Yesterday was a funny kind of day — one of those days when you truly learn that facts matter less than ideology.
Yep, Monday was the day that the federal Tories finally pushed their new tough-on-crime legislation through the House of Commons, and the same day that they officially announced that Canada would be pulling out of its commitments under the Kyoto climate accord.
Next up? I don’t know — maybe federal legislation banning the teaching of evolution, or at least giving equal time to creationism. Or legislation guaranteeing that anything a federal cabinet minister says must automatically be taken for the truth (even if it’s an obvious nose-puller like creating a fake search and rescue training mission to justify using military helicopters as personal vehicles).
Because facts don’t matter anymore — or, more to the point, science doesn’t.
Statistically, we shouldn’t need more prisons or tougher sentences. Crime rates are falling — but that’s all right; in the clear absence of a need for new prisons, the federal government can simply invent its own statistics. Reported crimes may be falling, the federal minister says, but unreported crimes — well, unreported crimes are nigh-on out of control. The statistics on those unreported crimes, of course, are difficult to quantify, as they are, well, unreported. But everyone knows someone who knows someone …
Then there’s all that pesky research that says longer sentences don’t actually help solve the problem — but do make for better-trained criminals. You know, if you don’t bother to read stuff like that, you can’t clutter up your mind with having to think about it.
So let’s spend billions of dollars to lock people up in the vague hope that the process won’t be the same unmitigated failure it’s been south of the border. When it is, we can always blame, I don’t know, the Liberals or something.
Then, there’s Kyoto.
Ostensibly, we’re dropping Kyoto because the agreement didn’t include everyone, but effectively, we’re bailing out because our federal government has no interest in actually cutting emissions, because that would put the damper on key industries that are still pushing our economy along.
Why not address it? Because any impact of carbon emissions is something that affects future generations (or, at least, affects the not-so-near term), while the costs of actually doing something could affect the way we live our lives right now. And when you’re picking between the future and the wallet, the wallet now wins. (Think about it — how do you address a deficit? Raise taxes or cut services? Strange, isn’t it, how every government you can think of campaigned on the idea of cutting taxes. Why? Because voting for our own personal good is far more important than voting for the good of the whole country.)
Besides, there’s no real proof that the climate is even changing, except for the regular annual increases in temperature, the substantial changes in ocean temperature, the movement north of more southern species, the extensive melting of arctic ice, anecdotal stuff like that — you know, if we applied the same scientific blinkers to other things that we apply to global warming, we’d still be selling cigarettes and snuff to children, and we’d still have lead in our paint and asbestos in our plaster.
“Cancer? Sure, you can’t prove there’s a connection to tobacco…”
Forget the fact that even
that most careful of estimators,
the super-conservative insurance industry, is already factoring the costs of global warming into its actuarial models. But Kyoto? Heck, we can’t go along with that kind of foolishness, not unless every other country agrees to do it, too. That would just be … altruistic. Or commendable. Or responsible.
Whatever happened to the idea of leading by example?
Oh wait. We’re doing exactly that.
Problem is, we’ve learned to model a different kind of example.
We’re leading by enshrining the philosophy of “me first.”
And when you think about it that way, it’s hard to feel very proud of it.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s
editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.