President Barack Obama will be visiting Canada for the first time next week and this report from The Calgary Herald predicts that one big topic on the agenda will be cutting greenhouse-gas emissions.
Needless to say, Environment Minister Jim Prentice (pictured upper right) has been assigned the difficult task of finding some way to engage the new U.S administration and the environment is certainly one area that Canada can work together with the United States. Canada's Conservative lead government needs to be seen as making progress on the environmental front and also needs to be seen as having a workable relationship with the new U.S president.
Given that new Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff (pictured left) was recently flaunting his connections to the Obama administration (Ignatieff rides wave of interest in his Obama connections) the Conservatives are smart to do everything they can to get relations off to a positive early start.
Something else to consider is that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not only losing popularity with the Canadian public (not that he was ever very popular except for a few days at the beginning of the last election campaign), but he has also lost a great deal of respect from within his own party. Most Conservatives I talk to are discusted by last November's partisan economic update and the crisis that followed. Jim Prentice is one name that is getting passed around as a suitable replacement. He's from the West, he's a Conservative, he's not nearly as partisan as Stephen Harper, and he looks better.
I'm happy to see Ignatieff as Liberal leader, I'm tiring of Jack Layton in the NDP and wouldn't mind seeing someone fresh there as well. I don't plan on voting Conservative, but if they had a more reasonable leader, I might consider it. As for poor old Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois, I like him well enough but I think his party is going to get back on the track that it was on before the sponsorship scandal, and that is a gradual sunset just like the Ralliement Créditiste before them.
In closing, this could be Jim Prentice's real chance to shine. He could look diplomatic, on the ball and outshine his crazy boss. It could steal some spotlight away from Ignatieff, but Harper will probably hog all the light for himself, make it backfire and put another nail into his party's partially built coffin.