Saturday, March 23, 2024

Wisdom That Will Be Missed

On the day of Brian Mulroney's state funeral, Catherine McKenna writes that Brian Mulroney was wise in a way that today's Conservatives aren't:

In 1987, U.S. president Ronald Reagan and prime minister Brian Mulroney stood side by side to announce the Montreal Protocol, one of the world’s most successful treaties, which would cut the use of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons. Four years later, Mulroney would stand next to Reagan’s successor, president George H.W. Bush, to announce the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement, which would dramatically reduce the toxic air pollution that was causing acid rain.

In each instance, scientists had sounded the alarm, environmentalists had taken up the cause and public concern in Canada was growing. Satellite images showed a gaping wound in the ozone layer over the Antarctic. Rivers and lakes many hundreds of kilometres from any factory had died from acidification.

What happened next changed everything: conservative leaders listened and then they led.

It wasn't easy. Big Money complained loudly. And there were Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and George Bush to be dealt with:

Well-funded industry lobbyists denied the science, and Mulroney had to cajole his American counterparts more than once, reminding them of the cost of inaction. The result was two agreements, based on science, that were smart for both the environment and the economy. According to Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz, the president saw the Montreal Protocol as an insurance policy. To him, it wasn’t ideological. It was prudent.

How did they do it? True to their conservatism and belief in free markets, Mulroney and Bush used the market to tackle acid rain: a cap-and-trade system in the U.S. coupled with targets and regulations in Canada. It proved far cheaper and worked much faster than almost anyone expected.

But it was Shultz, whom I met several times, who persuasively argued for the most conservative approach of all. He believed that to be effective and publicly accepted, carbon pricing should be revenue neutral, with all the money transparently refunded to people. Ironically, it was conservatives who helped me as we designed the basic principles for what would be a signature policy of our Liberal government.

All of this was 180 degrees from today's Conservatives:

None of this draws a flattering comparison to today’s conservatives. Pierre Poilievre, Doug Ford, Scott Moe and Danielle Smith profess to love markets but fight tooth and nail to sabotage carbon pricing — one of the most effective mechanisms that their predecessors devised to protect the planet. Rather than fight for the planet, they fight climate action.

They disregard not only science but Canada’s future competitiveness by ignoring the trillion-dollar opportunity of the clean transition, penalizing renewable energy in favour of oil and gas, and refusing to build the industries of tomorrow. It would be comical if it wasn’t so consequential.

Today's Conservatives can be counted among the Fatally Stupid.



zoombats said...

That collective stupidity was brought on by Preston Manning, Stockwell Day and finally Harper who propelled the party to the present far right bunch of zealots that now call themselves Conservative. Li'l P.P. sucked at the teat of Harper and stains the record of moderate tories to this day and beyond. Not your grand daddies party for sure.

lungta said...

Fatally Stupid
About ten years ago I told a friend arguing conservative "values" if he wanted to be down in the dirt ignorant there was nothing I could do about it.
Little did I know that there was.
He had a ballcap embroidered with "Down in the Dirt Ignorant", wore it 'til it wore out.

Northern PoV said...

Mulroney gets a point or two (out of ten) for his environmental-issue successes and his (belated) support for Mandela.
Jr. is at approx. the same level for the pandemic, pot and poverty-abatement.

Harper is a negative five and Lil'PP ... let's hope we don't find out how low he can go.

" Conservatives are now a western party, zoombats. They're not a national party"

I desperately hope we can still say this after the next election.

I fear that the cancer has metastasized.

Owen Gray said...

If the polls are right, PoV, the cancer has metastasized.

Owen Gray said...

Some people wear their ignorance as a badge, lungta.

jrkrideau said...

I never had any real use for most, if not all, of Mulroney's domestic policies. I was working for the Federal Gov't when he was in office and we thought he was doing his best to destroy urban society.

On the other hand I think he was redeemed to some extent by his outstanding humanitarian actions on the international stage.

His stand against Apartheid in South Africa, while not decisive, certainly influenced Thatcher and Reagan. His willingness to have Canada accept Vietnamese refugees and El Salvadorians trapped in the USA means that I have some friends here.

Owen Gray said...

Mulroney was mendacious, jrk. But he could also be a statesman.