Why, when those dudes in the Wall Street suits start losing coin, do governments magically seem to find consensus, time for hastily called meetings and, oh yeah, trillions of dollars to bolster the financial system using money no one could previously locate, to, well, save the planet?
What a mess. But there is a new guy at the helm to the south - and he actually did promise to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 and create 5 million new green jobs. The problem for us here, though, is if Barack Obama actually does use the financial crisis to sink cash into eco industries, Canada will have squandered a golden opportunity to share the gains.
Shit, didn't some geeky professor who once led the Liberals go on and on about this stuff recently?
Graham Saul of Climate Action Network Canada says it neatly: "If the Americans invest big time in the green economy, Canada is out of the game." You can understand the magnitude of this, he says, if you imagine what it would have been like if Canada had decided to take a pass on the information technology sector.
That's actually what our feds' eco foot-dragging is costing us, he says. "There is no indication this government connects the dots between green jobs and economic stimulus."
While a predicted U.S. cap and trade system will take a long time to develop, Saul thinks the new American admin will move very quickly to address energy independence, a move that could quickly marginalize Canuck green entrepreneurialism. "If green industries locate in the U.S., then it will be them selling to us instead of the other way around."
After all, this week Obama's new chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, seems to have reversed Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine rule that governments use crises to privatize and deregulate, opining that the financial collapse is an opportunity to do bold things and that he "wouldn't want to let a crisis go to waste."
Reports already suggest an Obama administration would help the auto industry if it commits, finally, to fuel efficiency. So what about Canada? It's true Finance Minister Jim Flaherty mused the other day that he would consider propping up the portions of the auto industry producing hybrid cars - but a glance at the first ministers' meeting that just wrapped up reveals little green content.
According to Dale Marshall, climate change policy analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation, it was interesting what didn't get discussed at the confab. There was little chatter, it seems, about pumping the economy with energy retrofits or green energy investment. Instead, Marshall says, "there was a lot of talk about infrastructure investment, which means roads and bridges. Obama talks about roads and bridges, too, but green infrastructure, transit and clean technology as well."
Activists here are watching a number of files as they measure the Tories' second crack at minority government - this one in the Obama era. According to Marshall, the feds haven't even indicated whether their $1.5 billion renewable energy subsidy to producers, set to run out of money next year, will get new funds.
If it doesn't, it could strand millions of dollars' worth of green investment.
"Without that fund," says Marshall, "we are going to see, for example, a company setting up a major wind turbine manufacturing operation in the U.S. rather than here. This kind of investment is really important in Ontario, where our manufacturing sector has been hit."
Another big-ticket infrastructure item to watch is whether the feds kick in on MoveOntario 2020, the $17.5 billion Golden Horseshoe transit initiative that currently has a $6 billion hole in the middle of it.
"The Conservatives think the environment is their enemy," says Sierra Club's Stephen Hazell. "The challenge is to make the case that people's lives can be made better if there is more sustainability."
But with a guy like Obama out there making the green case rather than, say, bless his heart, Stéphane Dion, who knows?