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Be a fan, not a cheerleader for Canada at the Paris climate conference

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Photo: flickr/ Premier ministre du Canada

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Keep Karl on Parl

In my day-to-day life, I have two great sources of existential stress. The first is navigating the politics of climate change in Canada, especially in this post-Harper era. The second is being a die-hard Edmonton Oilers fan.

Each one is filled with its share of crushing disappointment and fleeting moments of joy, but seldom have the two ever crossed. But, with the Paris climate talks on the horizon, I'm realizing more and more, that the we could learn a lot as a movement about how to approach dealing with this new Canadian government by examining my own relationship, as a fan, to the Edmonton Oilers.

Let me explain. My mother is the perfect example of a fan. Ever since 2006, the year the Edmonton Oilers made an underdog run to the Stanley Cup finals, she has transformed into a die-hard Edmonton Oilers fan. She checks the fan websites, follows trade rumours and holds no shortage of strong opinions about the players, coaches and management of the team. She will talk at length about who should get benched, the dire need for a better goaltender, or how the coaching staff are failing all the young players.

As with most Oilers fans, she's often frustrated by the team, but all the while remains hopeful that they will get it together and make another run at the Stanley Cup.

We need to relate to this government the way a fan relates to a sports team -- with an equal mix of hope and frustration. We can't be cheerleaders who express unquestioning support for their team no matter how badly they're playing, nor can we play the role of armchair curmudgeons for whom nothing is ever good enough.

Fans invest in their team's success, and that investment comes with a deep sense of accountability -- exactly what this government needs from a climate movement. We need to watch and track their every move. We need to be quick with both applause to encourage the right kind of action and ready to boo, jeer and event hurl half empty beers at the ice -- metaphorically speaking -- to make it clear when they're offside.

For the first time in a decade, Canada's government wants to be on the right side of history when it comes to climate change. But, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants Canada to be "back" on the global climate file, there's still a wide gap between the government's plans and what we know is necessary on climate change.

The Paris climate talks are the season opener for this government when it comes to climate change, and so far the pre-season record has been pretty weak. There is a clear gap between Trudeau's bold words on climate change and the lack of concrete actions, or real ambition on the part of this government to listen to the science of climate change.

Earlier this week Trudeau hosted an anti-climactic meeting with Canada's premiers ahead of the Paris climate talks, of which there was no real outcome. This despite the fact that scientists briefing the meeting explained that Canada was warming at twice the global average.

On top of this, the government has shifted their talking points on climate, but remains committed to show up in Paris using Stephen Harper's climate plan, which falls far short of what we need, as a starting point.

Perhaps most concerning is that this government has expressed support for expanding tar sands development, a position that runs headlong into the clear scientific imperative to freeze tar sands expansion and keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Going into Paris, this government looks like a coach giving a season-opening press conference one year after a terrible season with the exact same players, in the same condition and running all the same plays.

Sure, they have a new set of uniforms and are giving away free t-shirts, but as a fan, I want to see real change, not just a new look.

Cam Fenton is a Canadian Tar Sands Organizer with 350.org  and a Climate Justice enthusiast. Follow him on twitter @CamFenton.

Photo: flickr/ Premier ministre du Canada

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