Sunday, June 29, 2008

Torqued Story Claims Enviroment Falls to #3 Issue - Balderdash

The front page of yesterday’s Globe and Mail has torqued a story so badly that it can’t go without comment. The story is about a new poll from the Strategic Counsel just did for the Globe and CTV.

The torqued headline says “Energy Crisis Supplant Environment as Top Concern.” The sub-head torques even more and says “Poll reveals a shift in attitude that could prove fatal to Dion’s proposed carbon tax.”

First, Strategic Counsel does great work and I have no comment or concerns over the poll or its results. What is so bad is the actual interpreting and reporting on the poll results by the Globe and Mail.

The story says…”The environment, last year’s top issue has been pushed to No. 3 with just 16 percent of Canadians now saying they now consider it their primary concern.”

The fact is the poll found the top three primary concern issues were Economic/unemployment at 18%, Gas Prices at 18% and Environmental at 16%. The poll of a 1000 people in the field for 10 days in June has a margin of error of 3.1% The three issues are all statistically of equal concern given the margin of error. To say environment has dropped to #3 is absurd. In fact, with the margin of error the story could be torqued the other way to say the Environment is still the #1 issue. But that would be wrong too.

The next piece of torque is to presume this is bad news for Dion’s Green Shift project. It is not just a carbon tax policy and to only focus on that aspect of the proposal is also torque. To presume this is bad news for Dion because there are three dominant issues that all inter-relate to the environment concerns is misleading torque. The Dion Green Shift proposal may in fact benefit from this triumvirate of primary Canadian concerns because they are all part of the comprehensive and integrated aspects of the Dion plan. But the trick is to get folks to read and understand the plan.

We need to look at the consequences of our behaviours, lifestyle choices and future focuses on growth as a society. We need to learn to adapt to some harsh realities about our impact on the environment, the economics of our future and get serious about where our jobs will be coming from in the face of globalization. We need to get focused on what we can do about cleaning up our fossil fuel uses and to aggressively encourage conservation and the development of additional alternative energy sources.

These are part and parcel of the context of the primary concerns of Canadians found in the Strategic Counsel poll. Unfortunately they are not part of the Globe and Mail interpretation of the poll’s findings.

The foundational concept of Dion’s Green Plan is to get Canadians into a serious conversation and decision making mode to deal with these primary concerns. We need the MSM to move beyond the horse race kind of political coverage this story perpetuates.

The Globe and Mail is currently doing an excellent job of bringing serious and considered attention to the reality of mental illness in Canada. Mr. Greenspon, as the Editor of the Globe and Mail, please bring the same journalistic substance to encourage a meaningful public policy conversation in Canada about the way we deal with the environment. Stop the silly horse race personality based political coverage and help citizens to look at our environmental policy options in an integrated holistic way.

We need the conversation to start so we can better understand how our environmental policy changes can be done in ways that sustains prosperity for Canadians and enhances the social dimensions of our country. Canada can and should be a role model as a nation in dealing with these issues. Torquing stories that merely feeds the political horse race does not help move us towards this more serious and significant set of concerns shown in these poll results.