The Harper Conservatives have consistently made the environment an extremely low priority. There has been a revolving door in the minister of Environment’s office, with four ministers idling in the post over five years. Harper’s government has continually undermined environmental improvement in Canada by favouring outdated reasoning that taking action on environmental issues hurts the economy.
Harper Conservatives’ record
Since taking office, the Harper Conservatives have performed miserably on the environment by:
- making Canada an international pariah nation by not supporting progressive actions to cut greenhouse gases (GHG) to slow climate change. The Harper Conservatives have been obstructive at United Nations climate change negotiations, while crowing at home that Canada cannot meet its international commitments;
- dropping Canada’s environmental record to among the worst in the world. The 2011 Climate Change Performance Index ranks Canada 57out of 60 nations surveyed, well back of G8 countries, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, that all scored in the top ten;
- giving obscene subsidies and tax breaks to the oil and gas industry amounting to $1.3 billion per year, $840 of which come in tax breaks, despite polls showing seven in ten Canadians want these subsidies ended. These subsidies support an industry driving up Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, while contaminating the local water, soil, and air and destroying natural habitat;
- funding false climate change solutions such as carbon capture and storage, which do nothing to curtail Canada’s reliance on fossil fuels;
- not investing in the new green economy and therefore missing opportunities to bolster renewable energy generation, public transportation, and other job-growth areas;
- cutting Environment Canada’s budget such that the federal government spends 20 times as much on National Defence programs as it does on environmental programs. The United States government outspends Canada per capita by a rate of eight to one on renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transit.
We are at an environmental crossroads both in Canada and around the world. Progressive governments push ahead investing in a new green economy that cuts GHGs that cause climate change. Regressive governments cling to old, dirty energy sources that are reckless environmental choices.
A recent Environment Canada report shows that because Canada has no climate change mitigation strategy, our emissions will be higher in 2020, in the range of 29 per cent above the pledged 17 per cent lower commitment Canada made in the Copenhagen Accord. Canada has still not imposed any regulations to limit industrial greenhouse gas pollution despite the fact the science is clear: we need to act now to stabilize our climate to prevent environmental disaster.
The environment is crucial to Canadians’ health and prosperity. We need clean air, water and soil. The environment and its resources sustain our economy and livelihoods. Canada must have a federal government that has the vision to lead our society along a greener and more sustainable path. Our next federal government must fund and implement a clear and comprehensive environmental program including:
- an ambitious GHG emissions reduction strategy and program that includes a price on carbon, such as a carbon tax that has protective measures for vulnerable Canadians. Any serious climate change actions in Canada will require a just transition program for adversely-affected workers and communities;
- fully reviving and expanding the eco- ENERGY program to include a national, green-homes retrofit strategy;
- investing in renewable energy to set Canada on course toward a clean energy transformation while creating new jobs. Canada is well behind the push for renewable energy. China and the United States are taking huge strides in solar and wind power that Canada presently comes nowhere near matching;
- continuing to deal with the jobs crisis in Canada by publically investing in a green jobs strategy centred on public transit, municipal infrastructure, building retrofits, energy conservation, renewable energy generation, and other areas to foster job growth and environmental improvements;
supporting climate action in developing countries by following through on
Canada’s Copenhagen Accord pledge to commit $400 million in financing to developing countries in the form of grants rather than loans, with equal focus on adaptation and GHG emissions reduction;
- protecting groundwater sources by putting a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas drilling (also called shale gas) until the environmental feasibility of this is resolved;
- restoring and increasing Environment Canada’s budget;
eliminating subsidies and tax breaks to the oil and gas sector and use that money to finance renewable energy generation and to meet other environmental goals.