After five years of Mr. Harper being
in power, I suspect I have run out of different ways to say that he doesn’t
care about climate change. Point in case was the recent federal budget. The
Conservatives’ showed their true colors and they certainly weren’t green.
The budget would spend billions on
jets, jails, and corporate tax cuts ($60 billion over 10 yrs), but only a
pittance on fighting climate change. Mr. Harper will go out of his way to fight
overstated risks that support his law and order agenda, but he is doggedly
persistent in doing nothing to fight the global threat of climate change, which
actually poses real risks for Canada.
Of all the talk of fig-leaves in the
lead up to the budget, the real fig leaves were for the Conservatives’
themselves. They allotted just enough money for the home retrofit program to
generate another set of talking points to further the illusion that Canada has a
climate change plan. Courtesy of the Conservatives’ inaction, we don’t.
Even Environment Canada has admitted
the impending failure of the government to meet its own climate change targets.
With only the existing policies, emissions will be allowed to rise by almost
30% above the target which the Conservatives agreed to at the Copenhagen summit. Knowing this information,
it’s admirable that Environment Minister Peter Kent could keep a straight face
when pronouncing this January that, “Canada has a credible plan for
addressing our environmental challenges, and we are well advanced in executing
that plan.” Let’s see it! Without a comprehensive plan the only credible
outcome of Mr. Harper’s climate change policy will be inaction.
A recap of five years of
Conservative climate policy shows us just how far Mr. Harper is willing to go
to avoid climate change action. Canada
has had an average of a different Environment Minister each year, and a
different environmental plan to match. Anyone remember when we were going to
have a, “Made in Canada,”
plan? Or, the Conservatives’ commitment to setting up a cap and trade system?
Most recently, in a spectacular about-face, the Conservatives say they intend
to regulate emissions in an effort to meet the target. This was apparently
premised upon the US
need to give up on cap and trade after the mid-term election of too many Tea
Party driven Republicans. If a=b and b=c, then the Conservatives’ climate
change policy is driven by the Tea Party.
Let’s put the ‘commitment’ to regulate GHG’s
in perspective. This is a conservative government
that has shown time and again that it believes government is the problem. Mr.
Harper also set up a commission about ending regulatory red-tape in Canada in only
January of this year. And now, the Conservatives have turned their back on
market based instruments like cap and trade, which are recommended by a litany
of economists, in favor of command and control regulations. Even the National
Post was critical of the Conservatives approach; deriding it as bordering on
communism. What concerns me, however, is that this seems to be just another
position for the sake of political expediency. Why else would a party that
prides itself on championing the free market even dream of pursuing regulation
over a cap and trade system?
The intransience of the
Conservatives on climate change underlines that they are also poor economic
managers. Who else would have missed the opportunity to provide large clean
technology investments with the stimulus package? Other countries, like China, didn’t.
The proportion of their stimulus package devoted to environmental investment
was almost five times Canada’s
response. One study indicates that if Canada had matched that
proportionate level of investment, we could have created 60% more jobs from the
Further, the well worn argument from
the Conservatives about the necessity of waiting for US action is a red-herring. The
respected arms-length National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy,
which has many Conservative appointees, recommended in a recent report that
Canada move ahead of the US. By implementing a price ceiling in a cap and trade
system Canada could begin
the work of reducing emissions, set up the necessary infrastructure and still
have prices that would not be out of sync with an eventual US system.
The short-term, politically
expedient approach of Mr. Harper is going to have big costs in the future both
for the economy and the environment. This past federal budget was yet another
missed opportunity for Mr. Harper, a milestone many Canadians are tired of