Thursday, February 12, 2009

No Leadership in Ottawa. We Need Action, Not Abdication

(originally posted at

Just lovely. It is even more abundantly clear today that Harper's Conservatives just do not understand the most important issues facing the future of Canada. In an announcement today from Jim Prentice, Federal Minister responsible for the Environment, the Conservatives have decided that doing anything right now to help fix the environment is off the table, saying that it would negatively impact the economy. The old "jobs before environment" argument is trotted out yet again.

I'm getting sick and tired of this. The Conservatives don't understand, or don't want to understand, which amounts to the same thing. Climate change, rising energy prices, and a switch from a brown to green economy is fundamentally not about a trade-off between jobs and the envrionment. It is not about having to make a choice of one over the other. Yet here is Jim Prentice, arguably one of the more socially-progressive of Harper's dinosaurs, saying just that (see today's Toronto Star:

Not only are Harper and Prentice claiming that action on the environment needs to be placed on hold as a result of the economic slow-down, they are saying that they will not take any action until the United States comes up with its own plan. Not only does this tactic delay the government from having to do anything, it completely abdicates any leadership on this matter. This kind of the "follow-the-leader" mentality is not what we have elected our government to do. These people were voted in to make decisions, take actions, not abdicate their responsibilities in favour of putting off decision making until such a time when someone else has done the hard thinking.

And rest assured, when Obama does put his mind to looking at a cap and trade system, which is apparently what he's eyeing, when he writes the rules, guaranteed that the needs of Canada and Canadian industries are not going to be at the top of the list. Why in heavens name has our Conservative government abandoned any position on creating the rules in which our Canadian-based industries will have to operate in the future?!?! If anything, Harper should be showing leadership on this one issue, less Canadian industries get shafted.

Yes, I'm sure that Obama will be talking about an integrated cap and trade system, given the way our two economies are entwined. That's all well and fine, but if the Americans are dictating the terms, how can that possibly be good for Canada?

And say what you want about Obama and all of the good things that he's done already and the good things he's said he intends to do, at the end of the day much of what he is proposing to do for the environment is not the approach Canada will need to take. Instead of abdicating decision making on the environment until such a time as the U.S. comes to the table, Canada should be persuading and prodding, planting ideas, working with our U.S. partners on a cap and trade system to spur industry to make real reductions to green house gas emissions.

But a cap and trade system can only ever be a part of the solution. What about stimulating alternative energy development? There's no need to have to even pretend to wait for Obama to take action on that. Yet Harper and the Conservatives are abandoning alternative energy, taking away matching federal tax dollars for funding new alternative energy projects.

The crisis facing the world today isn't going to be solved by "either/or" thinking, which places jobs over the environment (as if the environment is somehow an issue which neatly fits into a single box), and it's certainly not going to be solved by more waiting and doing nothing. Yet that's the approach now being proposed by this government. We can no longer afford to let our leaders abdicate decision-making and action-taking. The cost to us and our children is going to be unbearably high. We have to act. We just have to act.

I know this is cliche, but write to your local media outlets, copy your MP's, post your letter to your blogs and email them to your friends. If there is enough of an outcry about the Conservative's abandoning doing anything for the environment until a "better time", maybe they can be forced to take action in the face of public opinion. If we make this an issue, they will listen. Harper is nothing if not motivated by public opinion, as we have seen recently.

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