Harper's environmental policies have gone from bad to intolerable
It’s bad enough with all the scientific proof to the contrary that we still have climate change deniers in Canada, but I would argue having one of them as our Prime Minister makes it exponentially worse.
Now, I know Stephen Harper has never come out publicly and denied the existence of climate change; he doesn’t need to, his actions have spoken for him. After playing the common Canadian voter for fools for five years as a minority government, the veil has come off to reveal what Harper really thinks of the environment we all share.
Canadian voters who didn’t know any better might not have clued in to the big picture, but the signs were there. During his first minority run starting in 2006, Harper pretended to give a damn, albeit very little.
In 2006 the Conservatives introduced the Clean Air Act. The act was supposed to cut greenhouse gasses by about half of the 2003 levels by 2050. Environmentalists claimed these targets were inefficient, but the Prime Minister convinced Canadians that these targets were a more realistic than the ones set out in the Kyoto Protocol.
With the exception of Rona Ambrose, the Prime Minister appointed seemingly competent MPs to the Environment Minister post. By competent I mean John Baird and Jim Prentice kept their mouths shut as much as possible.
For the following five years the Tories were kept in check by the Liberals and NDP and remained fairly silent on the issues of climate change. Some comments were made accidentally with the slipping of some Tory tongues and Harper himself called Kyoto a “socialist scheme”, but by the time the election of 2011 came around they were all long forgotten.
When Harper gained his majority (with less than 40% of the vote), the curtain came down and the assault began. In the last two years Harper has been doing everything he can to reverse environmental protections and hide climate science.
No one was really surprised when he started by withdrawing Canada from the Kyoto Protocol, but the Prime Minister didn’t replace it with anything. The Clean Air Act Conservatives introduced in his first term was reduced to nothing as they lowered its targets by as much as 90%.
Harper named ex-journalist Peter Kent as the new environment minister. Kent seemed to care about the environment thirty years ago, but these days his decisions have come from an economic view rather than an environmental one.
The first Conservative Budget under a majority slashed Environment Canada’s budget by $53.8 million a year. The Conservatives scrapped the National Round-table on the Environment and Economy, a group that provides advice on the environment.
At the same time, they moved to fast track the current process for the environmental assessment of resource-based projects. In addition, they have made it more difficult for charities, such as environmental groups, to engage in so-called political activities. To sum it up: no talking, no protesting and more digging.
Harper has also started to silence Canadian scientists. He has instructed Environment Canada to forbid federal scientists from speaking to the media and has defunded or threatened to defund those who do. It wasn’t long ago when we encouraged our scientists to speak out in order to know where the problems were.
Last year, the Prime Minister stopped funding the Environmental Lakes Area, the famous fresh water research facility. The pioneering Canadian contribution to global environmental science was instrumental in the fight against acid rain and has studied water pollution for 40 years. The funding was expected to run dry on March 31st 2013. The savings to Canadians is a mere $2 million, a tiny drop of clean water in the bucket.
Lately you may have heard about the 194 countries around the world that supports the United Nations anti- drought convention. Well that number has been reduced by one as the Conservative government of Canada has decided to withdraw from it. Conservatives claimed only 18% of funds go toward drought research and called the process a “talk fest”. Canada spent $291,000 on the convention last year, a grain of sand in the desert.
In the meantime, while Harper has turned his back on global warming and environmental science, he has continued to expand fossil fuel development across the country. “Over the next decade, more than 500 large new development projects will be proposed across the country, representing investments worth more than $500 billion” Harper said. I would imagine they’ll still be getting the same tax breaks they receive now.
The Prime Minister’s disdain for the environment is now known worldwide and he may end up shooting himself in the foot with his policies. Harper has been pressing US President Barack Obama to OK the Keystone XL Pipeline for years now and it’s not crazy to think Obama may reject it again for not wanting to be associated with him. After all, the US is awash with oil and gas these days.
Harper’s policies were adopted from the American conservative philosophy that small government is what’s best for the people. He believes the environment is not the responsibility of the federal government. However, by not taking steps to protect it, they are helping to destroy it instead.
The Prime Minister and his Conservative Party have been exposed as the anti-climate change party they are and it’s showing in the polls. Let’s hope that when Canadians vote again in a couple years that Idle No More, Canadian scientists and environmentalists don’t let the people forget.
Doing nothing to prevent climate change is the same as not believing in it.
Thanks Mike interesting article. I work for the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in Ottawa.