Hypocrisy is far from the worst among vices. But it has a special shabby ugliness. And while the weakness that leads someone to say one thing in public and do another in private may inspire at least some pity, the arrogance of those who loudly demand that others submit to limitations unbecoming to their exalted status deserve public shaming. Which brings me to Canada’s Prime Minister… wherever he is.
As you know, Justin Trudeau loudly proclaims that we face a “climate emergency” requiring dramatic sacrifices as long as they don’t affect his re-election prospects the way a significant carbon tax would. And he has been excoriated for approving an oil pipeline while demanding that we stop emitting greenhouse gases pronto. Which might be the first, tawdry kind of hypocrisy, trolling for votes with a pipeline he privately knows will never be built thanks to his Bill C-69 and the manner in which the rule of law crumples in Canada before the fist of energy project protest. But what concerns me here is the other, brazen, Marie Antoinette style of hypocrisy.
You see, a lot of people worry that giving up fossil fuels will mean a dramatic reduction in our quality of life. Some alarmists think no sacrifice is too great but hope large-scale investments in alternative energy technology (except nuclear for some reason) will reduce the pain. Other observers, more skeptical, say let’s not panic, let’s wait and if we get real evidence we’ll adapt. A third group seem clueless about how dependent we are on hydrocarbons, and denounce oil through plastic bullhorns while taking selfies of themselves in trendy advanced polymer clothing using devices whose composition is a mystery to them. But a fourth, truly obnoxious type think no sacrifice is too great since they won’t be the ones making it.
Like our Mr. Prime Minster whose double standard is hidden in plane sight. Which is not a typo. On the contrary, I see that in June alone he’s flown from Ottawa to Vancouver to Ottawa to London to France (Deauville then Paris) to Ottawa to Whitby (unless he drove) to Ottawa to Washington to Ottawa to Toronto to Ottawa back to Toronto and is off to Japan for the June 28-29 G20 meeting to “underline how countries, as part of their efforts to fight climate change, must make a clean economy affordable for everyone.” That’s quite the carbon footprint.
Especially as other cabinet members were also leaving literal as well as rhetorical vapour trails while telling us to stay home, you carbon pigs. The Environment Ministry took time off from telling us not to stand outside when there’s lightning (“Remember: When thunder roars, go indoors!”) to let us know Minister Catherine McKenna had hopped up to Inuvik for an announcement/photo op on June 7, the day after Minister of International Development Miriam Monsef was in Vancouver for a “Women Deliver 2019 Conference”, billed as “the world’s largest conference on the health, rights, and well-being of women and girls” and thus unlikely to feature a handful of speakers and guests who got there by bicycle or kayak.
Ms. McKenna’s office, unlike the PMO, doesn’t publish itineraries. But lots of her colleagues put out endless self-congratulatory press releases about their travels. For instance on that same June 7 date the Finance Minister was in Fukuoka, Japan for a meeting with “his fellow G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors” to discuss things too deep for PDF, Skype or phone call, specifically “the Government of Canada’s investments in the middle class and people working hard to join it”. Then he flew to Calgary to say how much he and his colleagues value the fossil fuel industry they’re committed to destroying because blah blah about “good, middle class jobs… Canadian businesses… able to compete… transitions Canada to a low-carbon future.” But don’t worry about Japan feeling lonely: Jim Carr, Minister of International Trade Diversification (yes, it’s a real job, or at least a real title with real perks) was there on June 8 and 9 for the “G20 Ministerial Meeting on Trade and Digital Economy” having forgotten to give printed copies of whatever he meant to say to Morneau to hand over to any people in charge of digital economic policy who don’t have internet access, a cell phone or even a land line.
Our leaders also continually welcome foreign visitors who fly across oceans of water using oceans of fuel instead of saying no, no, we’ll teleconference, including the UN’s “Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes” (yes, it’s one person, Baskut Tuncak) who came here to say our bigotry leads us to poison aboriginals. And our Foreign Minister welcomed the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to Ottawa on June 17 before jetting off in early July to London England to host the two-day “Global Conference for Media Freedom”, where she hopes journalists as well as politicians and staff will wing their way over to join her. (Next time maybe just ask Ms. Bachelet if she’ll be in London too and is free for coffee.) Meanwhile the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism blasted off for Halifax along with all Ministers Responsible for Culture and Heritage for a one-day meeting on June 19. And so on and so forth.
Even Elizabeth May has suspicious flight plans. As do academics jetting proudly about to demand sustainability or some such. But how on Earth are the rest of us to cut emissions by 30%, or 50%, by 2030, and hit net zero by 2050 while you’re spewing so much of the stuff out of jet engines to strut your moral and ecological superiority across the land and across the globe?
“Qu’ils mangent du gaz carbonique,” I guess.