Bush's Chief Climate "Spinmaster" Tells Harper How It's Done

Wed, 2006-05-31 13:40Ross Gelbspan
Ross Gelbspan's picture

Bush's Chief Climate "Spinmaster" Tells Harper How It's Done

According to Bill Berkowitz, at Media Transparency, Frank Luntz has been keeping busy these days advising Canada's own Stephen Harper. Read the full story here.

Also interesting is this piece from the Kitchener Waterloo Record. It would seem we're not being terribly creative with our approach – read on to find out how Environment Minister Ambrose is using Luntz's tactics almost to the letter these days.

Tory Kyoto strategy mirrors U.S. plan
May 15, 2006

Environmentalists say the Conservatives' communications strategy on climate change almost exactly echoes advice in a three-year-old briefing book written by U.S. pollster and communications adviser Frank Luntz.

Luntz is famous for what he calls “language guidance'' – the use of simple messages, carefully tested and frequently repeated, to overcome public suspicions on potentially unpopular policies.

“If you look at the advice he (Luntz) gave to the Republicans some time ago and compare it to how the Conservatives are talking about these things, it's just cut-and-paste, basically,'' said Stephen Guilbeault of Greenpeace Canada.

Luntz has long been associated with the Conservative party and its forerunners. He recently spoke to a meeting of the Civitas Society attended by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other top Conservatives.

In his 2003 memo he told Republicans not to use economic arguments against environmental regulations, because environmental arguments would always win out with average Americans concerned about their health. Luntz also told his U.S. clients to stress common sense and accountability.

“First, assure your audience that you are committed to 'preserving and protecting' the environment but that 'it can be done more wisely and effectively.' Absolutely do not raise economic arguments first.''

Since the Conservatives took office, they have consistently stressed their commitment to clean air and water, and tried to avoid discussion of cutting back environmental programs – although many have been eliminated.

“My mandate is to have accountability on the environment and show real results and action on the environment for Canadians,'' Ambrose told the Commons last week.

Luntz advises that technology and innovation are the keys to curbing climate change, a theme the Conservatives have repeatedly echoed. “We will be investing in Canadian technology and in Canadians,'' Ambrose told MPs.

Despite his general aversion to economic arguments, Luntz does advises putting the cost of regulation in human terms, emphasizing how specific activities will cost more, from “pumping gas to turning on the light.''

Ambrose has claimed that “we would have to pull every truck and car off the street, shut down every train and ground every plane to reach the Kyoto target. Or we could shut off all the lights in Canada tomorrow.''

Luntz advises use of the term “climate change'' rather than “global warming,'' which he says is more frightening. Ambrose has avoided either term in the Commons, speaking about the need to curb greenhouse emissions, without referring to the reasons for doing so.

Luntz calls “international fairness'' the key emotional argument against Kyoto, saying Americans won't accept targets unless developing countries like India and China also do so. Ambrose has repeatedly used that argument.

“The reality is that the Harper government has studied Republican tactics carefully and is implementing them one at a time,'' said Louise Comeau, project director of the Sage Climate Project.

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