Dispatch from the Front Line: Dicks in space! (And the Green Party executive and Nova Scotia Liberals and ....)
Hate Amazon all you want, but it's still a rocket, dammit.
Happy Friday, friends. As we noted in our last dispatch, we had some behind-the-scenes stuff to attend to, and we’ve largely got caught up on all that. We’ve been doing The Line for almost a full year and that meant we just had to tackle the housekeeping we’ve been putting off, because, well, ugh, housekeeping. But it’s basically under control now? We think? So good.
We’ve also commissioned some pieces and they’ve started to trickle in, so you’ll have some reading to look forward to next week. And … that’s basically it for the updates.
Now, let’s get to the dicks.
Well, first, actually, let’s get to Mark Carney. After spending the first half of the year signaling his every intention to jump into federal politics and run for the Liberals in the election expected sometime in the next few months, Carney has finally said nope, maybe next time.
Maybe it was because he realized he’d rather not have more chats like the one he had in June with Pierre Poilievre. Or maybe watching the speculation over his political ambitions grow into the subject of a sexist meme was starting to grate. But ultimately, Carney turned to the most dopey of metaphors to explain his reluctance to enter federal politics this fall. “As a goalie, I know you don’t skate off the ice in the third period of a must-win game.”
What Carney was referring to, somewhat obtusely, was his commitment to helping organize the financial sector for the UN climate conference scheduled to take place in Glasgow during the first two weeks of November.
And while we’d be happy to spend some time parsing the “I have to wash my hair that night, yep the night after that too” aspect of this, there’s something a bit more interesting at work. Because by our count, this is the third very senior member of Justin Trudeau’s inner circle to abandon (or avoid) federal politics in order to focus on solving global climate change.
The first of course was Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerry Butts, who resigned in February 2019 after barely three years in the PMO, during which time he was widely referred to as “Prime Minister Butts.” While he stepped down amidst allegations that senior members of the PMO had pressured then-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to cut a special deal for SNC-Lavalin, Butts’ departure never made a lot of sense from either an issues management or political accountability point of view.
Yet while everyone sort of expected that Butts would eventually slide back into the PMO in time for the next election, he made his departure permanent. He took a position as vice chairman and senior advisor with the Eurasia Group, a consulting group where he appears to be focusing on helping clients manage climate-change related risk.
Then there is Catherine McKenna, who spent over four years as Canada’s minister for climate change and the environment before moving over to the infrastructure file after the 2019 election. In June, McKenna announced that she would not be seeking re-election, saying that she was done with politics and wanted to spend more time with her kids. But McKenna also said that one of her main reasons for leaving office was to focus her efforts on fighting climate change.
Which brings us back around to Carney, declining to run for office because he’s busy helping save the world from climate change.
Look, no one is obliged to work in politics. We at The Line wouldn’t do it for all the tea in China. (And we like our tea.) But it does strike as a bit odd that three of the most committed climate change fighters in the Liberal party (and yes, we’re going to just go ahead and call Carney a Liberal), who are also three of the most powerful people in the party, see better opportunities for advancing their agenda outside of politics. And it makes us wonder what this says about the Liberals, about politics, and about Canada.
One (snarky) answer is that there’s more money to be made consulting to governments and corporations about climate change than there is in actually fighting it. And while that may be true, we doubt that’s the real motivation for any of these three. Another possibility is that there’s nothing left for Ottawa to do on climate change — the national carbon tax has been upheld by the Supreme Court, and now that policy tool just has to curb undesirable behaviours, as advertised.
But that doesn’t seem quite right. Canada is a long way from meeting its climate obligations, and no one expects the carbon tax alone to get us within shouting distance of the reductions we need to make. (A new report released just this week, in fact, concludes that even when we factor in our recently announced plans to raise the carbon tax, that still leaves us missing our revised targets by miles.) There is a great deal of heavy lifting left to be done, and it is going to have to be done at the federal level. Which is why the reluctance of Butts, McKenna, and now Carney to engage the fight at that level makes us wonder what they know that we don’t — about the scale and scope of the fight, the financial, economic, and political costs, or the limits of federal power and authority.
Because to end this with a hackneyed metaphor of our own: abandoning federal politics to focus on fighting climate change seems a bit like quitting the NHL to concentrate on your pro hockey career.
But enough about Earth-bound problems and the trivial concerns of all you nominally sentient bipedal carbon units. Let’s talk about what really matters: space! Also known as, The Escape Hatch.
You’ve probably noticed by now that your Line editors are space enthusiasts. It’s been an interesting few weeks on that front. Sir Richard Branson flew out of the atmosphere, into free-fall (not zero-G, you scientific illiterates!), on a Virgin Galactic space plane. That said, he didn’t get high enough to cross the Kármán line, which, in the absence of any real international agreement on where the Earth ends and space begins, is as close as we come to a functional definition of the edge of space. (It’s an altitude of 100 km, for those wondering.) Jeff Bezos, of Amazon wealth and fame, did cross that line this week, along with three passengers, including Wally Funk, which was cool, if you’re into that sort of thing. (We are.) Bezos was riding a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket; Blue Origin is a company he founded and funded with his own gigantic wealth.
Look, let’s face facts — your Line editors are into space. We just are. But yeah, we agree that space policy is important enough and complicated enough to warrant debate. Reasonable people can have different views on this stuff. And we also agree that there are important debates to have about the accumulated wealth of billionaires, and the distorting effects that wealth can have on politics and society.
But unlike a bunch of ya’ll, we don’t get confused about a debate over income inequality and a debate over space travel. You can despise Bezos, Amazon and everything he’s done there, and still recognize that what he is doing on the space front is important. Everyone rolling their eyes at Bezos matching space flight capabilities that the Soviets and Americans achieved literally 60 years ago is allowing their desire to rack up some sweet Twitter likes with a snarky dunk blind themselves to the fact that Bezos (and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which is way ahead of Blue Origin) aren’t just recreating earlier capabilities, they are massively improving on them.
So yeah, Blue Origin can now do what the Soviets and U.S. could do 60 years ago, but they’re doing it more safely, more efficiently and much, much more sustainably than national space agencies did. Reusability isn’t a frill, it’s a massive game-changer. And as much fun as it is to snort when these private-sector companies recreate an existing capability, do you really think they’re going to stop there?
Sir Branson’s company could be written off as a tourism play for the affluent. Fair enough. Except that making space flight economically viable is the first step to ensuring that capability is both sustainable and more broadly accessible in the long run. Further, Bezos and especially Musk are inventing new and transformative space-flight capabilities. They are materially pushing back against the final frontier in ways that we simply have not before. It won’t matter unless we choose to do anything with these new capabilities, and your guess is as good as ours as to whether or not we will. But we could. That’s huge.
As huge as the gigantic dick-shaped rocket Bezos rode up. Yeah, yeah. We snorted, too. But, like, seriously, folks — making penis jokes about the shape of an object dictated by aerodynamic considerations isn’t quite as witty as you think: the rockets are shaped like penises because they literally have to be in order to work. Having a giggle is fine, but if you actually think you’re making a real point about misogyny and fragile male egos when you get snippy (ahem) about a schlong-shaped rocket, well, we’d love to see what happens when your very emotionally vigorous and feminist vagina-shaped space vehicle hits max Q. So long as we aren’t aboard it or in the landing area for its hurtling debris.
Our main point still stands: don’t let your cynicism and even revulsion at these guys blind you to what they’re doing. Bezos isn’t gonna stop at Yuri Gagarin-vintage accomplishments. Musk sure hasn’t. This’ll matter. It’s time to get serious. They are.
Meanwhile, way over here on the opposite end of the seriousness spectrum, alas, we find the Green Party of Canada. (Dick references here are entirely appropriate.) Honestly, what can we say? Seriously. We are at a loss. If we were one of the poor saps forced to write the explainer story for a newspaper, we’d have to recap it all at length for you, but, thank God, we aren’t. If you’ve been paying attention, you know what we mean. If you haven’t been, we wouldn’t dare ruin a beautiful summer day by telling you about it all. Suffice it to say, days after the party’s several-months-long period of internal strife and civil war ended, and was declared over by the involved parties … the Green party’s executive decided to start it up all over again by taking their own leader to court.
Folks, your Line editors have covered a lot of wild stuff in their careers. We’ve seen a lot of additional wild stuff, too, just as citizens. But we ain’t never seen anything quite like this. And demonstrating yet again her manifest inability to read a room and further confirm — as if confirmation were still needed — that she was always overrated, Elizabeth May thinks that now is a good time to tout how serious the Green party is about an issue that, uhhh, threatens the future of human civilization.
Yeah, Liz. Canadians can count on the bunch of idiots very publicly convening a circular firing squad — just hours after agreeing to stop shooting at each other in their last public circular firing squad — to have a real plan on climate change. After all, when facing serious issues, only the most serious politicians and party flaks will do.
Now back to sex. In particular, your Line editors would like to note this sordid tale out of Nova Scotia. Candidate for Dartmouth South, Robyn Ingraham, announced that she was dropping her bid to run for the provincial Liberals on Saturday, noting: “the time commitment and intensity of a campaign and the impact it will have on my mental health."
It did not take long, however, for Ingraham to clarify. Mental health issues aren’t what pushed her out, she claimed. Rather, upon hearing that she had pursued some extra income through “boudoir” photos — better known in the parlance of our times as an OnlyFans account — Ingraham alleges that the “higher ups” in the party got nervous. Ultimately, they gave her two statements to announce her resignation, and she chose that one.
While we have no doubt that certain elements of the electorate might, indeed, be uncomfortable electing a politician who engaged in morally debatable, albeit totally legal, professional work of this nature, if her account holds true, we can’t help but think the party acted much more shamefully. Ingraham says she was entirely forthcoming about the likelihood of naughty photos going public. And the party, rather than own up to its discomfort, instead tried to fall back on a mental health excuse that wasn’t true, thus further stigmatizing public participation among those who have suffered mental health issues.
The story is more interesting than this single case, of course. As more young people are pulled into politics, these are the kinds of issues that parties are going to have to get much better at navigating.
Unless you want future electeds to be drawn solely from the ranks of kids who join political youth wings in their teens — which we do not — we are going to have to contend with the fact that just about every normal under-30 from hereon in will have questionable material stubbornly indexed deep in the caches of the forever-net. Sexual mores, especially online, are radically and rapidly shifting; sexting, and even some forms of online “sex work” are increasingly mainstream for young women. Let’s also note the sex-based double standard; which gender do we expect is more likely to get in trouble with an OnlyFans account? What kinds of personal moral and conduct standards do we expect our next generation of leaders to have met? And will those expectations of past purity penalize certain genders and classes more than others? These are questions we should probably start asking before we scare away too many young women like Robyn Ingraham.
Only one item to put in our round up this week, Line readers, so we’ll just link and move on: check our Ray Pennings’ piece on whether Canada has gone so progressive that it has come full-circle and is now a hostile place for minorities — especially religious minorities. Check it out.
Other than that, folks, take care of yourselves. We’ll catch you soon — still at a reduced publication schedule due to the summer, but … not quite as reduced as we’ve been of late. We hope this absurdly long dispatch will make up for our comparative silence.
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