Mr. Doer goes to Denmark

December 4, 2001

CANADIAN Ambassador to the United States and former Manitoba premier Gary Doer is off to Copenhagen to save the day for Canada at the climate conference there.

Actually, he will only help to save the day. He is one member of a team of 17 distinguished Canadians recruited by Environment Minister Jim Prentice to advise him and to convince other governments gathered in Copenhagen that Canada is not the environmental villain of global warming, as it was recently named—for the third time—by weather-warming worriers.

The other members of the team include industrialists, former politicians, various “celebrities,” and two aboriginal leaders, Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Mary Simon, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

The Europeans are famously romantic about Canadian aboriginals, but that doesn’t stop them from banning seal imports and none of the other members is likely to even have a voice in Copenhagen. This delegation seems to be a case of Made in Canada for Canadians.

The exception is Gary Doer. He may well be the most useful member of that team. In fact, although he will not have the final vote—that belongs to Prime Minister Stephen Harper—nor even a voice in the decision, which will be made by Mr. Harper and Mr. Prentice—his charming presence and his environmental credentials and most of all his association with United States, could result in Canada emerging from Copenhagen smelling a little better than it did going in.

Mr. Doer was considered to be a green premier, perhaps the greenest of all, although his credentials are at best doubtful. Perhaps his most substantial accomplishment was to help establish a group of provinces and American states that is working to establish a regional market for carbon-trading.

Others of his green feats are more questionable: he pledged to meet and surpass the Kyoto requirements in a province powered by hydro-electricty; he catered to boreal-forest huggers by deciding to run an economically indefensible hydro line down the west side of Lake Winnipeg, the very thin that his current employer, the prime minister, would call a blind, emotional embrace of Kyoto.

Nevertheless, Business Week Magazine voted him one of the top 20 international leaders fighting climate change and he has the street creds. He also has the charm, the ear of the prime minister and of many Americans. He may turn out to be Canada’s secret weapon in the battle of Copenhagen.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2009 A14

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