, disruption of traditional hunting patterns, shifting tundra, increased sun reflection, changing weather patterns – the Prime Minister spends a week in the region without ever drawing attention to the impact and challenges of climate change.
Global warming doesn't fit into the prime minister's frame:
The surrealism of a Harper visit is like that of an explorer who lands in an unknown place, takes careful note in his diary of the animals, flora, fauna, rocks and trees but misses all the human inhabitants. Mr. Harper’s refusal even to speak the words “climate change” in the North cannot be from ignorance or inadvertence; it must be by design, like everything he does.
That design is evidently to draw as little attention as possible to an issue he has found uncomfortable since even before he became Prime Minister.
As an economist, Mr. Harper believes most measures to combat the problem of global warming will be too costly. As a Conservative politician, he believes no votes are to be gained by resolute action, given that so many of his core supporters are doubters and deniers of the reality of climate change. As an Albertan, he will protect the fossil fuel industries, and in particular bitumen oil, at all costs and by all means. As an international leader, he sees some other countries talking a better game than they play, and does not wish Canada to be made the fool by doing anything dramatic.
Mr. Harper is a man who sees what he wants to see and hears what he wants to hear -- as he ignores the obvious. It is truly remarkable that a man whose chief talent is ignoring the obvious is also Prime Minister of Canada.