You rarely see politicians trying so hard to act on an opponent's next announcement.
But this is happening with the big events this week regarding energy, pipelines and climate change, as these issues are at the center of a political culture war.
Alberta's unified Conservative Prime Minister, Jason Kenney, has posted full-page ads across the country to highlight that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a deadline set for Tuesday to make a decision regarding the extension of the pipeline. Trans Mountain. And the Liberal government has talked so much about the climate plan that Conservative Andrew Scheer plans to unveil Wednesday that you will not think he will get a reduction in ticket sales.
But what is really happening is that the two main candidates are trying to consolidate their weaknesses in order to get things done last week. Parliament must sit before the election this fall. Voters now see energy and environmental issues as part of the leader's identity.
Despite these commercials in Alberta, it's not difficult to guess what Mr. Trudeau will do: he will approve the TMX again.
It had already approved it once, at the end of 2016, and made it a kind of big political agreement: it would push a pipeline to the ocean at the same time as climate action with carbon taxes. He argued that one could not go ahead without the other. When this was threatened, his government spent $ 4.5 billion to buy the project. And when he was stopped by the courts, he said the plan was still underway.
The affirmative answer will still not do any political good to Mr. Trudeau in Alberta, where anger is strong and the Prime Minister's name is muddy. More than a few Albertans suspect that the Liberals' purchase of Trans Mountain was a ploy to stop the expansion, even though there is no political advantage to paying money on a white elephant.
No, Mr. Trudeau has a lot to do with TMX because his failure is an impossibility to go forward, and that all his talk about the economy and the environment would go hand in hand. Most voters want both. Mr. Trudeau told them that they could have it.
Mr. Scheer must also do something: a climate plan. It will not be a vote winner either, but a defense.
He strongly opposes the Liberals' carbon dioxide reduction and tax program, opposes Bill C-68, and insists that he build a pipeline on the C-68. east coast – while indicating that it would support more pipelines. . But he will seek to reassure potential voters who are elected on climate change. It does not have to be an ambitious plan – voters who desperately want it not to vote for him, anyway – but he needs a plan.
One of the problems is that almost any real climate plan will force him to swallow his previous statements. The big question is whether this will really be a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Not only did he criticize carbon taxes, he also complained that the type of carbon tax imposed by Ottawa on large industrial emitters – called production-based pricing – is only taxed in Canada. A small part of the emissions – constitutes an unfair break for the wealthy friends of big companies. The problem is that Mr. Kenney from Alberta and Mr. Doug Ford from Ontario have also proposed a form of pricing based on production.
What can Mr. Scheer suggest? Ontario differs from Alberta and Saskatchewan in who should bear the burden of reducing emissions, but Scheer complains that Ottawa is imposing its policies on the provinces. How will he develop a national plan?
On the political side, it does not have to achieve Canada's objectives under the Paris Agreement; Mr. Scheer may note that the Liberals' plan has not come to fruition yet. The question is whether it will be an emissions reduction plan.
The Conservative leader hinted that he preferred to earn a credit for natural gas exports. He also said that Canada should get a credit for producing aluminum producing less emissions than Chinese aluminum. So far, he has not talked about reducing emissions, but argued that some should not be counted.
Nevertheless, to do the political work, Mr. Scheer's plan will need something that says action – perhaps incentives for clean technologies, or the redevelopment of the home, or the regulation of vehicles. The goal is to say that he has a plan. And like Mr. Trudeau's decision on the TMX, it's a defensive shield he has to put in place before he can campaign.