The difference between Dion and Layton

This is priceless.  Want to see the chief difference between Dion and Layton?  Well, when it was in his interests to do so, this week Dion abandoned his principles in order to cozy up to big oil.  On the other hand, despite the fact that it is in Jack Layton’s interest not to further alienate unions [see this story for more details], he has continued to put ultimatums to the Conservatives on environmental issues because it’s the right thing to do.  So while Dion will do whatever is necessary to get elected, Layton has shown that, at least on this one issue, he will stand on principle and “let justice be done though the heavens fall”.

Here’s the proof:

Dion won the leadership of the Grits by draping himself (both figuratively and actually) in green.  His platform was touted as uber green.  Liblogers such as Jeremy Kirouac flaunt Dion’s environmentally friendly campaign (see here).  And what’s more, the many great things that Dion has campaigned on and said in the past are brought up at almost every opportunity.

What’s changed since his win?  Well, Dion is still passing off his ‘greenness’ one month after his convention victory, but what’s interesting is that he’s doing it while pandering to big oil.  One month folks, that’s all it took.  The Calgary Sun is reporting here that Stéphane Dion wants to give tax breaks to  tar sand oil companies if they voluntarily adhere to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and is dressing this move up as an attempt to make the tar sands “greener”. 

So what’s the problem with this?  Well, as Russell Gold noted in his Wall Street Journal Article entitled “As Prices Surge, Oil Giants Turn Sludge Into Gold” (available here) the way we extract the tar sands produces 3 times as much greenhouse gas emissions as traditional oil extraction.   The very process of extracting the tar sands, by necessity, is more environmentally damaging to both the atmosphere and terrain than any other oil extraction process widely used today and there’s no way around that.  Asking oil companies to voluntarily just use less water all the while encouraging their continued extraction rates is roughly akin to asking an invading army to just use less bullets while they destroy everything in sight. 

What’s more, Dion has come out in favour of so-called “clean coal”.   What’s the problem with this?  Well, as is noted here, “The problem is having the words “clean” and “coal” used together…. Coal’s dirty when you dig it, dirty when you haul it, dirty when you burn it, dirty when you dispose of the ash left over from burning.”  Moreover, just about every other group which cares about the environment from Greenpeace which meticulously documents 10 reasons why clean coal isn’t clean at all (here) to the Green Parties of the world (an example is available here), oppose clean coal.  One has to ask, if Dion’s green principles really mean so much to him, why would he abandon them so quickly when a strategic opportunity arose?

Now this isn’t to be taken as an endorsement of Layton.  Layton has allowed his party to tack to the right and I will forever be sceptical of him for that exact reason.  But if it came down to a choice between only Layton and Dion, I’ll take the guy who stands with a strategically-damaging policy decision on principle over the guy who jumps from his principles at the first chance to save his own neck, every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

7 Responses to “The difference between Dion and Layton”


  1. 3 Sceptical Environmental 13 January, 2007 at 8:17 am

    So few people are talking about how Dion’s environmental credentials are as cheap as the green hats and scarves he handed out at convention.

    If Dion were sincere in wanting us to use less gas, why did he vote against California-style mandatory emissions standards last year?

    Dion also said his solution to climate change in the oil sands is to have nukes power the whole thing.

    Who says this guy’s an environmentalist??

  2. 4 paulitics 15 January, 2007 at 9:21 am

    Sceptical Environmental – well put.

  3. 5 Jan Johnstone 18 January, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    I’m not sure how Layton has moved to the right, unless you are suggesting the NDP sending the unclean energy act to committee. Considering the NDP is the ONLY party that has voted against all 3 Con confidence motions in the House, while either the BLOC or Libs kept them afloat, well which veer to right do you them? Just curious.

  4. 6 paulitics 19 January, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    Jan Johnstone – you pose a fair question. No, I had no serious objections to the NDP supporting the Conservatives on the Clean Air Act. What I was referring to was actually older policies enacted years ago. While there are several that I could mention, specifically the most salient examples I can come up with are a) the NDP position on our dreadful role in Haiti (we’re helping to train the former military how to kill more efficiently even after they undertook a coup d’état and overthrew a democratically-elected government and the NDP’s position as articulated during the 2004 election was that the issue “needed more study”) and b) Jack Layton’s flip-flop on homelessness issue during the 2006 election was especially enraging to me. YES, the government, in failing to provide for the basic necessities to sustain life, WAS negligent and WAS responsible for the deaths of all the homeless people on their watch. Paul Martin, just like Chrétien before him and just like Campbell and Mulroney before them, has the blood of those people on his hands.

  5. 7 paulitics 27 January, 2007 at 9:42 am

    I just wanted to apologize to Steve V. He made a comment on this thread, but for some reason it was held up by spam guard. So I’ve inserted his comment above leftdog’s comment.

    Sorry once again Steve for the mix-up.

    As for your comment. I believe I’ve answered your charge in the debate which followed, but just so we’re clear: I support any measures (including Dion’s) to levy stiff penalties against polluters. I have no qualms with this portion of his policy plan. What I do object to is his support for “clean coal” (which is itself a contradiction in terms opposed by virtually every true environmentalist party in the world) and his proposal to subsidize these tar sand companies.


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