It was quite the shocker at the Liberal Party leadership convention this past weekend as former university professor Stephane Dion defeated front runners Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae. Dion's victory was in part driven by his promise to address the environment, something the current minority Conservative government has considered a low priority.
It may only be a matter of time before Dion becomes Canada's next prime minister. The current Harper regime is beginning to unravel (as witnessed by the recent row caused by their 'Quebecois are a nation within a nation' proclamation). Canada's recent performance at the UN's climate change conference was an utter fiasco and the cause of great national embarrassment. Add to this Canada's poor track record as one of the world's worst polluters and you have a potent recipe for political change.
Dion, who was the former Liberal environment minister, is riding the green wave that is currently sweeping Canada. The Liberal convention underscored the rising political weight of climate change issues. During his acceptance speech, Dion emphasized that his main goal is dealing with "the greatest challenge we have today, sustainable development."
And just last week the Green Party had its best ever election showing by claiming over 25% of the vote in London North's bi-election. GP candidate Elizabeth May finished in second place, but it is indicative of the larger mood that is emerging across Canada.
It's been said that Canadian sociopolitics follows the European example rather than the American one. The Greens, who have had political clout in Europe for some time now, may be on the verge of similar successes here.
Of course, the traditional parties will seek to capitalize on these trends. The danger is that these parties will only give lip service to environmental issues for political gain.
Politics is interesting in Canada again.