Let me tell you, there's no better way to watch an all-candidates debate than from an overstuffed couch with a bowl of kamut pasta in your lap (ahh, the joys of webstreaming). You can actually focus on the politicians' words instead of how uncomfortable your ass is.
Liberal transportation minister Donna Canfield's ass, on the other hand, doesn't look quite so comfy squirming up there on stage as reps from all three parties take a crack at her at the Priorities for Ontario panel debate (Wednesday October 3).
The panel's been set up by a coalition of 13 enviro groups (the Priorities for Ontario coalition) strictly to press our pols on their eco stances in six key areas: forestry, great lakes protection, nukes, incineration, sprawl and toxics. The night kicks off with a review of all the eco promises the Libs have broken over the past 4 years, from coal closures and waste diversion goals to Kyoto targets.
The first question is on forestry so I brace for an assault on the NDP's feeble forestry sector positioning but nope, Cansfield's the only one getting a good kick tonight. The funny thing is, whenever she opens her mouth she seems to have a whole different policy book in hand, promising all kinds of green planks never uttered from liberal lips before or after. Like making all our forests FSC-certified. Yeah we knew you committed to buying a third of government paper from FSC sources, but all our forests? Are you making that announcement tonight? presses NDP MP Peter Tabuns. She dodges the ball.
God, even the Tory guy starts knocking Cansfield for not doing enough on the environment. Dude, can you wipe that? I think there's some irony dripping from your chin.
Onto water. The Libs seem to have a lot of ammo about how great they've been on Walkerton recommendations and their Clean Water Act but Tabuns keeps asking Cansfield why her government hasn't proclaimed the H20 and sewage act or put caps on interbasin transfers. Tabuns is looking pretty feisty tonight actually. No doubt the former Greenpeace prez is at his prime debating enviro issues live - he's certainly the first to kick off every debate round, and seems to be a crowd fave getting the first applause and pretty much every laugh (not to mention that everyone sings him happy birthday at the end of the debate).
Whether, the discussion moves to nukes, incineration, sprawl or toxics, the evening's patterns are pretty much the same.
Cansfield makes these massive initial claims that sound like the Libs have suddenly grown lovely green fins (ie we need to get off nuclear and need more money for renewables), she gets called on it by Tabuns ('If nuke-head Dwight Duncan gets a hold of this tape you're in trouble!'), the Tory guy weirdly agrees with Tabuns, and finally the earnest Green party girl tells us stories about her Port Elgin ward (where she was a city councillor and organic farmer) and how she doesn't like to pick on other politicians or cut people off.
The moderator Murray Campbell of the Globe and Mail finally closes by asking the pols why the environment has been so low profile in this election and pretty much everyone points the blame right back at Murray, well, more aptly, the media.
Do I smell a cop out? Yes the media's helped create this frenzied circus around religious school funding that's managed to dwarf all other topics and you gotta hate them for it - but the Libs have been feeding that piranha like their life depends on it. Well, because it does. The Greens do talk about how disengaged the public is and how tired they are of greenwashed political bullshit and how no party wants to draw attention to their weak green platforms. Really they're all right.
Hopefully tonight's debate helps put the environment back on the
political map, if only for one evening. But even the moderator admits he's more concerned with getting home to watch the Leaf's opener.
Hey maybe this is the year the Leaf's will switch to a zero-emission zamboni.