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Norman Spector

A climate-change election? Add to ...

In the Globe and Mail, the headline reads "China diminishes hope for global climate deal." The Toronto Star, by contrast, tells us that " China steps up as climate change leader." And, reading the international press, you find the same mixed reviews of yesterday's speeches.

In Québec, by contrast, the media are principally onto Stephen Harper's no-show at the UN, reflecting the Prime Minister's low standing in that province and the strong desire for an election to send him packing.

Asked by a Le Devoir reporter (who's appears to be looking to speed things up) whether the NDP will support the Harper government right up to the Copenhagen conference, Jack Layton sounds distinctly uncomfortable:

"We've not decided. There's no time frame for our support. We'll decide case by case."

Mr. Layton's decidedly unenthusiastic reply must be due to the NDP's financial state and its position in the polls. Because an election on climate change would otherwise be an attractive proposition.

For one thing, it would allow the NDP to make a pitch for otherwise Green votes. And, given Canada's disastrous record on curbing carbon emissions, it would lend credence to the party's messaging that Liberals and Conservatives are two sides of the same coin.

To Conservatives riding high in the polls after Michael Ignatieff's recent antics, an election on climate change may not look that bad a proposition either. It would allow them to contrast their tough approach to international negotiations with the lamentable performance of the Liberals during the Kyoto process. Moreover, an election now would allow the Conservatives to quickly move the discussion onto the economy, Canadians' No. 1 concern, and Mr. Harper's overwhelming advantage relative to Mr. Ignatieff in a Nanos poll slated for release this week.

That, in itself, would not deter the NDP, since the party is not selected by voters to manage the economy. However, with the high degree of uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Copenhagen conference, it could be a challenge - though not impossible - for Jack Layton to frame a ballot issue related to climate change.

Stay tuned.

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