Kevin Vickers, the House of Commons sergeant-at-arms who performed so heroically in helping stop the 2014 terrorist attack on Parliament, is running for leadership of the New Brunswick Liberal party. His priorities are… go on. Recite the clichés. Health, education, uniting people and climate change. He’s for the first three and against the last. And his plans are, um, well, since when did a cliché require a plan?
The cliché used to be health, education and jobs. And election after election we chose politicians who turned out to have a much better idea how to seem concerned than how actually to improve things in any of those areas. Certainly spending on health care has continued to rise unsustainably without shrinking waiting lists or getting rid of “hallway medicine”. And now we add climate change because it’s just part of the catechism.
In some ways it is unhelpful to call climate alarmism a religion. But the comparison is apt, mostly to the least attractive aspects. For instance there is the reflexive mouthing of conventional pieties that turn out to be so disconnected from the speaker’s daily life that one is left genuinely confused about what the person actually believes. Until the early 1960s, nearly everybody went to church because it would cause talk if they didn’t. Nowadays nearly everyone says they want to stop climate change for the same reason. This is true even of politicians who after 15 or 20 years in public life have never bothered to propose a credible plan for reducing emissions, with the ensuing confusion about what they think their words mean.
There is also the strong if largely unacknowledged compulsion to repent of one’s sins or, even better, yell at others to repent of theirs. And the tendency to excommunicate heretics with something approaching panic.
The result of spouting unreflective pieties for reasons of social conformity is that one ends up giving earnest assent to a jumble of incoherent and contradictory ideas. And not only on climate, though it’s increasingly acute and obvious here.
Kevin Vickers, for instance, says he wants to bring people to New Brunswick, his target being an influx equal to one percent of the population annually because “Demography is destiny”. And to achieve that goal, he says, you need economic growth. Yet he also hopes to make energy really expensive to import while refusing to develop local resources (the last Liberal administration banned fracking in 2014). One wonders what he thinks of pipelines; perhaps like Justin Trudeau he is both against and for them, but in ways that do not result in any getting built.
One might also ask what exactly he thinks any province can do about climate change, especially one as small and economically troubled as New Brunswick. Or whether a growing population won’t use more energy. But to do so would be asking the wrong question. It’s not about results, it’s about striking the right poses.
Vickers is a strong candidate for the Liberal leadership and, it seems, a good man. Even if he spent his career elsewhere than the province where he now wants people to live and work because of prosperity-boosting policies he didn’t think of yet except that they don’t depend on the abundant, affordable, reliable energy that has driven prosperity over the last 200 years.
Unfortunately he’ll still needs a sound plan once everyone has watched him genuflect at the altar of climate change.