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Liberals' 'evidence-based policy' routine more style than substance

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Readers will be familiar with the cant phrase "evidence-based," used abundantly by the Liberal Party of Canada for some time to distinguish its approach to policy from that, say, of the ideologically blinkered Conservatives.

But these days it doesn't seem to mean what Liberals once thought it meant. In the hands of the current crop of Grits, it's just a verbal talisman to be wielded for political effect.

Take, for example, the manufactured uproar over NDP candidate Linda McQuaig's recent comments on Canada's tar sands. Here is what she said:

"A lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground if we're going to meet our climate change targets," McQuaig said.

"We'll know that better once we properly put in place a climate change accountability system of some kind," she told host Rosemary Barton. "And…once we have a proper review process for our environmental projects like pipelines."

Pretty innocuous stuff. But not during an election campaign.

Conservatives, who tend to think that global warming is a world-wide socialist hoax, groped for their pearls. Stephen Harper set the frantic tone:

That is the NDP's not-so-hidden agenda on development....The NDP is consistently against the development of our resources and our economy. That's why they have been a disaster wherever they've been in government and why they would wreck this economy if they ever got in, and why they must never get into power in this country.

The NDP, wilting in the oil-powered backlash, announced through a spokesperson that keeping the tar sands in the ground is "not the NDP's position." It wasn't McQuaig's either, of course. One might be tempted to introduce a new Twitter hashtag, #NotEveryBarrel.

But the Liberals, led by the callow Justin Trudeau, once again set the benchmark for cheap political grandstanding. McQuaig's comment, says the Hair Apparent, is an "extreme position."

Well, hardly. From the CBC report cited above:

The remark is in line with views expressed by some scientists in recent years. A 2009 paper in the journal Nature by researchers from Oxford University and elsewhere calculated that more than half the planet's proven oil, gas and coal reserves would have to be left in the ground for the world to keep global warming to below two degrees Celsius — considered a critical threshold to avoid massive climate disasters.

Evidence. Science. Conservatives reject both, almost as a matter of principle. But today's Liberals, it seems, are quite willing to jettison them as well, if there's a vote in it.

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