Conservative MP With Record of Poor Judgement Goes Public as Climate Change Skeptic While St. Lawrence Seaway Stays Ice-Free

Quebec Conservative MP Maxime Bernier went public this week on climate change, lauding the federal government’s inaction on this issue and sharing his opinion on the science. Bernier has distinguished himself so far in his political career by getting demoted as Foreign Affairs Minister after dating a woman with ties to Quebec’s biker gangs, and compounding this poor judgement by leaving sensitive cabinet documents in her apartment.  Bernier’s letter, published in the French language newspaper La Presse this week, can be read in English here or in French here.  Here are some excerpts:

Every week that goes by confirms the wisdom of our government’s modest positionThere is, in fact, no scientific consensus. What’s certain is that it would be irresponsible to spend billions of dollars to impose unnecessarily stringent regulations to resolve a problem whose gravity we still are not certain about. The alarmism that often characterized this issue is no longer at stake. Canada is right to be cautious.

Bernier also felt qualified to comment on climate science, saying that the sun might be responsible for temperature changes and that the Earth might actually be cooling.

It is interesting to watch the Conservative government distance themselves from Bernier, when in fact Bernier is the first Conservative MP to publicly expose the ideology underlying the Harper Conservative’s climate change policy. The Conservative Government is careful to say the right things about climate science (for example, a recent letter from my Conservative MP Greg Rickford says, “We support an approach to climate change that achieves real environmental and economic benefits for all Canadians.”) But in reality, the Harper government’s targets are not science-based, they have introduced no legislation to back-up emissions reductions, and they have shown no support for renewable energy.  Last year, the Harper Conservatives cut all funding to the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, the main funding body for university research on climate in Canada. So while Environment Minister Prentice says that Bernier’s views on climate change are not those of the Canadian government, the government record says differently.

Meanwhile, Bernier might be well-advised to spend some time researching what is going on in his own backyard with regard to climate change.  As reported this morning on CBC’s World Report, no sea ice has formed in the St. Lawrence Seaway this winter.  According to Environment Canada, which describes the St. Lawrence as an “enormous ice-making machine”, between January and the end of February ice normally gradually builds up in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, eventually covering it completely  (click here to view a map of the average ice cover in the Gulf at this time of year).  However, although it is the end of February, no sea ice has yet formed. As one old-timer commented “I’m 69 years old and have never seen that before.”  A scientist was quoted as saying “Over the last decade the ice hasn’t been as good as it has been in previous decades so that suggests a longer-term trend.” The government’s own scientists at Environment Canada report that Great Lakes region experienced a 0.7°C temperature increase between 1985 and 1991 (click here for more).

Mr. Bernier, wake up and sniff the emissions – your climate science judgement is even poorer than your judgement in women and in the protection of cabinet secrets.

For more discussion on this, go to or CBC’s Inside Politics.

Bernier and former girlfriend Julie Couillard

Premier Charest: “I Never Thought That Aligning Our Policies With The United States Was Good Enough For Canada”

In a curious twist, Quebec Premier Jean Charest is publicly defending Canada’s national interest.  Charest recently responded to the Harper government’s so-called “policy” on climate change, which is to do whatever the U.S. does (read this recent post for more). The premier of the province with the most ambivalent relationship with the rest of  Canada finds himself defending Canada’s right to its own climate change plan.  Charest recently questioned why Canada’s national policy is to follow the American’s lead, and denounced the Conservative government’s declaration that Canada’s climate plan is to mimic whatever policy the U.S. government eventually adopts. Mr. Charest said this week:

The only federal plan is to align with the United States. However, I never in my life thought that aligning our policies with the United States was good enough for Canada.”

Meanwhile, federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice recently slammed Quebec’s new environmental regulations that set more stringent emissions standards for vehicles, saying they are :

an absolutely counter-productive and utterly pointless way to cut greenhouse-gas emissions that will ultimately put Canada at a competitive disadvantage in the North American marketplace.

Charest disagreed, pointing out that 14 states have adopted similar legislation.  Recently Quebec’s Environment Minister Line Beauchamp accused her federal counterpart of being a stooge of the auto industry. In an interview with the Canadian Press, Beauchamp said:

He’s endorsing arguments advanced by automobile manufacturers and that discourages me.”

Bloc Québécois environment critic Bernard Bigras supported Quebec’s new vehicle emissions standards, saying that it is similar to the one adopted by 15 U.S. states representing 40 per cent of the U.S market. Bigras said:

Quebec isn’t alone. Ontario also wants to move ahead on this issue but Ottawa is retreating. We appear to be on a collision course here.”

The reluctance on the part of the federal government to articulate a uniquely Canadian plan to one of the biggest issues of this century should be very concerning to Canadians of all political stripes.  It is an abdication of responsibility, and should have Canadians wondering about the leadership qualities of this government.  Kudos to Premier Charest, for giving voice to concerns that Canadians inside and outside Quebec share!

Premier Charest: “We Have to Lead By Example” On Climate Change

Quebec premier Jean Charest has emerged as a North American leader on climate change.  He is one of  only a handful of elected politicians who are speaking out strongly and eloquently about the reality of climate change.  Charest has nearly 3 decades of experience in Canadian politics, serving as a Member of Parliament from 1983 to 1998, holding such portfolios as Minister of the Environment and Deputy Prime Minister before becoming leader of the Quebec Liberal Party in 1998.  He has been premier of the province since 2003.

While in Copenhagen in December, Charest strongly denounced Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s stance on climate change.  As reported in the Canadian Press on December 22, 2009, Charest tore a strip off of the federal government’s environmental performance.

In 25 years in politics, Charest says, he’s never seen a federal government rely so heavily on the White House before taking a position on an issue, with Ottawa now saying it will model its climate policy on Washington’s.

Charest says the Harper government has displayed hostility toward environmentalists.

Charest was referring to the incident in Copenhagen when Harper press secretary Dimitri Soudas accused Canadian environmentalist Steven Guilbeault – on camera – of being behind a spoof designed to embarrass the Canadian government .  The American pranksters The Yes Men later took responsibility for the stunt.

“You saw it like I did,” Charest told the Quebec television network [TVA].

“His press secretary attacking an environmentalist – on the basis of false information.”

Here is Jean Charest speaking at the Subnational Leadership – Beyond Cap and Trade, an event in Copenhagen co-hosted by the Georgetown Climate Center and the Climate Registry.