Europe attacks Canada's record on the environment; poll suggests Tories losing ground at home

While the planet is in a riptide of rising sea levels, savage weather patterns and out-of-control pollution, recent events suggest the world is waking up about climate change and the Canadian government better take action fast if it’s going to survive. 

Just this week, Canada came under fire from delegates at the annual United Nations climate-change conference in Nairobi as the only member of the Kyoto protocol refusing to meet binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2012, as required under the international agreement for industrialized countries.

Meanwhile, a new poll conducted in Canada by Decima Research found 26 per cent of respondents said the key factor in their vote in the next election will be the environment, where the Tories are weak after their tepid clean-air legislation coupled with this week’s decision to steer away from Kyoto. The survey, moreover  found that of those concerned about the environment, 29 per cent planned to vote Liberal, 21 per cent chose the Bloc Quebecois, 18 per cent were with the Green party and only 15 per cent went with either Tories or the NDP. An election is widely expected sometime next year for the minority Conservative government.

Decima chief executive Bruce Anderson said Quebecers in particular stress the environment and Tory support there is softening.

“You could probably make the case that the numbers in Quebec suggest that the impact of the Conservative position on Kyoto and their Clean Air Act has not done for them what they were hoping it would do,” Anderson said. “In fact, it has probably helped drained some support from them.”

But instead of suggesting the Tories tackle climate change with a vengeance, he dropped the ball by stressing the economy and tax cuts, where they have strong support. 

Reports from Nairobi have painted Canada as an unwelcome guest. At home, Environment Minister Rona Ambrose has faced constant criticism from environmentalists, opposition MPs and the Quebec government. This week, she was forced to fend off new attacks from France and European Union leaders at the meeting who said she still has a lot to explain. 

Dismissing criticism of her government’s position on climate change as the result of “inaccurate reports and rumours,” Ambrose invited European experts to Canada for meetings in December to set up a new technology fund and establish a framework for a carbon market that would eventually be linked to Europe. 

Ambrose also met with former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, who congratulated her for setting a long-term target to reduce greenhouse gases by about 65 per cent below 2003 levels by 2050, she said. Stern, who recently wrote a report for the British government that warned of grave economic consequences for the world if it doesn't address climate change urgently, has also offered to send technical experts to Canada for the meetings in December.


It was highly unprofessional and unheard of for Ambrose to criticise the previous government in front of an international body. As a Canadian government official, one is supposed to represent Canada and not the Conservatives. That means whatever has been done in the past cannot be blamed on previous administrations but must be blamed on the government no matter who is in power.

The slogan the Conservatives chose prior to the January 2006 election was “Stand up for Canada.” I certainly don’t see that happening at this conference. In essence, Ambrose is berating Canadians for their previous electoral patterns and allowing other nations to blast us (and possibly institute levies and tariffs if we don’t act on this matter, costing us all financially), therefore, she is “Standing aside” while Canada is beaten to a diplomatic bloody pulp.

I agree with Berg’s previous comment. Furthermore, not only is Rona Ambrose poorly and inappropriately representing Canada and Canadians’ government choices, her excuses for WHY the Conservative government is not going to meet Kyoto standards are incredibly weak.

Ambrose criticized the work done by the previous Liberal government, saying that there was no way that we could now meet the 2012 emission standards because of the inaction of the previous government. Specifically, in her own words: “We found that measures to address climate change by previous Canadian governments were insufficient and unaccountable.”

In fact, Canada DID have a plan in place, “In April 2005, then prime minister Paul Martin and his Liberal government unveiled what they called Moving Forward on Climate Change: A Plan for Honouring Our Kyoto Commitment. Under their revised plan, the Liberals pledged to spend $10 billion over seven years to help Canada cut its average greenhouse gas emissions by 270 megatonnes a year from 2008 to 2012.”

However, the Conservatives’ 2006 budget made no mention of this $10 billion plan to meet Kyoto standards, in fact there “wasn’t a single mention of the Kyoto Protocol.” Instead “Finance Minister Jim Flaherty repeated his pledge to develop a $2-billion, five-year “made-in-Canada” climate change plan.”

That’s a planned 80% cut in climate change spending. Furthermore, the Conservative’s have completely cut spending on a number of existing programs including the One Tonne Challenge, the federal governments climate change website, as well as “40 public information offices across the country and several scientific and research programs on climate change.”

Is that what Ambrose would call sufficient and accountable action?

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The irony is that if Ambrose/Harper got on the right side of this issue, they would have a majority government well into the foreseeable future. The centrists of Canada would support them and their traditional constituency would have nowhere else to turn. So what’s it going to be? Get it right and keep the job or stay in the dark as you walk back across the floor?

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