After a week of harperites spraying green all over the place - renewable energy projects, retrofitting and research into green technologies - the emerging consensus is that it has a decidedly pale hue.
The fact is, the PM, who has already proclaimed Kyoto targets unachievable, has been wildly successful in producing a politics of lowered expectations. In light of this, many enviros fear that their own orgs, now suddenly in the consultation loop instead of howling at the barricades, will ease up on their demands to implement the international treaty.
Certainly, the falling spiral is on full view Sunday, January 21, when Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn shows up at the Home Show at the Metro Convention Centre to revive a smaller version of the popular Liberal program Energuide.
The plan is expected to offer cash incentives to homeowners who achieve certain levels of energy efficiency by installing programmable thermostats and compact fluorescent lights or replacing windows, doors, furnaces and fridges.
And while Lunn crows that the program could offer rebates of as much as $5,000, those close to the old program doubt many Canadians could qualify for that kind of cash.
"That would be like turning a barn into an energy-efficient home well beyond what the building code requires," says Kai Millyard of Green Communities Canada, a non-profit that delivered the old Energuide program to about 45,000 homes.
"On average, homeowners were getting rebates of about $700, about one-quarter of what they spent on the reno."
"The scale of ambition here is so small," says the World Wildlife Fund's Julia Langer. "We need to retrofit 1 to 2 million homes."
The program calls for reaching 140,000 homes over four years. Lunn's own figures show that Canada's 13 million homes and 380,000 buildings account for a full 30 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions.
"There's only one way to slice-and-dice greenhouse gases, and this isn't going to make a dent," Langer says.
That's a common refrain these days. "It's hard not to be cynical," says the Suzuki Foundation's Dale Marshall. "It's clear with these announcements that we're not going to see a climate change plan. What they've announced contains no emissions reductions numbers, and as far as Kyoto is concerned we aren't even close."
And, yes, he says, "environmental groups softening their stand is definitely a concern. The science of climate change is clear on what we need to do, but too often in the political negotiations what the science says gets watered down."
But as the Conservatives spend willy-nilly to shore up their weak green flank, enviro groups are making a renewed effort by to keep Canadians' eyes on the prize: Kyoto. Not the dog, but the treaty that legally kicks in in 2008.
"[The government has] rolled out programs to pick the low-bearing fruit," says Bruce Cox, executive director of Greenpeace Canada. "But until they start to roll out serious emissions targets, much of what they are doing is moot. What we really need is for the government to commit to Kyoto."
Not wanting to leave anything to chance or to the vagaries of a minority Parliament that could fall on a whim, enviro groups are urging the all-party committee charged with rewriting the amendments to the Clean Air Act, which is due to reconvene next week, to finish its work within a month.
"This time frame is totally doable," says Cox. "They don't need to bring a whole raft of witnesses and have a long, drawn-out process. We need urgent action, and we don't want to see it get hijacked by an election."
Back at the Home Show, I stroll around after the minister's announcement. I'll admit that once the Energuide program was axed, any thought I had of replacing my hydro-sucking hog of a refrigerator or my ancient furnace was put on hold.
And drafty windows? Forget about it. I mean, why would I pony up thousands of (probably borrowed) dollars to see potential savings on my hydro and gas bills if my own government is telling me that we aren't going to reach our Kyoto targets for another 43 years?
But with the program back on, I find my eye wandering over to one of those stainless steel refrigerators. Unfortunately, I can't find the Enery Star sticker. I ask the proprietor why the fridges aren't energy-efficient. "They are," he says without looking at me. "The stickers have fallen off."
A little like the minister's announcement, really.