Manning and Harper are not aligned on the environment

Over the weekend former Reform Party leader Preston Manning spoke at some length to his Manning Networking Conference, a predominantly conservative crowd, on the topic of green conservatism and the need for the Conservative Government to change its strategy on the environment. GallonDaily is quite certain that Prime Minister Harper is not listening to the former Reform Party leader on this topic.

Manning made the compelling point that ‘conservatives are generally considered (and this by our friends) to be weak or disinterested on the environment’. So far so good. But then he went on to discuss the “the eastern slope ranchers” which he described as a remarkable breed of Canadians.. On the one hand, he said, they are rock-ribbed fiscal conservatives who want minimal government intervention in their businesses and the economy. But at the same time, embodied in the same individuals and their enterprises is a deep commitment to conserving the landscapes, grasslands, and aquifers of that part of the world.

We have never met an ‘eastern slope rancher’ and even if we had we imagine they are a pretty small population with little interest in the environmental problems of air and water pollution or climate change! They are certainly not a constituency which will decide the future of the Conservative government beyond the next election in 2015. These folks already vote Conservative and are very unlikely to change their vote. Much more important to PM Harper are the folks who live in Quebec and the 905 territory of Ontario, many of whom are in fact supporters of action on the environment but who are also most unlikely to switch their vote in either direction because of the environmental issue.

Manning has always been a politician with at least a small modicum of green credentials. He stated that these ‘eastern slope ranchers’ may rightly be called Green Conservatives or grassroots conservationists. He said that they recognize that conservation and conservatism come from the same root and can peacefully co-exist intellectually and politically. So far we agree. But we surmise that they are not people who wish for strong environmental regulations on Alberta industry or who want to see large government grants or subsidies for environmental initiatives. That is where they split from the much larger green movement.

Manning presented some good ideas that, if implemented by environmental groups, might bring them closer to the Federal Government. The ideas involve winning over popular opinion and populist action, rather than expecting government to use regulations or economic instrument to encourage pro-environment activity by big business and big polluters. Manning’s ideas have some merit but they will not by themselves win over a Prime Minister who equates environmentalism with terrorism or anti-jobs, anti-economy activities.

Environmental groups and green entrepreneurs should read Manning’s speech and give thought to implementing its recommendations. If they don’t, no one will.

The Manning speech is available at http://manningcentre.ca/2013/03/mnc-2013-keynote-address-state-of-the-conservative-movement-preston-manning-mar-9-2013/

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