The Party of “Intellectual Laziness” Episode I: The Carbon Menace

Julie Couillard was pissed. Three days after she’d left an urgent message with her ex-boyfriend, asking him to come by her apartment and pick up his files, he’d failed to show up. He’d initially suggested that she throw them in the trash, but after speaking with her lawyer she decided it didn’t feel right and went to his office to return them in person. It’s a good thing too, because her ex-boyfriend was then-Canadian foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier and the files contained classified information from a NATO summit concerning the military engagement in Afghanistan.

It should have been the end of him but if the 2016 American election taught me anything, it’s never underestimate the ability of an angry white dude to bounce back from political obscurity. Yes, Bernier resigned from his cabinet position but retained his position as MP within the Conservative party of Canada. After the Conservatives were re-elected in 2012, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper even reappointed Bernier to a cabinet position, albeit a junior position that lacked the prestige of his former office. After the Conservatives lost the 2015 election and Harper resigned, Bernier submitted his name as a candidate for the party leadership and was widely speculated to win.[1] In a surprise twist, Bernier lost the leadership race to current leader Andrew Scheer by less than 2% of the vote. Rather than accept defeat gracefully and present a united front going in to the next election, Bernier behaved as any self-aggrandizing narcissist would do. He jumped on Twitter where he denounced the Conservative party as “too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed“, and announced his intention to create his own political party. Hence the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) was born.

After the public scandal regarding the forgotten documents, Julie Couillard wrote a book to counter the negative publicity she’d endured from Bernier and members of the Conservative Party of Canada. Here she dishes out a lot of dirt on her former lover, including a now-famous passage where she accuses him of “surprising intellectual laziness”. To be clear, this post is not a review of Couillard’s book. I didn’t start this blog to weigh in on inconsequential ‘he-said-she-saids’ between two consenting adults. More importantly, I didn’t read it. I don’t know anyone who did. No, I’d much rather discuss Bernier’s “intellectual laziness” that is a matter of public record, and turns out there is no shortage of material.

I’ve read the PPC platform and the best way I can describe it is sloppy. It was clearly written to pander to the angriest members of the ‘basket of deplorables’ this side of the border, with no regard for feasibility or importance. Considering that they’re polling at a mere 2% of the popular vote, it’s tempting to ignore them altogether. However, Canadian elections are just around the corner and we cannot afford to dismiss obscure candidates under the naive assumption that they’re too crazy to get elected. That being said, it’s difficult to comment on the PPC platform as it contains enough hasty generalizations, internal contradictions and other logical fallacies to make a Fox News commentator blush. I could not possibly address them all in a single blog entry and therefore decided to tackle this through a three-part series of posts, each of which focuses on one pillar of their election platform beginning with their environmental policy. So without further ado, let’s hop aboard the train to crazy town and see what shakes loose when a confederacy of dunces runs for public office.

Episode I: The Carbon Menace.

The Conservative government under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was widely criticized for regressive policies on climate change, and rightly so. They withdrew from the Kyoto Accord, muzzled federal scientists, and drastically cut funds to both Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, all of which were widely perceived as politicizing science to appease the oil industry. I’ll say this for them, for as long as Stephen Harper was Prime Minister, he never had the nerve to publicly deny the existence of human-influenced climate change. In fact, while their plan was not nearly proactive enough, Harper himself went on record referring to human-influenced climate change as “perhaps the biggest threat to confront the future of humanity today”. The PPC, in contrast, went full Alex Jones and embraced conspiracy theories denying the existence of global warming.

As a rule I try not post overly long quotations and guys, I’m sorry, I really tried to cut this down. However every time I thought the stupidity had run its course, the PPC communications team surprised me by squeezing in one more argument against global warming that frankly reads like a high school bio student trying to bullshit their way through their final exam. On a positive note, no one in the PPC can accuse me of bastardizing their environmental platform, as this was copied, verbatim, directly from their website. Literally all I did was adjust the formatting for spacing purposes and delete the word “facts” – largely because including it felt like complicity in their nefarious plot to set the planet on fire. I may be sassy but I’m not a liar.

Let’s do this:

“The Liberal government is spending billions of dollars at home and abroad to fight global warming—or “climate change” as it is now called to account for every natural weather event and its opposite. In order to lower greenhouse gas emissions, it has imposed taxes and countless regulations, it subsidizes inefficient and costly “green technology,” and it is blocking the development of oil resources crucial to our prosperity.

“It is an undisputed fact that the world’s climate has always changed and will continue to change. Until twelve thousand years ago, much of Canada was under ice, and it is thanks to natural climate change that we can live here today.

“There is however no scientific consensus on the theory that CO2 produced by human activity is causing dangerous global warming today or will in the future, and that the world is facing environmental catastrophes unless theseemissions are drastically reduced. Many renowned scientists continue to challenge this theory. The policy debate about global warming is not grounded on science anymore. It has been hijacked by proponents of big government who are using crude propaganda techniques to impose their views. They publicly ridicule and harass anyone who expresses doubt. They make exaggerated claims to scare people. They even manipulate school children, getting them to pressure their parents and to demonstrate in the streets.

“Climate change alarmism is based on flawed models that have consistently failed at correctly predicting the future. None of the cataclysmic predictions that have been made about the climate since the 1970s have come true. No new ice age. No steady warming in direct relation with increases in CO2 levels. No disappearance of polar ice caps. No exceptional rise in ocean levels. No abnormal increase in catastrophic weather events. No widespread crop failure and famine.

“In fact, CO2 is beneficial for agriculture and there has recently been a measurable “greening” of the world in part thanks to higher levels. Despite what global warming propaganda claims, CO2 is not a pollutant. It is an essential ingredient for life on Earth and needed for plant growth.” PPC website, as of August 2019

Welcome back. Congratulations on making it to the finish line, your skills of perseverance are admirable. Need a minute? I get it. Go for a walk or a cool glass of tap water. I’ll wait.

….

…..

Feel better? Good. Let’s discuss.

Okay…a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with the argument that the climate “has always changed and will continue to change” until the sun inevitably swallows the Earth whole. Essentially they’re arguing that global warming is just a phase that Mother Nature is going through, as she’s done time and time again since the days of Eden. While scientists agree that the Earth’s climate does evolve over time, these changes usually occur over hundreds of thousands of years, not decades. The rapid warming that the Earth has experienced since the Industrial Revolution, in contrast, correlates to the higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is a direct result of human activity. Scientists have produced dozens of models that support this theory, that – contrary to what Bernier and the PPC suggest – are actually pretty good.

The PPC continues by claiming that “there is however no scientific consensus on the theory that CO2 produced by human activity is causing dangerous global warming” and that “many renowned scientists continue to challenge this theory”. Really? Got a reference for that, preferably one you didn’t scrape out of the cavity of your own ass? Because I have an entire assembly of scientists who – with the help of peer-reviewed sources and university experts – came to a very different conclusion:

In 2019, the government released Canada’s Changing Climate Record, where nine public servants from two government departments when on public record saying:

“There is overwhelming evidence that the Earth has warmed during the Industrial Era and the main cause of this warming is human influence. This evidence includes increases in near-surface and lower-atmosphere air temperature, sea surface temperature, and ocean heat content…The observed warming and other climate changes cannot be explained by natural factors…only when human influences on climate are accounted for…can these observed changes in climate be explained.”

The report goes on to list some of the many threats – both social and economic – that jeopardize Canada’s future if we don’t take immediate action to address climate change. Indeed, some of them may have already materialized, which begs the question how much worse it could possibly get. Most of these risks are associated with changes in extreme weather, with more extreme hot temperatures augmenting risk of droughts and wildfires, and warmer extreme cold temperatures, resulting in more precipitation and by extension, flooding in parts of the country. The social or human cost of these disasters is immeasurable, however, there are some reports indicating how draining they are on the Canadian economy.

The 2017 flooding in Ontario and Quebec alone cost the provinces an estimated $223 million in insurable damages to roads, businesses and residences as thousands were forced to flee from their homes as lakes and rivers climbed to a fifty-year-high. In addition, local businesses such as the Toronto Island Park lost millions in forgone earnings as their businesses remained closes for much of the tourist season. And these figures don’t even consider the costs associated with mobilizing the military to rescue flood victims, which generated enormous costs to the federal government and brought the national capital region to a stand-still.

And of course, there was the clean up.

The Disaster Financial Assistance program requires the federal government to cover up to 90% of the costs associated with eligible natural disasters, such as the flooding in Ontario and Quebec. From 1970 – when the program was launched – to 1996, this cost tax payers an average of $10 million per year. From 1996-2011, this climbed to $110 million. Since 2011, tax payers have paid approximately $360 million per year for clean-up costs, much of which was for natural disasters associated with global warming.

The PPC attempted to bury the sad truth under some absurdly optimistic pseudo-science, but if you were hoping to offset the apocalypse by planting a tree, then sorry to flood on your parade. Suggesting that global warming will help plants because carbon “is an essential ingredient for life on Earth and needed for plant growth” is almost as ridiculous as suggesting that plants need sunlight, therefore droughts are good for agriculture. Sure plants need carbon dioxide, but they can only absorb so much. The higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere compounded with loss of forests due to clear cutting means that plants cannot possibly keep pace with the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. This puts us back at square one.

So let’s be real. While climate change adaptation may pose some challenges to our economy, that doesn’t mean that the status quo doesn’t come at a cost. Moreover, the longer we put off the inevitable, the higher those costs are going to grow. Many of these will be monetary but some will not, and may include losing a loved one in a forest fire or losing your home in a flood. So yeah, I guess the PPC was accidentally, almost right about one thing. I do want to scare people. I’m all for educating children about the risks of climate change. I’m a socially inept, introvert who’s afraid of crowds, but I’ll demonstrate in the streets if that’s what it takes. But I need to know that my leaders will stand with me, not bury their heads in the sand and wait for the storm to pass. That kind of naivety will only encourage the storm to stick around. Failure to recognize that is intellectually deficient, and refusal to act upon it can only be described as laziness.

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Bummed out? Yeah, me too. Take a minute but please tune in next time for Episode II: the Demagogue Strikes Back, where I’ll be discussing the PPC’s policy on immigration and why it sucks.


[1] As an aside note I distinctly remember that leadership contest because former business man and reality TV star Kevin O’Leary was also in the running. At the time I considered O’Leary to be ‘Trump of the North’ and was actually hoping Bernier would win. Who knows what kind of leader O’Leary would have been but I’ll say this for him: as the son of a Lebanese immigrant who recognized the benefits of immigration, I don’t think we would have seen the same nationalist, racially-charged rhetoric that we’ve seen from Bernier. I bring this up only to acknowledge my own short-sightedness and I dunno, I guess to point out how innocent we all were back then

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