Harper should terminate his act and try learning a little from Arnold
Submitted by OCAA on Tue, 05/29/2007 - 23:30.
For a good sense of the magnitude of Schwarzenegger's reach pick up the Post today
OTTAWA -- His adult life has been spent in private jets, lavish houses and luxury automobiles, including the very first mass-produced Hummer which joins the other four gas-guzzlers in his parking garage.
The only climate change worth fretting over before he entered politics in late 2003 was the shift of Hollywood movie productions to Canada from California.
Yet former movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger is the reigning green giant of North America, the budget-slashing road-paving Republican governor of California who now measures his political success through environmental activism.
He was the toast of Toronto's Bay Street on Wednesday, trumpets sounding as he approached the podium to a standing ovation after being introduced as an award-winning visionary for our times.
Schwarzenegger's mission may have been billed as trade enhancement, but his message to business was all environment promotion.
And for the proponent of dramatic greenhouse gas reduction, a move that our Conservative-hired economists have warned will trigger an economic meltdown in Canada, the business community gave a surprisingly euphoric response to Schwarzenegger's tough talk.
But the most interesting attempt at spreading the go-green message probably came during his meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Schwarzenegger roared up to Parliament Hill half an hour late inside a convoy of nine vehicles before being surrounded by more security than was afforded President George W. Bush during his last Ottawa visit.
It was a media frenzy in search of a victim because Harper's people decreed there would be no chatting about the pair's discussions after their designated photo-op to exchange hockey jerseys.
Perhaps that gag on post-meeting talk was understandable from Harper's point of view. If you don't want to be lectured about climate change, don't relish California wine and have religious scruples against Schwarzenegger's push for embryonic stem cell research, the list of friendly conversation topics was probably limited to the former actor's favorite movie roles.
So unless the governor made an unscheduled stop on the way out (deadlines didn't allow me to hang around), his Ottawa pit-stop was a cameo appearance in his first silent movie.
But there's inspiration for Harper to follow in the startling conversion of Schwarzenegger from action figure to tree-hugger hero. If Harper must follow Americans on policy, perhaps he should steer clear of the White House and take aim at Sacramento.
Schwarzenegger's state economy is built on aircraft production, connected by the car and routinely covered in smog blankets, yet it is rapidly becoming a proud and loud American showcase for green technologies.
In Canada, the debate is all gloom and doom as partisans denounce each other's failures. The emission reduction targets are impossible to reach. The cost of trying would be catastrophic. Those last guys were worse than the new government. Negotiating beyond Kyoto is pointless without the large emitters like China and India on side. Blah, blah, blah.
There's some evidence Harper may be in the early stages of a Schwarzenegger-like conversion on the file. It was barely six months ago the prime minister finally declared that he'd overcome lifelong skepticism about the "inexact science" of climate change to embrace it as mostly fact.
His latest moves to curb greenhouse gas emissions may seem tepid now, but those targets would've seemed downright draconian if imposed during the Jean Chretien era.
But if the prime minister ever wants to get ahead of public opinion and polish his own image, he'll shake off the funk of Kyoto futility and embrace Schwarzenegger's view of the gas-reduction challenge with glass-half-full optimism.
While the Conservatives inflate their figures and release models proving the economic ruination that would result from accelerating the gas reductions, Schwarzenegger talks with conviction about the arrival of an electric muscle car capable of hitting 180 kilometres/hour and travelling 300 kilometres on a single three-hour charge.
Sure, a lot of the California policy may be puffs of smoke in a movie actor's full-size mirror, but the state has captivated itself with the goal of going green faster than any other. And if the automakers don't like Schwarzenegger's super-tough emission reduction targets, he tells them to surrender the lucrative market to the competition.
Harper might try to be a bit more like upbeat Arnold and a lot less like dour Dubya as he heads off to a G8 summit where climate change will top the agenda and Canada's participation is an unanswered question.
After all, the two men share more than a right-wing heritage. They've both spent time as robots - Schwarzenegger in the movies and Harper in real life.