In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

What we can Learn from Monty Python about the Government’s Climate Policy

Posted 8/16/2011 by Grant Mitchell


In the context of climate change science, it increasingly easy to see the evidence of climate change happening and its very concerning trajectory. Denying the science is like denying gravity. In this context, I am often reminded of the iconic Monty Python skit in which a parrot owner returns to the store where he bought the now dead parrot, asking for his money back. He is confronted by a clerk in the store who, in the face of overwhelming evidence of the bird's demise (the dead parrot is in the owner's hand, inert, not breathing, and unresponsive when banged on the counter, etc), continuously and adamantly responds that the parrot is not dead, just sleeping.

While officially on the record as supporting the science of climate change, the government’s actions speak louder than words. The Prime Minister has twice said internationally that he supports the science to limit GHG emissions to levels consistent with limiting temperature increase to 2 degrees on average. But, while saying that, he is systematically dismantling Environment Canada destroying its ability to do much of anything, let alone much of anything on climate change. Recently, the Conservatives announced layoffs of 10% of the department's staff, many of whom are scientists critical to any effective climate change initiatives. On the last day of the spring Senate session, a Conservative Senator made a statement in the Chamber which clearly questioned the science of climate change, without a peep from Harper. Can you imagine if a Senator had stated that Canada does not need the F35s?

And, of course, the proof is really in the policy pudding. Harper's government has done less than nothing about climate change beyond some largely symbolic initiatives. There is no measurable progress against their stated 2020 objective for emission reductions.

It is also strange that while many in the energy industry argue for a carbon price as the preferred way of dealing with the problem, the government’s preferred strategy is regulation. Even the National Post has pointed out that this is the most interventionist possible approach, particularly odd for a party that would ideologically have little to none of that kind of intervention.

This leads me to the conclusion that we will not see regulated reductions from this government. Mr. Kent, an intelligent and well-intentioned person, is in the same impossible situation faced by his myriad of predecessors. He sees the issue, knows we have to do something significant, and will struggle over his tenure in the portfolio to maintain even a shred of credibility while government policy constrains his actions.

Of course, it is difficult to see how the Government plans to launch its promised regulations when it laid off 700 of its staff from Environment Canada.

We all know that talk is cheap. What Canadians are realizing from the flooding, the drought, the violent weather events, the pine beetle infestations etc. is that climate change is not.

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