Week Eight: “What comes next?”

Watching last week’s Globe and Mail leadership debate, entitled, “Our economy. Our future,” a question that stood out, from an environmental perspective, is this from the Globe‘s editor-in-chief to Stephen Harper:

Your dream, though, of being an energy superpower [has] not been realized. For those who are worried about jobs of the future, what comes next?”

As is evident from the premise — drawing upon Harper’s near-decade of international and domestic speeches emphasizing Canada’s natural resource extraction and export economy — this is a question about what comes after an oil-centered economy.

Listen to Harper’s response, at 20:15:

The answer would seem to stand out far less than the question, or at least to be less preoccupied by the future than by the past. Much later in the debate, Harper similarly stuck to discussion of his government’s long-term plan, which can be understood as continuing to hold resource extraction and trade at its core.

This is, perhaps, the problem with accepting the election frame Harper and the Conservative Party offered on Day 1: the key issue of this election is the economy and the Harper government’s economic record. Does accepting and elaborating upon this framing allow other issues, like the environment, to be sidelined?

(For a different example of the environment being sidelined, see this series of CBC interviews with the Conservative, Liberal, and New Democrat party leaders.)

Of course, if you do have the time to watch the Globe debate in its entirety, spend some time with the context offered by Kelly Cryderman at the start — Cryderman highlights how the economy and questions of the economy are important for people in Alberta who are experiencing “sleepless nights,” who are worried about their mortgages, their jobs, and their personal debt loads. Is this kind of intensely personal context missing from the environmental debate in this election? Making connections to people’s bank accounts and potential sacrifices was certainly missing from the later debate discussion of both the NDP’s and Liberal party’s plans for capping, trading, and/or pricing carbon should they be elected.

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