Facing Four More Years of Harper Inaction, Canadians Must Rally Their Own Climate Leadership

Wed, 2011-05-04 13:56Emma Pullman
Emma Pullman's picture

Facing Four More Years of Harper Inaction, Canadians Must Rally Their Own Climate Leadership

Earlier this week, Canadians flocked to the polls for the fourth time in 7 years. This time around, the election was triggered when the minority government led by Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper was found in contempt of parliament in March for failing to release information related to the costs of proposed crime legislation and the purchase of stealth fighter jets.

From the moment the election was announced, Harper derided it as ‘unnecessary’, and ‘unwanted’ even though public polling clearly indicated widespread displeasure with his handling of the economy, public programming including programs for women, the environment, and for proroguing parliament twice. After the 2008 election, when voter turnout was the lowest in Canadian history (59% overall, and a dismal youth turnout of 37%), people wondered if this so-called ‘unwanted’ election would fail to motivate voters to the polls.

While pundits and pollsters made their best guesses leading up to election day, no one correctly anticipated the outcome. With just under 40% of the vote, the Conservatives finally won the majority they have coveted since ascending in 2006. The New Democratic Party (NDP) won 102 seats and formed the official opposition for the first time in history. The Liberal Party was reduced to a mere 34 seats, and the Bloc Quebecois lost 90% of its seats to end up with 4. On the positive side, Green Party candidate Elizabeth May won her party’s first seat in North American history.

Of the 14 closest ridings that Conservatives won seats, the combined margin of victory in all those ridings was 6,201 votes. That means the real difference between a Harper minority and majority was just over 6,000 votes. While 5.8 million people voted for Stephen Harper, another 9 million – the ‘real majority’ – voted for change. But, with his new majority, Harper no longer has to worry about impediments to his extreme ideology; he can ram his anti-science, pro-polluter agenda down the throats of the Canadian public. That spells trouble for Canada’s environment, and it’s especially bad news for the global climate.

Despite the news headlines of Harper’s ‘victory,’ sixty percent of Canadians still don’t support his economic policy. Harper will likely table the same budget that he presented before the election. It focused on the economy and jobs - and no, I don’t mean green jobs. Instead, Harper continues to promote and prioritize policies that hold Canada back from a prosperous clean energy future.

The Harper budget proposes to slash funding for clean energy programs and efficiency incentives – all significant job-creation vehicles that happen to protect rather than harm the global climate system.

The Conservatives have yet to introduce climate legislation to meet science-based international commitments to rapidly curtail global warming pollution. Harper’s position isn’t expected to improve over his last 5 years of inaction and obstruction, during which he failed to put in place any meaningful policy to meet his own weak pollution reduction targets (that aren’t even science-based). These policies made Canada a laughing stock in Copenhagen and Cancun. Now, with four years of unchecked Harper power, we’ll likely see more of Harper’s embarrassing stonewalling at international climate change summits including this fall in Durban.

What else have we to look forward to?  Will the government continue to muzzle scientists, who are required to seek ‘pre-approval’ before speaking with journalists?  

Will Harper even end the wasteful stream of $1.4 billion in taxpayer subsidies to incredibly profitable oil and gas companies? Will he even continue to pay lip service by calling for a gradual phase-out of a small portion of these polluter subsidies? 

The world’s scientists have cautioned that climate disruption won’t wait four more years for a real Canadian action plan to materialize – if it does then – so we must act now, with or without Harper.

Even though we have our work cut out for us, this election caused a noticeable shift in Canadian politics, one that not only felt inspiring during the run-up to the election, but also one that produced a tangible outcome. The feeling that I have is like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and I know I’m not the only one who feels it.

A movement was born over the past weeks, when Canadian youth woke up and engaged in politics. They are organizing. 

In my free time outside work obligations, I am one of those organizers. Some friends and I recently staged an action outside of a Harper press conference in Victoria. We criticized Harper’s campaign for failing to mention the issues that really mattered to young people – including climate and the environment.

Because of recent pressure on the Conservatives for kicking a student out of a rally and attempting to nix a special ballot on a university campus, a group of us were invited in (with no media present) to speak with the Prime Minister. In typical Harper fashion, we were allowed to ask 2 questions, the first about post-secondary education, the second about Canada’s horrible reputation for climate change inaction.

Demonstrating how out of touch he is with the most pressing challenge facing humanity, Mr. Harper seemed unfamiliar about the upcoming UN climate talks in Durban, and when he talked about Canada’s representative at the most recent climate talks, he referred to “Minister Prentice” (wrong guy, it was John Baird). At that moment, I worried for the future of my country.  

And I’m not alone. Many people fear what a Conservative majority will mean for the issues that many Canadians care about: banning dangerous tanker traffic on the west coast, ending dirty energy subsidies, and creating binding legislation for global warming pollution reductions. We are faced with an uncertain future, while scientists continue to alert us that there is no time to waste. 

We must work together to hold this government accountable. We need to work together for our First Nations communities that are suffering environmental anguish, for the accountability and oversight necessary to rein in the dirty tar sands boom, and for investment in a renewable energy future. We must demand a clean future, and a world that is safe for our children. 

Over the coming months and years, we must be vigilant, and work with an urgency and sense of purpose. We don’t have time to wait for a new government to respond to the environmental crisis. We must respond now.

We must lead now. To the ‘real majority’ of Canadians out there, are you ready?

Comments

Elizabeth May only got 46% of the votes in her riding, with 54% of voters opposed to her so I suppose she is not a legitimate winner either.

As for the youth of Canada "organizing", this is a canard we hear every election. If they are organizing, I would suggest they appear to be on the Conservative side.

In our first-past-the-post democratic system (which we have had since 1867), our Prime Minister will be a Conservative for the next 5 years. Acknowledging that reality might be in order.

While I agree that calling illegitimacy to the Harper government"s reelection did not seem fair to me in this article, neither do I believe you have proper grounds to claim in your comment that Canada"s youth voted for a Conservative majority. I think your comment makes equal use of stretching the facts, in that sense.

Furthermore, you seem to be making an "appeal to tradition" to justify the first-past-the-post system of voting. That is a fallacious argument; indeed, if I"m not mistaken, nearly every democratic country outside of North America has abandoned the first-past-the-post system in favour of voting systems that more accurately reflect voter preference. Evidently, it seems that the first-past-the-post system is less democratic than the alternative voting systems advocated in this article.

Canadians prefer first-past-the-post. Several province have had votes and it won. I would have no problem with a nation wide vote as I believe Canadians still prefer first past the post.

As for the youth vote, the Conservative Party has an incredibly well-organized system for ensuring the youth vote, specifically Conservative youths, actually do vote. The Conservative youth vote was critical to winning numerous ridings across the country.

Canadians do NOT prefer first-past-the-post. I"ve phrased it just as you have, to show the subjectivity of either claim. I would also like to see a nationwide referendum on voting system reform. At the least, I"m interested to see what percentage of Canadians are for and against the notion, as I find statistical information much more satisfying than sweeping claims. And no matter the outcome, I believe it is always healthy for a democracy to keep informed on the needs of its members through referenda and other devices.

As for the youth vote, EVERY party tries to ensure high voter turnout among their young supporters. That is completely irrelevant. In my riding, there was a huge youth movement in support of Elizabeth May, yet it would be completely false to claim, as your reasoning suggests, that Canadian youth has voted Green.

If you want to convince me, by any honest measure, of your belief that Canada"s youth has voted Conservative, you will have to draw on statistical evidence, not particular circumstances in ridings that were won by a hair. If you have no such evidence you should not make such broad generalizations about Canadian youth, as it does them injustice.

Even though 60 percent of Canadians voted against Harper, does this mean that we - the muzzled majority - should complacently accept his government's unconditional support for the unregulated development of the Alberta oil sands and his government's total lack of action in addressing climate change both in Canada and internationally? On this issue alone, the Conservatives deserve to be relegated to political oblivion. To reiterate George Monbiot's comment on Canada's calumny at Copenhagen, Canada in sabotaging the negotiations has emerged as the main threat to world peace. As for the youth of Canada, wake and up and smell the tar sands. In the mock high school elections, large numbers voted for the NDP and the Greens who at least have a semi-credible platform on this issue. Harper's efforts to sabotage meaningful climate change negotiations condemn our young people to a bleak future, but he and his oil sands' buddies are completely devoid of any ethical compunction. But what do you expect from someone who admits that he doesn't read books or even the daily newspapers.

Thanks for the great post! I am definitely invigorated to help create positive change now more than ever! Have you noticed that conservative voters seem to make the most ignorant comments (see comments above). Ignorance is a huge part of our problem.

I made a factual comment. If you care to explain why you consider a fact "ignorant", please do but it remains that the only reason that Elizabeth May even has a seat in Parliament is because of our first-past-the-post system.

Paul s in his usual arrogant manner spouts out an ill-informed opinion and then has the audacity to call it "fact".

We need a lot more proof of fact than some ill-informed political junky saying so.

This is typical of his and other deniers' modus operandi, put out lots of unsubstantiated bluster, and then ridicule anyone who calls them out on it. Paul s has done this on this blog for a number of years. He never answers questions and never provides a cite for his "facts".

We know from his postings that he is un-educate and ignorant of science so we know that anything he says is more than likely wrong.

Try better Paul.

Emma Pullman, like almost all pundits simplifies the environmental crisis to the issue of climate change. Unfortunately the concentration of attention and taxpayers money on climate has distracted us from such issues as population overshoot, arable soil exhaustion, urban smog increase, ocean fisheries depletion, peak oil etc.

Here is an example of how incorrect climate science and 'carbon mania' completely distorts economics. The Vancouver School Board by law, must pay $400,000 in carbon offsets. To do this, they will have to fire 4 teachers. They are required to pay this to Encana. More here:

http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/feeltheheat/archive/2011/05/07/carbon-folly-squeezing-schools-to-aid-energy-giant.aspx

Also on Thursday night (May 12, 2011) the Ottawa Talk Station CFRA broadcast two hour interview and open line show with Dr.Tim Patterson (Carleton University) & Tom Harris (Climate Science International) -- with Tim Patterson doing the science and Tom Harris the policy part.

The show is on podcast by going to

Here is an example of how incorrect climate science and 'carbon mania' completely distorts economics. The Vancouver School Board by law, must pay $400,000 in carbon offsets. To do this, they will have to fire 4 teachers. They are required to pay this to Encana. More here:

http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/feeltheheat/archive/2011/05/07/carbon-folly-squeezing-schools-to-aid-energy-giant.aspx

Sorry, the system cut off the URL for the second website when I posted this a few minutes ago.

Also on Thursday night (May 12, 2011) the Ottawa Talk Station CFRA broadcast two hour interview and open line show with Dr.Tim Patterson (Carleton University) & Tom Harris (Climate Science International) -- with Tim Patterson doing the science and Tom Harris the policy part.

The show is on podcast by going to

Sorry, the system cut off the URL for the website on the first posting a few minutes ago.

Peter Salonius

Sorry again the system did not accept the second URL / web site when it was enclosed within < .....>

Emma Pullman, like almost all pundits simplifies the environmental crisis to the issue of climate change. Unfortunately the concentration of attention and taxpayers money on climate has distracted us from such issues as population overshoot, arable soil exhaustion, urban smog increase, ocean fisheries depletion, peak oil etc.

Here is an example of how incorrect climate science and 'carbon mania' completely distorts economics. The Vancouver School Board by law, must pay $400,000 in carbon offsets. To do this, they will have to fire 4 teachers. They are required to pay this to Encana. More here:

http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/feeltheheat/archive/2011/05/07/carbon-folly-squeezing-schools-to-aid-energy-giant.aspx

Also on Thursday night (May 12, 2011) the Ottawa Talk Station CFRA broadcast two hour interview and open line show with Dr.Tim Patterson (Carleton University) & Tom Harris (Climate Science International) -- with Tim Patterson doing the science and Tom Harris the policy part.

The show is on podcast by going to http://proxy.autopod.ca/podcasts/chum/20/3648/may12.mp3

Sorry again the system did not accept the second URL / web site when it was enclosed within < .....>

Peter Salonius

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