The Conservative environment minister may have changed, but Canada won’t cut its emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases unless Stephen Harper makes some major policy shifts.
Stephen Harper has shuffled embattled Rona Ambrose out of the post, replacing her with former Treasury Board president John Baird.
While Ambrose may have flubbed her lines dramatically, she was delivering someone else’s script. Stephen Harper’s well-known tendency to keep a close rein on policy matters mean Baird will play the same role.
The twin pressures of a minority Parliament and rising voter concern have forced the prime minister to admit the Tories have fallen short on the environment. For Baird to be a successful minister, Harper will have to change his ways.
But it won’t be easy to be green. Harper’s attitude on many pressing environmental issues is alarming. He doesn’t believe the widely-accepted Kyoto Protocol is the right approach to the global warming crisis.
He and his associates have questioned the science behind climate change in the face of indisputable evidence, taking a page from George Bush’s climate-avoidance strategy book. Instead, the Tories introduced a smog-and-mirrors Clean Air Act that won’t even start reducing greenhouse gases until 2020.
Canadians need tough and quick action to reverse global warming. The Kyoto Protocol is the right response to an urgent situation. Given Harper’s close connections with the Alberta oil patch, it will take a lot of pressure from MPs, environmental groups and voters to shift the Tories from posturing to policy on the environment.