Here are five important takeaways from today’s Cabinet shuffle. As the old saying goes, 'plus ca change, plus c'est la même chose'.
1. Economic (In)action Plan
Canadians hoping the government would signal willingness to address pressing economic concerns such as growing inequality, rising youth unemployment, a manufacturing crisis, and the rise of precarious work will be disappointed.
The Broadbent Institute is pleased to present the first in a series of blog posts by a range of Canadian academics and thought leaders critiquing the record of the Conservative government.
Stephen Harper once espoused the vision of a Canada built on “solid conservative values”, one that would prove “unrecognizable” to his then governing (Liberal) opponents. It is now almost a year since the Harper government’s most profound and concerted effort to craft that Canada: the passage of the two 2012 omnibus budget implementation bills—The Jobs, Growth, and Long Term Prosperity Act, and The Jobs and Growth Act; due time to assess the far-reaching implications of these bills.Read more
Barack Obama’s new climate change plan could significantly shift the landscape for Canadian economic and climate policy. It should really invite reflection on the Canadian side of the border about the direction in which we should be heading as a country.
Lots of questions remain about the details and implementation of the U.S. plan. What will the Environmental Protection Agency’s power plant regulations look like? Will the White House be able to bypass Congress and coordinate with cities and states? What are the implications for Obama’s eventual decision on the Keystone XL pipeline?Read more
For Canadians who care deeply about acting to stave off dangerous climate change, President Obama’s landmark speech today outlining his administration’s climate action plan likely induced mixed feelings: delight to see the President speak so clearly and resolutely about the moral obligation to take action and to back those sentiments up with some concrete action. And distress at the clear contrast in both tone and substance we get from our Federal government here in Canada.Read more
In Wednesday's Globe and Mail, Brian Lee Crowley of the MacDonald Laurier Institute produced what he called a “homage to the (undeservedly) hated car”. In it, he reproduced a number of standard shibboleths against what he sees as “the paternalistic philosophy of centralized urban planning that has infected city halls in virtually every major city in the country” determined to get people out of their cars.Read more
The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) closed shop at the end of March.
This move, announced in the 2012 Budget, was not unexpected, but was unfortunate and unwarranted. Now more than ever we need to take a careful look at the linkages between our environment and our economy, and this was precisely the role and mandate of NRTEE which drew upon the best available professional expertise.Read more
Today is World Environment Day, an appropriate moment to reflect on the state of our nation's journey towards sustainability.
In a nutshell, we're not doing so hot.
Measured against other OECD nations, Canada continues to rank near the bottom of the barrel for environmental protection. Once viewed as a constructive, conscientious partner, Canada is now a sort of pariah on the international stage, uninterested or downright unwilling to work with other countries to tackle major global environmental challenges from desertification to over-fishing, deforestation to climate change.
So singularly focused is our current federal government on oil-fuelled growth, for example, the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. referred to our Natural Resource Minister, Joe Oliver, as Canada's "Minister of Oil."
Our reputation in disrepute abroad, environmental degradation continues at home. We can't solve everything all at once, so if we were to really focus, what is the most important thing threatening the Canadian environment? Is it the destructive power of climate change? The cancer-causing effect of unregulated toxic chemicals? The downward spiral of water quality across the country?
In my view all of these challenges are symptoms of a larger problem: the unrelenting, aggressive hostility of our country's Conservative parties to environmental progress.
I once participated on a panel for the magazine Corporate Knights that voted Brian Mulroney "the greenest Prime Minister in Canadian history." That seems like a long time ago now. And many of Mulroney's signature environmental accomplishments -- such as the creation of the respected National Round Table on Environment and Economy -- have since been killed by Stephen Harper's Conservatives.
This is the same federal government that has recently questioned whether global warming is really as bad as everybody says it is, has used the Canada Revenue Agency to make life as difficult for Canada's environmental charities as possible, and presided over what is -- objectively -- the most significant rollback of environmental protections since Confederation.
At the provincial level, in a little-noticed speech during the last provincial election, Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak promised to abolish Conservation Authorities -- a creation of Tory governments dating back to the 1950s, and he has been uniformly hostile to environmental notions ever since. In Brad Wall's Saskatchewan, the David Suzuki Foundation has recently noted that "it is difficult to imagine any jurisdiction taking the threats of climate change less seriously."
And though some days it's hard to focus on his actual policies through the haze of circus-like shenanigans, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has targeted green initiatives with a laser-like precision, making it very clear that in his world "green" and "gravy" are synonymous and equally deserving of elimination.
There once was a proud Tory environmental record: Brian Mulroney's battles against Acid Rain, and Bill Davis's protection of the Niagara Escarpment come to mind. The Canadian Conservative circa 2013, however, has not only turned their back on this legacy, they are busily dismantling it.
Conservatives today are of a different ilk. They view the environment through a distorted and Manichean lens, one where environmental policy is inevitably at odds with sound economic policy.
Yes, there are voices -- like that of Preston Manning -- calling for a renewal of a Conservative green ethic. But these voices make little impact, drowned out as they are by the chorus of pro-industry voices, granted privileged access to lobby Conservative ministers for changes to environmental regulations. Meeting so often with oil and gas sector executives, it's little wonder "Environment" Minister Peter Kent focuses on promoting "Ethical Oil" rather than environmental stewardship.
A commitment to reconciling environmental and economic priorities is now without a doubt one of the single greatest differences between Conservatives and non-Conservatives in our country. For progressives, the task is to demonstrate to Canadians that there are alternatives to the ecologically destructive and economically uncertain path we are on.
This op-ed originally appeared in Huffington Post Canada.
Harper has just made a trip down the US, after the Canadian government has launched a “please buy our oil” publicity campaign promoting the Keystone XL pipeline on the American airwaves. The federal Conservatives have been tirelessly lobbying American officials. Thus far, this campaign has been quite bizarre, resulting in the Natural Resources Minister hurling threats at governments and insults at climate scientists.Read more
Two years ago, shortly after the last federal election when I still worked for a national environmental organization, I had a private meeting with one of the more senior lobbyists for the Canadian oil industry. Over a lengthy coffee I suggested that the recent election of his friends in the Conservative party for a comfortable majority mandate presented him with two possible courses of action:
There was a time when you wouldn’t walk into the local union hall wearing your organic cotton “Save the Whales” t-shirt, and also when you probably wouldn’t take part in the local Earth Day parade wearing a hard hat and well-worn safety boots. But fashions change and so do perceptions. Union members and environmentalists have discovered they have much more in common than anyone once thought.
Like with any relationship, the road from mutual mistrust to grudging acceptance to warm embrace has had its share of potholes. But what we have come to recognize is that our planet needs us – and not us and them.Read more