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Surfing on Earth Day

01 May 2019 | News Roundup

Our Prime Minister does not practice what he preaches on carbon. As Brian Lilley wrote in the Toronto Sun, “Justin Trudeau spent Earth Day as only Justin Trudeau could: He flew across the country from Ottawa to Tofino, B.C., to go surfing.” And in Maclean’s, with the brilliant headline “Earth to Trudeau”, Andrew MacDougall said “the Prime Minister is exacerbating the problem he seeks to solve. If everyone jetted around like Trudeau the earth would be toast in record time.” Finally people have noticed that if we all had his carbon footprint we’d never get to Paris, except in a plane.

The National Post’s Chris Selley also pondered the curious optics of Trudeau’s decision. He noted the familiar paradox of a rebate so the carbon tax doesn’t stop people from doing things like flying across the country even though “the whole idea of carbon pricing is that people will react to immediate price signals by purchasing fewer and less carbon-intensive things. If Canadians aren’t taking fewer trips to Disney World and the Caribbean and Whistler and Paris and Rome, then the tax isn’t doing its job.” But given all the promises of saving the planet pain-free it would be hard to praise the tax for preventing us from having fun, visiting family or getting to work “even without the premiers of Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan leading a no-holds-barred guerrilla war against Justin Trudeau’s job-annihilating carbon tax from hell. As such, one might expect the prime minister to make at least minimal efforts not to be seen conspicuously consuming carbon in ways he is asking Canadians not to." Thus “if someone suggested spending Easter long weekend surfing in Tofino, maybe Trudeau — or someone in his office — would suggest an alternative that didn’t involve gassing up the private jet and flying across the entire continent. Spring snowboarding at Mont Tremblant, maybe?”

As MacDougall noted of Trudeau’s flight across the continent “to celebrate Earth Day… The familial hang ten capped a long weekend that began in Hamilton and Toronto, where the Prime Minister attended Good Friday and Passover events, respectively. The religious events were themselves the cap to a busy week that saw Trudeau ping from Vancouver (Vaisakhi parade) to Ottawa (private meetings) to Kitchener-Waterloo (government announcement) to Ottawa (government photo op) to the GTA before jetting back out to Tofino to surf. It is with this carbon footprint in mind that we should read Trudeau’s Earth Day plea.”

MacDougall writes, “I am someone who believes we need to act using a carbon tax among other policy responses”. But “What climate gospel can Trudeau possibly preach when he took the Challenger jet back and forth to Florida on vacation twice in one week?... You might think Stephen Harper a climate villain, but at least he didn’t regularly light gas tanks on fire going on holiday.”

Now MacDougall and Selley are both careful not to criticize Trudeau for having money or for enjoying good times with his family. Selley does pointedly suggest the PM occasionally fly business class rather than in a private plane like former British PM David Cameron, which appeals to those of us who have never been out of steerage. But the real point for Selley is that, “I’m not the guy trying to finagle a carbon tax past skeptical Canadians while insisting the fate of the world hangs in the balance of the upcoming October election. It sure doesn’t help for him to appear unserious about that message, or to appear to believe it doesn’t apply to him and his family.” Including reviving memories of that Aga Khan trip.

Hypocrisy in politicians is no new thing nor is this the PM’s first rodeo. As MacDougall acerbically adds, “This Prime Minister likes to say the right thing, not do the right thing. This is a Prime Minister who will tell you the woman should always be believed—and act on it—until a woman says he’s done the wrong thing. And then it’s all about her experiencing things differently. This is a Prime Minister who will fly down to NYC to receive an honorary degree from NYU, use the occasion to tell the kids they need to embrace intellectual diversity, without ever demonstrating any ability to heed his own advice.”

It's also not new for politicians to display a Marie Antoinettish attitude toward the poor, whoever they might be. But until very recently they favoured everyone else being richer too, from French king Henri IV’s 16th century desire for a chicken in every pot every Sunday to Herbert Hoover’s 1928 rip-off of that same slogan, anyone you can think of in public life wanted everyone who might vote for them to have more money and stuff than they used to. Mitt Romney took a surprising amount of heat for giving his wife a horse for her birthday (as if most husbands wouldn’t do such a thing if they could). But at least he wasn’t going around telling other people for goodness sake to stop using so much hay or Mother Earth gets it.

So Trudeau’s actions are remarkably clueless and unselfaware. And it’s starting to get noticed. Perhaps some enterprising journalist will now do a story about just exactly how big our PM’s footprint is and how far he’s flown in the past 12 months for no obvious purpose besides feeling important and gassing on about how great he and his fellow jet-setting politicians are.

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