Deep in the bowels of government, they're working on Operation Dusty Shelf. OK, so that's not the actual name of this huge bureaucratic undertaking. More like the code word for its future destination.
When a Liberal-ordered bill forces a Conservative government to plan ways to implement the Kyoto protocol, let's just say this is not a motivational exercise for federal bureaucrats. They know their strategy will be stillborn.
Sources say Environment Minister John Baird regrets his initial dismissive bluster against the Kyoto-enforcing private member's bill, which passed through the Commons last week and now awaits a rubber stamp after being debated in the Liberal- dominated Senate.
But it hasn't dimmed his government's disdain for a bill that gives them 60 days to produce an action plan to deliver on the Kyoto target of cranking down Canadian greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels.
"It's not enforceable, not economical and not even constitutional," fumes a senior official in the Environment Ministry. "But we're working on something to deal with it."
This much is certain. The cost and consequences of Kyoto's implementation will not be sugarcoated by this government. The intention is not to deliver warm and fuzzys on ways to meet our international obligations, but to pour cold water and hard realities on the folly of aggressively trying to meet the 2012 target.[...]
If there's a message Prime Minister Stephen Harper should be preparing amid his sudden greening, it's that Kyoto is a fantasy. That Canada will default on the first round of targets for the Kyoto accord is no longer in doubt.
In the months to come, his government will have to roll out a plan to sell the cost of Kyoto as incredible -- and his alternative as credible.
If the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois cannot stomach a Conservative green scheme that doesn't include Kyoto's 2012 targets, they will be dared to force an election.
Canada is not generally in the forefront of intellectual debate on global issues, but this could be very interesting. Last week the opposition parties foolishly combined to pass a bill compelling Ottawa to meet its Kyoto commitments and to produce a plan within sixty days. Everyone knows the task is impossible, but on this issue we live in a world where rhetoric trumps reality. Last fall, Harper was sagging in the polls over the environment, but a series of high-profile announcements earned him some credibility and he now seems to be standing in good stead for a looming spring election. Harper is obviously looking for a way to force the opposition to tell Canadians exactly what Kyoto would mean to them personally. He is articulate and intelligent himself, and not a man to back away from a principled fight or hide behind mushy platitudes. If you will excuse the cliche, sparks are going to fly.