There are some who believe that the deal which the United States and China reached on greenhouse gas emissions will force Stephen Harper to act on climate change. But Jeffrey Simpson warns that such optimism is misplaced. To begin with, the Republican dominated congress will act immediately to nullify the agreement. And, of course, Harper is philosophically a Republican:
When a leader such as Mr. Harper spends the better part of a decade not even speaking about the issue, let alone the rest of what political leadership entails, there is almost no chance the general public will be alerted to its importance. This is especially true of the leader’s natural political followers.
Leadership means a willingness to spend political capital on an issue, and in Canada’s case, there is no such leadership at the top. That this absence would suddenly shift as a result of a China-U.S. understanding is improbable in the extreme.
There are several reasons for Mr. Harper's refusal to act:
First, Mr. Harper doesn’t like the issue of climate change. He avoids it wherever possible and looks distinctly uncomfortable when forced to discuss it. He considers it a political and economic loser.
Second, the core of his party doesn’t like the issue either, believing climate change to be unrelated to human activities, too expensive to worry about, or a plot by lefty enviros to nail: a) Alberta; b) jobs; and c) “hard-working taxpayers.” Canadians who want more action won’t be voting Conservative anyway.
Third, Mr. Harper dislikes being pressured. When it happens, he prefers to push back rather than yield. Call it stubbornness. Call it principled. It’s how he is. The idea that he would be pressured by a “deal” whose impact won’t be felt for decades belies everything we know about the man.
What some call stubborn others would call pig headed. As for principles, we've seen Mr. Harper shred his principles in the pursuit of power. If power depended on limiting greenhouse gas emissions, he would move.
But the Prime Minister calculated long ago that power lay in the other direction. He is quite content to let the planet suffer the consequences of his inaction.