Tim Hudak's Conservatives are Ontario's pro-litter party
Submitted by OCAA on Fri, 04/23/2010 - 04:30.
Tim Hudak's Conservatives are Ontario's pro-litter party
There's a particular scene from season two of theHBO hit Mad Men that sticks with you.
The show focuses on the lives of a group of hard-drinking early 1960s New York advertising executives, and in this episode one of the main characters, Don Draper, is out with his family for a picnic in the local park. After finishing their meal, Don's wife Betty (she with the perfect hairdo resembling Wilma Flintstone) takes a step off the family's large picnic blanket, gathers it up, and casually spills its contents of discarded sandwich wrappers, food remnants and crumpled bags onto the ground. Don finishes his beer and throws the can onto the park's perfectly manicured grass. They pack the kids into the Cadillac and drive off leaving a pile of litter behind.
How times have changed! To say this behaviour is no longer acceptable is an understatement. And the fact that this scene so thoroughly grates against now deeply entrenched societal values makes it very hard to watch. You cringe. You grit your teeth with discomfort. You feel embarrassed for Don Draper and his family.
All of these are similar reactions to those we've had recently in response to the anti-environmental screeds emanating from Tim Hudak and the Ontario Progressive Conservative party.
In the last couple of months alone, Tory MPP Randy Hillier led a group of bused-in, self-styled landowner-rights activists to a public meeting in Markham to aggressively intervene in that municipality's debate regarding how to protect its remaining farmland (isn't that a bit far from his riding in Lanark?).
Hillier has also called on the McGuinty government to abandon its Far North Act (a reasonable effort to find a balance between resource development and conservation) in favour of unrestricted, Klondike gold rush-style, industrial boosterism.
MPP Ted Chudleigh has marked the second anniversary of the widely supported ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides (which is now being emulated in other provinces) with a bizarre and mocking press release calling for its overturning.
And lest anyone think these are just the actions of a few rogue caucus members, Hudak himself has, in a variety of speeches, mocked the McGuinty government's cosmetic pesticides ban, the province's plan to reduce the use of plastic grocery bags, the Greenbelt, the growth of renewable energy, and joined Hillier's call for an end to rational planning in Ontario's North.
All in all, Hudak and his colleagues have enthusiastically staked out the pro-litter, pro-pollution and anti-greenspace side of the political spectrum.
To use a Facebook expression, they have “de-friended” Mother Nature.
In addition to being grumpily averse to the protection of the environment or human health, Hudak's approach is questionable from his own selfish political point of view. It would seem a statement of the obvious that it isn't exactly a recipe to win over the hearts and minds of the majority of voters in our province.
It's also a complete repudiation the Tories' own legacy of environmental leadership upon which many of the current policies they are now so busily (and, therefore, hypocritically) slagging-off are based. It was the Davis government that established the Niagara Escarpment Protection and Development Act and another Progressive Conservative government that passed the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act. The McGuinty government's Greenbelt Act builds on these two pre-existing statutes and is so similar to the latter that some passages seem virtually cut and pasted.
In recognition of the dangers posed to human health by pollution and toxic chemicals, it was Conservative environment minister Elizabeth Witmer who began the process of phasing out Ontario's coal-fired generating stations (and who received a SmogBuster award from the Ontario Clean Air Alliance as a result), and it was John Tory, when he was leader of the opposition, who volunteered to get his blood tested for toxic chemicals, and who beat the Liberals to commit to Canada's first Toxic Pollution Reduction Act.
Lastly, wasn't the largest single expansion of Ontario's parks system Mike Harris's “Lands for Life” process and the prototypical northern land-use planning exercise that same government's Northern Boreal Initiative? We don't recall Tim Hudak labelling these worthy initiatives “arbitrary job barriers,” as he did the other day with reference to the McGuinty government's Far North Act.
Preston Manning is fond of saying that the words “conservative” and “conservation” spring from the same root and that conservatives should be logical environmental leaders given that living within our means ecologically is a logical extension of living within our means fiscally.
In a recent article he urged that, in the interest of their own political success, Canadian conservatives need to enlarge the “big Conservative tent” to include “green conservatism as well as the red and blue varieties.”
We continue to hope that Hudak will heed this advice.
Rather than creating an environmental vision (or lack thereof) that Don Draper and his fellow 1960s litterbugs would be proud of, it's time for Tim Hudak and the Ontario PC Party to take a step into the 21st century. Ontario's environmental movement would be pleased to meet them there when they're ready.
Rick Smith, Gideon Forman and Janet Sumner are executive directors, respectively, of Environmental Defence, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and CPAWS Wildlands League.