In a development remarkable in its ordinariness, the Liberal party in British Columbia, which for non-Canadians is the “right wing” option in that province in contrast to capital-L “Liberals” everywhere else in this country, just booted a veteran Member of the Legislative Assembly from caucus for retweeting Greenpeace cofounder turned climate skeptic Patrick Moore’s August 15 Tweet saying “No net warming in Australia for the past 10 years. And the Great Barrier Reef has more coral cover this year than ever recorded. The case for CO2 being the control knob of global temperature gets weaker every day.” All true statements. His only mistake was not realizing that one may not hold heterodox opinions, even when based on facts.
The MLA member, John Rustad, representative for Nechako Lakes in the BC interior (his constituency office is under the bright lights of Vanderhoof, pop. 4,439), has been in the legislature since 2005 and served in two cabinet posts under former Premier Christy Clark, namely Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation and Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. But never mind. According to new party leader Kevin Falcon, not exactly a household name:
“Politics is a team sport, and British Columbians expect their elected officials to work co-operatively on the important issues facing our province. Following a pattern of behaviour that was not supportive of our caucus team and the principles of mutual respect and trust, I have removed MLA John Rustad from the B.C. Liberal Caucus effective immediately.”
Harsh words. Especially since Rustad’s retweet was accompanied by a chart (from LinkedIn, which seems to have deleted it) based on “UAH satellites” while his claims about the coral reef were “from the Australian Institute of Marine Science.” So they were genuinely-supported facts.
Falcon, not one to let facts get in the way of a good grovel, further tweeted:
“Let me be clear, #ClimateChange is one of the most critical threats facing our future. The @bcliberals are strongly committed to substantive climate action & restoring BC's place as a world leader in climate policy. @JohnRustad4BC does not speak on behalf of caucus on this issue.”
But can’t he speak on behalf of his constituents? Yes, yes, we know that’s a painfully quaint view of what elected representatives are supposed to do. But everyone complains about excessive centralization in Canadian politics, with the Prime Minister’s Office or Premier’s Office exercising minute and imperious control over every aspect of legislators’ activities and statements. Since Rustad wasn’t even the party’s critic on climate change, how dangerous is it that he suggested people look at some published information on topics people are talking about? On what other topics would it bring instant dismissal?
If it’s any and all, Falcon is a control freak bad for debate. If just this one, why is it the shibboleth for political reputability? We’d lament the lack of courage, but the sad truth is that Falcon isn’t even remarkable for his exceptional firmness (or spinelessness) on this issue. The slightest hint of dissent on climate spells political death across the spectrum in Canada.
It’s no way to debate a public issue. And exactly the way those who claim to be the bold visionaries who can lead us to a brighter and more harmonious future insist on not debating it.