11/20/2012 12:24 EST | Updated 01/20/2013 05:12 EST

Embracing Nexen Deal? Trudeau Prefers Shock Factor to Leadership


Why do political handlers confuse contrarianism with "substance"?

The Justin Trudeau campaign, keen to put to bed allegations of its candidate being a lightweight, just put out an opinion piece embracing the takeover of Nexen by China's state owned CNOOC.

Unexpected, eh? It must therefore be substantive.

It doesn't help that the federal Liberal Party is still running against Stephan Dion. That whole green thing was a temporary hiccup. Best now to cosy up to the tar sands to prove it.

Don't worry about throwing those Katimavik-style hopes and dreams of the next generation under the bus. They'll need to take cover there anyway as Sandy after Sandy bears down on them, in between droughts, that is.

It also doesn't help that the other "serious" Liberal candidate, Martha Hall Findlay, is also wanting to out-substance Trudeau also with shallow contrarianism. Supply side management? We're against it. Surprise! Now, take us more seriously. And, screw those thousands of Canadian dairy farmers -- it's not like they're part of that middle class we keep talking about representing, right?

And, before this turns into Liberal-bashing, the federal NDP is also at risk of falling into the same trap. By wanting to be seen as pro-trade, they tip-toe around deals cut by the Conservatives to give corporations even more rights to beat back democratically-elected governments at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels instead of calling them out for what they are. When did "pro trade" end up meaning "anti-democracy?" And, when did we become numb to this in our national political discourse?

To progressive politicians of all stripes: being substantive means more than being contrarian and saying the unexpected -- it means levelling with Canadians about the real challenges and opportunities in front of us. For example, it means:

  • Taking our heads out of the sands on climate change. The math is stark, but Canada is blessed with massive untapped renewable energy potential. Let's embrace that so that we can face our kids and grandkids. Yes, this means leaving fossil fuels in the ground.
  • Capping the tar sands where it is. Alberta is already booming and facing growing pains -- who in the heck benefits by doubling and tripling? China maybe, but not Canada. We don't need to expand. Expansion may serve the interests of the oil industry, but not of Canadians. It would be a relief to end the battle that growing this industry means.
  • Making stuff instead of just digging stuff up. Canada is losing hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs and lagging behind on innovation. We already have emerging regional disparities with Ontario and Quebec suffering. We need to stand up to those who want to silence this conversation by name calling.
  • Making trade be about trade, and not new powers for corporations. Why are we giving companies more rights to sue democratically elected bodies for doing what their voters want? This is akin to changing our constitution, only without asking anybody about it first.
  • Not wrapping up your pet agenda by co-opting the Occupy message. Suddenly everyone (or here, or here) is about the 99%, or more softly, the "middle class." This then becomes meaningless as the various parties dress up their usual stuff in this clothing. How about a real debate involving the actual middle class -- including dairy farmers, even -- about what they want to see?

Serious stuff. Substantive, even. Who knows, a real debate about Canada with real options beyond the current narrow bandwidth may open up and engage Canadians in politics again. Goodness knows that what's currently on offer isn't exactly inspiring.

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