Among the issues not discussed in any significant way in our federal election was "green" driving.
Fortunately, we tag along with the progressive fuel economy regulations put in place by the Obama administration in the United States which will result in cleaner air and less petroleum dependence in 2016. We will not benefit economically from the development of new technology because that's all taking place in United States, Europe and Asia with few exceptions. Canada's governing class has missed the boat on the green auto revolution.
However, in great contrast to the silence and lack of interest in the issue in Canadian politics. I'm watching with glee the outspokenness of the incoming premier of Baden-Württemberg in Germany. Winfried Kretschmann, a silver-haired school teacher, leads the Green Party which will now head the coalition government in the south-western state that is the headquarters of two of Germany's important car makers, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.
"Fewer cars are, of course, better than more," Kretschmann told Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
"We have to sell mobility concepts in the future, not just cars. That means walking, bike riding, driving and train riding. We have to link these things together cleverly, so that we continue to make progress and prevent environmental damage."
Can you see Stephen Harper reading off his teleprompter in Oshawa or Oakville or Windsor telling the local population they should produce fewer cars and use less fuel for the sake of the planet? Not likely, but in Germany it's good politics. Kretschmann's Green Party replaced Angela Merkel's conservatives in one of Germany's richest states by hammering away on environmental issues and not just automotive ones.
Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party had ruled the region's state legislature for almost six decades but found itself on the wrong side of the nuclear debate following the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
The Greens went after the German government over the country's 17 nuclear power plants. Feeling the heat, Merkel performed a 180-degree policy pirouette by announcing the closing of seven stations built before 1980. She quickly added that she was now committed to speeding up total withdrawal from nuclear power. This was six months after she had ignored the Greens by extending the life of the plants by an average 12 years.
As a result, Kretschmann's party slid into government by picking up 25 per cent of the vote; that was enough, when combined with the 23.1 per cent for the centre-left Social Democratic party, to form a coalition. Kretschmann has some clout now because German premiers are powerful on both the national and regional level as they get a vote in Germany's upper house, the Bundesrat, which can veto legislation.
No sooner had Kretschmann expressed his views than the auto industry struck back. An industry spokesman said the new premier should take a look at the environmentally friendly cars already rolling off the assembly line in his home state rather than shrinking the industry for the sake of the environment.
Kretschmann held firm that the state's key auto industry must change priorities if it hopes to survive. "The great green vision is to create green product lines from this strong industrial region," he said. "We want to prove that economy and ecology belong together if we don't want to destroy our livelihood."
He added that Baden-Württemberg had a strong research landscape that would provide the right conditions for green innovation.
I think it's good to see a committed Greenie stirring things up to focus attention on the issues and opportunities facing the industry. We've just sleepwalked through a federal election campaign in Canada in which I didn't hear word one about national fuel standards, national electric car infrastructure or national market incentives.
Stuttgart is a great city for any car enthusiast to visit with fabulous museums by both Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. It might also prove an interesting visit for Canadian Greenies who want to get a lesson in successful politicking.