Neutral bureaucrats and ambitious politicians

September 29th, 2006
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The heat keeps getting turned up in the climate change debate. Politicians clearly see the catastrophist bandwagon as a vote-getter.

Grab your surf boards – especially those of you living in low-lying areas soon to be flooded by rising sea level- because the wave’s coming from California. The state’s Attorney General Bill Lockyer – a Democratic candidate for state treasurer in the November election – has launched an audacious law suit. The land of fruits and nuts is seeking damages from several automakers for the malign effects of global warming. Given that these have not actually been determined yet, it leaves the field pretty wide open for the judicial rule.

Further, faux-Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has introduced unprecedented legislation to curb emission of gases believed to cause atmospheric warming. He and other state politicians like New York governor Patacki seem to be lining up to push sweeping regulatory legislation, which must give solace to every environmentalist cum economic interventionist.

Closer to home, oil and gas companies have been singled out as environmental bad boys by the federal auditor general’s office. Let’s forget that our industry has an exemplary environmental record and is a world-leader in that regard. The feds are being encouraged to cut back oil sands development, seen as a particularly noxious part of the industry.

It may strike some as unusual that these recommendations are coming from the office of the auditor general, mostly home to assorted bean counters and other ledger lizards. I was surprised to find within that group a “Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development”.

This position was apparently established by the Liberal government in 1995. So rather than merely look for misspent money and analyze internal government efficiencies, there is a high-ranking (and presumably well-paid) bureaucrat advocating the implementation of a very specific policy course. This will come as a disappointment to those who believe it is elected officials, accountable to the people who elected them, who should set the policy direction of the country.

This at a time when the government is being accused of pursuing an ideological vendetta in eliminating some government programs. Any objective observer would concede that the previous government put its ideological stamp on many areas of the bureaucracy, the afore-mentioned position being just one of many. Prime Minister Harper made the mistake of alluding to that during the election campaign. Too bad he’s been proven right – again.

The simple truth is that bureaucrats will tend, if only for self-interest’s sake, to favour statist solutions, economic regulation, etc. Let the first civil servant who will recommend he himself be fired please step forward.

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