Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Democracy dies when activists wield more influence than voters.
Unlike 13-year-old Jack Rico, Greta Thunberg has not earned multiple college degrees. Rather, she is the child of Swedish celebrities, an opera singer and an actor. Having turned 17 in January, she is a media mirage. A publicist’s creation.
Thunberg is too young to vote in Sweden. She is too young to vote here, in Canada. Yet she keeps trying to tell our Prime Minister what to do.
Last September, she was granted a private audience with Justin Trudeau in a Montreal hotel. Afterward, she told journalists: “He’s, of course, obviously not doing enough.”
In February, via Twitter, Thunberg promoted a newspaper article written by US climate activist Bill McKibben, headlined When it comes to climate hypocrisy, Canada’s leaders have reached a new low. Published in the UK Guardian, that article attacked an oil project amid fears that, nine years and $1 billion after it was first proposed, it might finally receive government approval.
Think about that for a minute. A Swedish teenager. An American activist. A UK newspaper. All ganging up on Canada. Second-guessing the democratically elected Canadian government. Insisting their own judgment should supersede Canada’s system of environmental regulation. Working in concert to marginalize the voices and views of ordinary Canadians. (According to a public opinion poll, the project was supported by 49% of Canadians, and opposed by 40%.)
Last week, Thunberg signed a letter which argues, in essence, that Canada doesn’t deserve a seat on the United Nation Security Council because it hasn’t yet killed off all oil and gas production. The billions of dollars that that industry contributes to government coffers every year, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it provides may mean nothing to a 17-year-old who lives in a foreign country. But that money is real. Those jobs are real. If they disappear, Canadians will suffer.
Two days ago, journalists treated Thunberg’s reaction to the arrest of Alberta First Nation Chief Allan Adam as newsworthy. As if the opinions of a teenager who resides a continent away are remotely relevant.
Youthful idealists see the world in stark terms – right versus wrong. Grownups recognize that every choice we make involves trade offs. There’s rarely a perfect solution. In the real world, we need to pay the rent, put food on the table, and fund the healthcare system. If we could do all those things entirely with ‘renewable energy,’ many of us would be happy to do so. But that isn’t possible right now, despite what 17-year-olds believe.
Canadians have a right to chart our own destiny. We have a right to make our own decisions and our own choices. We deserve leaders who represent our views and our values.
There isn’t much point to elections if government policy is determined by Swedish teenagers.