This exchange took place in the Canadian House of Commons yesterday:
Mr. Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay—Superior North, GP): Mr. Speaker, two of Canada’s greatest challenges are rising CO2 and growing poverty. The Conservative government has not addressed either one. Proposed by the Citizens Climate Lobby, carbon fee and dividend would address both by setting a fee on carbon to curb our petrol addictions and putting that money straight back into the pockets of each and every Canadian.
Will the Minister of Finance please consider carbon fee and dividend?
Response: Mr. Colin Carrie (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I am happy to say that our approach is working. Thanks to our actions, carbon emissions will go down close to 130 megatonnes from what they would have been under the Liberals. What does the other parties want? They want a $20-billion carbon tax. Let us look at what this would do to hard-working Canadian families. This would be a tax on electricity, transportation, heating for their homes, clothes, groceries, and the list goes on. Canadians do not want more taxes. They do not want a $20-billion carbon tax.
We are going to continue with our approach.
The Canadian federal government seems intent on maintaining the status quo, and claiming to take action on climate change with sector-by-sector regulation which doesn’t even apply to the oil and gas industry.
As a Canadian and a mother concerned about climate change, I don’t find your regurgitated talking points reassuring, Mr. Carrie. Canada can do better.
Here’s what President Obama said in an interview with Thomas Friedman on Showtime’s Years Of Living Dangerously segment that aired yesterday:
The way we’ve solved previous pollution problems like acid rain was we said, “we’re gonna charge you if you’re releasing this stuff into the atmosphere. We’re gonna let you figure it out, but we’re gonna to tell you that you can’t keep dumping it out in the atmosphere and making everybody else pay for it.” So if there is one thing I would like to see, it’d be for us to be able to price the cost of carbon emissions.
Here’s a clip of part of the interview:
Mr Carrie and his leader might want to pay attention to what the President of the United States of America says about climate change. Stephen Harper and his government have always linked Canada’s policy to that of the U.S. – at least as long as the U.S. wasn’t taking a leadership role. It seems the U.S. is changing its tune but Mr. Harper’s still singing from the old songbook.
The Alberta tar sands aren’t only environmentally friendly, they’re good for the ozone layer, they will stop illiteracy and alleviate erectile dysfunction; and that’s just the tip of the melting iceberg! Don’t believe me? The Canadian federal government can’t stop gushing over them, so they must be out-of-this-world amazing!
Power, like a desolating pestilence,Pollutes whate’er it touches.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Queen Mab
What a week in “Ottawapiskat”! In Canada’s capital city the embattled government of Stephen Harper is facing one scandal after another, topped yesterday by the very public exit from the CPC caucus of MP Brent Rathgeber. Mr. Rathgeber represents the riding of Edmonton – St. Albert, in the heart of Harper Conservative country. Mr. Rathgeber tweeted yesterday:
My decision to resign from the CPC Caucus is because of the Government’s lack of commitment to transparency and open government.
On his blog, the former CPC backbencher elaborated (boldface added):
Recent allegations concerning expense scandals and the Government’s response has been extremely troubling. I joined the Reform/conservative movements because I thought we were somehow different, a band of Ottawa outsiders riding into town to clean the place up, promoting open government and accountability. I barely recognize ourselves, and worse I fear that we have morphed into what we once mocked.
I am reminded of a conversation I had with then-Conservative President (now Senator) Don Plett during the middle of the Liberal sponsorship scandal. The sponsorship scandal, which Harper has been getting political mileage out of for nearly a decade, was caused by the Liberal government’s mishandling of millions of dollars of taxpayer’s funds that was earmarked to promote federalism in Quebec but ended up lining the pockets of some unethical and unaccountable PR firms with ties to the Liberals. The scandal has permanently tainted the Liberal Party’s reputation inside and outside Quebec. But I digress. In the name of full disclosure I should admit that Mr. Plett is part of my extended family – we both hail from the same small prairie community where almost everyone is related (or was, back in the day when I was a child). It’s not a connection that I shout from the rooftops, and if Don is aware of the fact that his cousin’s daughter is a climate activist and blogger I’m sure he’s not publicizing it widely either.
But back to 2004, during the middle of the sponsorship scandal. I was on an Air Canada flight and during a stopover in Calgary I overheard a person seated near me engaging in a very animated conversation about the scandal, clearly from an Ottawa-insider perspective. When I looked closer, I realized it was Don Plett, whom I hadn’t seen in decades although I was aware of his rise from local plumber to the one of the most powerful positions in the Reform/CPC ranks. After greeting each other, we discussed the scandal. Don was rubbing his hands in glee at the prospect of the Martin government falling because of its financial malfeasance. My response was that if the Conservatives were elected I expected the same thing to happen, the idea of which he protested against very emphatically. But once again, the old adage is proved correct – power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Meanwhile Greenpeace Canada is having some fun at the expense of Mr Harper and his government’s $16 million budget for pro-oil sands advertising. Yup, our taxpayer dollars hard at work imperiling our children’s air, water, and climate!
We are living in interesting times, as the saying goes. Here in Canada, the house of cards that is the federal Conservative government of Stephen Harper is starting to self-destruct; the only surprising thing to me is that it took this long to happen. The Harper government is throwing bodies overboard as fast as they can, hoping to avert the crisis and avoid closer scrutiny by voters and the media. Senator Mike Duffy, receiver of $90,000 personal cheques from Harper’s Chief of Staff and filer of dubious expense claims, has left the Conservative caucus but remains at the taxpayer’s expense a member of the Senate. Senator Pamela Wallin, whose exorbitant expenses were much defended by Harper & friends up until very recently, joined Duffy in his departure from the Conservative Senate caucus late last week, but (like Duffy) continues to receive her salary from us the taxpayers. Early this long weekend Sunday, as Stephen Harper prepared to exit the country for a visit to South America, Nigel Wright (writer of the afore-mentioned $90,000 personal cheque to Duffy) also announced his resignation from the PMO.
What other grenades remain in this government’s closet, waiting to explode? Stay tuned; but as a climate activist and mom who has seen her children’s health and climate stability being sacrificed on the alter of Harper’s pro-oil, short-term-profit agenda I’m having the best Victoria Day weekend I’ve had since Harper came to power in 2006. My schadenfreude meter was particularly high this morning when I noticed the hashtag #PMHarperShouldResign was trending on Twitter in both Ottawa and Toronto. Now that’s the start of a good holiday Monday!
One of the Canadians who has been speaking out fearlessly about the federal government’s muzzling of scientists and artists while it pursues its fossil-foolish goals is Toronto artist and writer (and friend of 350orbust) Franke James. Franke has a new graphic book, Banned On The Hill: A True Story of Dirty Oil And Government Censorship, and she’s got a IndieGoGo campaign to help spread the word about the book, which tells the story of how a single-minded focus on tar (“oil”) sands expansion at all costs, including democracy, is playing out in Canada right now under this government. If you want to support this talented and outspoken artist, as well as Canadian democracy, consider donating to the Banned on the Hill campaign.
This week twelve climate scientists and energy experts penned a letter to Canada’s Natural Resources (aka “Oil”) Minister, Joe Oliver, to express their concern about his ongoing support for building new pipelines and expanding fossil fuel production in face of the threat of climate change.
Mr. Oliver was an international banker before he was elected to represent the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence in 2011, so it is understandable that he’s a little fuzzy on the details of climate science. What isn’t reasonable in a minister of the Canadian federal government is the unwillingness of a former banker to learn from, and follow the advice of, experts in the field of climate science. Unfortunately in this department Mr. Oliver is following the lead of Stephen Harper, who has a graduate degree in (neo-con) economics. Harper and Oliver clearly skipped out of their high school science classes, where they might have learned that the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.
Harvard University professor David Keith was blunt in his condemnation of this government’s approach, stating in an interview with CBC that it is time for the Conservative government to “grow up” on climate change and adopt a more balanced approach:
They need to balance the long-term environmental risks and the benefits to Canadians … not using the atmosphere as a waste dump for carbon. And they need to balance that against desire in current laws, for companies to export oil.
As climate scientists, economists and policy experts who have devoted our careers to understanding the climate and energy systems, we share your view that “climate change is a very serious issue.”
But some of your recent comments give us significant cause for concern. In short, we are not convinced that your advocacy in support of new pipelines and expanded fossil fuel production takes climate change into account in a meaningful way.
Avoiding dangerous climate change will require significantly reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and making a transition to cleaner energy.
The infrastructure we build today will shape future choices about energy. If we invest in expanding fossil fuel production, we risk locking ourselves in to a high carbon pathway that increases greenhouse gas emissions for years and decades to come.
The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) “450 scenario” looks at the implications of policy choices designed to give the world a fair chance of avoiding 2˚C of global warming. In that scenario, world oil demand is projected to peak this decade and fall to 10 per cent below current levels over the coming decades. The IEA concludes that, absent significant deployment of carbon capture and storage, over two-thirds of the world’s current fossil fuel reserves cannot be commercialized. Other experts have reached similar conclusions.
We are at a critical moment. In the words of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, “each additional ton of greenhouse gases emitted commits us to further change and greater risks.” The longer we delay the transition to low-carbon economy, the more drastic, disruptive and costly that transition will be. The implication is clear: the responsibility for preventing dangerous climate change rests with today’s policymakers.
The IEA also warns of the consequences of our current path. If governments do little to address emissions, energy demand will continue to grow rapidly and will continue to be met mostly with fossil fuels — a scenario that the Agency estimates could likely lead to 3.6˚C of global warming.
Yet it is this very dangerous pathway — not the “450 scenario” linked to avoiding 2˚C of global warming — that you seem to be advocating when promoting Canadian fossil fuel development at home and abroad.
If we truly wish to have a “serious debate” about climate change and energy in this country, as you have rightly called for, we must start by acknowledging that our choices about fossil fuel infrastructure carry significant consequences for today’s and future generations.
We urge you to make the greenhouse gas impacts of new fossil fuel infrastructure a central consideration in your government’s decision-making and advocacy activities concerning Canada’s natural resources.
We would be very happy to provide you with a full briefing on recent scientific findings on climate change and energy development.
Thank you for your consideration of these important matters.
J.P. Bruce, OC, FRSC
University of Lethbridge
Assistant Professor, Geography
University of British Columbia
J.R. Drummond, FRSC
Professor, Physics and Atmospheric Science
Mark Jaccard, FRSC
Professor, Resource and Environmental Management
Simon Fraser University
Professor, Applied Physics, Public Policy
Associate Professor, Geography, Planning and Environment
Gordon McBean, CM, FRSC
Professor, Centre for Environment and Sustainability
Professor, Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative
University of Regina
John Smol, FRSC
Professor, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change
John M.R. Stone
Adjunct Research Professor, Geography and Environment
Here’s a brilliant clip put out by one of Canada’s largest unions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). In less than two minutes the video manages to depict what the government of Stephen Harper is doing to Canada’ s environment (they’ve even taken the word “environment” out of the Environment Canada’s website – I wish I was joking!), as well as most Canadians’ reaction (stunned disbelief) to this descreation of our cherished land and water. For more information on the Harper government’s long list of crimes against the environment, and our children’s future, check out the links below the video.
The Harper government’s budget cuts target essential public services that ensure the health, safety and well-being of citizens. Impacted sectors include food inspection, aviation safety and security, environmental protection and employment insurance. We are all affected by these cuts.
*I’m on a road trip for the next few weeks, with Andrew Nikiforuk’s Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude tucked into my backpack and plenty of permaculture podcasts loaded on the IPod (and yes, I do realize the irony of taking Nikiforuk’s book on a road trip – but don’t forget I’m traveling in a fuel-efficient VW diesel Golf, which gets about 60 miles to the gallon on the highway). My internet access will be sporadic, so 350orbust will be in holiday mode, too, with some videos posted along with my regular weekend posts. Catch you later!*
I’m back in the saddle, after a relaxing and rejuvenating vacation, which included almost no access to the internet for two whole weeks. Four of us piled into a clean diesel VW Golf wagon and made the pilgrimage from our home in northwestern Ontario to the coast of Florida – 37 hours of driving – and then hopped on a short flight to the Bahamas where we spent a week in a two bedroom condo next to a gorgeous beach. So, not a zero-carbon holiday but as close as this Canadian looking for some southern sun could manage! Thanks to all of you who dropped into 350orbust while I was away, and especially those who took the time to comment despite the delay in my response.
After my self-imposed news blackout, it appears the world is still careening towards multi-faceted collapse, and the Canadian federal government under Stephen Harper continues on its dangerously regressive and parochial path. The banking crisis in Cyprus foreshadows the economic upheavals in store for the rest of us. On the bright side, spring is quickly approaching and the gardeners among us are gearing up for that busy and hopeful time of year. One of the first items on my agenda upon arriving home on Tuesday was to attend the meeting of our local foods initiative to discuss the establishment of two new community gardens in our municipality (this dynamic group was part of establishing the first, and very successful, one in our area last spring). So life is good, too.
Here are some of the headlines that grabbed my attention when I logged back on this week:
IMF, citing $1.9 Trillion in government subsidies, calls for an end to energy ‘mispricing’: Government subsidies of gasoline, electricity and other energy sources amount to about $1.9 trillion a year and should be ended or offset with taxes used to battle climate change and pay for social programs, the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday in a major foray into the global warming debate.From top energy users such as the United States and China to the poorest of the poor, the fund said countries should be more aggressive in developing energy tax and pricing policies that reflect the true cost of fossil fuel use, including such “externalities” as pollution and the steps needed to mitigate the effects of a warming climate.
Natural Disasters Cost Insurers $77 Billion in 2012:A report by global re-insurers claims that 2012 was one of the most expensive years for insurers on record. Natural disasters specifically “large scale weather events” were to blame for the historically high numbers.
Canada Only UN Member to Pull Out of Droughts & Deserts Convention: The federal cabinet last week ordered the unannounced withdrawal on the recommendation of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, ahead of a major scientific meeting on the convention next month in Germany.The abrupt move caught the UN secretariat that administers the convention off guard, which was informed through a telephone call from The Canadian Press.
And here’s a link to a radio interview earlier this week with world-renowned Canadian freshwater scientist Dr. David Schindler, founding director of the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), a world-class freshwater research facility that is being closed by the Harper government. It is 10 minutes well spent: CBC Radio: As It Happens. Schindler doesn’t mince his words with regards to the Harper government’s irresponsible approach to resource exploitation and the environment; “Schindler’s pissed”, as someone pithily tweeted. My favourite quote from the interview is: “…Some of the best previous Ministers of Fisheries we had were conservatives, people like John Fraser and Tom Siddon. But we don’t have people of that character running this government. And frankly I don’t call these people [in the Harper government] conservatives. They’re ideologues who can’t understand that the route of conservatives is to conserve…”
Canada apparently can’t afford the two million dollars a year required to maintain the ELA, but we can afford to fork over $20 Million for two visiting Chinese pandas. And Mr. Harper can choose a photo-op with these same pandas, rather than meeting a group of First Nations youth who walked nearly a thousand miles through a harsh northern Quebec winter to reach Ottawa and send a message to the Canadian government, and other First Nations, that the time for unity and reconciliation is now.
I’ll wrap up with a video from comedian (and fellow Canadian) Jim Carrey that has got the NRA nutters and its Fox News friends (and fellow nutters) hot under the collar. Way to go, Mr. Carrey! Here’s a clip from the very funny – and bitingly satirical – video (to watch the whole thing go to FunnyOrDie.com):
This is a Friday shout-out to all those Canadians who, like me, are fed-up with the undemocratic and oily ways of the Harper government. Thanks from this northern Ontarian to The Caravan, ahip-hop band based out of Halifax Nova Scotia for this music video. You can always head over to ITunes to thank them by dropping 99 cents their way.