Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kyoto backlash

It's been over a week since my last post.   Too much has been going on but I did want to talk about Peter Kent announcing Canada is pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, or rather forcing the world to pull out of Canada so we don't get fucked with $14 billion in penalties.    It's not too surprising the Conservatives doing this -- they said all along they would.    And the worldwide reaction is entirely deserved and proves just how out of step the dogmatists on the right are with reality or with public opinion.    But there are two things that are bothersome for me.

First is the messenger, Peter Kent, a former news anchor.    Back in 1978, he had the courage to resign the anchor chair at CBC English when Pierre Trudeau was deliberately interfering in the newsroom by Trudeau ordering the network to cancel the live broadcast of a speech by René Levesque in favour of one from Monsieur Pirouette himself.   The demotion Kent got -- Johannesburg, still reeling from the murder the previous year of Steven Biko and when people on this side of the planet were finally beginning to realize that segregation and state sponsored terrorism was alive and well.    Later, he came back to co-found The Journal with Barbara Frum and Mary Lou Finlay.    He also was distinguished in the media in other respects but he earned those credentials by having his own mind.

But now, Peter Kent is a total lackey for Stephen Harper.   He has even admitted, long before he got the environment portfolio, that he he only uses language pre-approved by the PMO.    My only conclusion from this is that he doesn't even try to convince Harper the times when he is patently wrong, even if it is behind closed doors.   A country where the Cabinet takes its instructions directly from the head of government rather than it being a group of senior advisors that tries to make decisions by consensus, no longer has a Cabinet.    It has instead a variation of a Central Committee.    Communist minded states call theirs a Politburo.   I don't know off hand what the term would be for a right wing government would be but I believe that is what we have here today in Canada.

I suppose the next thing is that the Weather Office, part of the Environment Department, will be ordered to stop issuing tornado or hurricane warnings, so as not to offend the "Christianites" who dominate the ruling party because the fact such storms are becoming more powerful because of global warming doesn't ... well, they just don't like facts, period.   Even if the storm is coming.

But the second thing, and what is more worrying, is how this action has further made the point that Canada can no longer be trusted to be an "honest broker" in world affairs.    That is to say, the sense that no matter where we stood with our allies (the US, the UK, Germany, Japan, etc.) we were also willing to bring often hostile sides together to some form of consensus, and in the process the often red hot tensions that this world often were cooled down before boiling over.    In some capacity we still have this in the fact that we "protect" Israel's interests in Cuba (as the two countries still do not have direct ties).

I'm not saying the Liberals were entirely blameless in this.   Actually, there should have been much more consultation with the provinces since natural resources and electrical production are, under Article 92A of the 1867 Constitution, the provinces' "province."

Nor am I saying the provinces should have had a veto (this is impossible for treaties anyway, and it would make the Balkanization of Canada even worse than it is in Belgium, where Dutch-speaking Flanders, French-speaking Wallonia, the small German-speaking community, and the city council in Brussels each have vetoes on changes to the EU structure.)

But Canada at the federal level, had they listened just a little more, could have set more realistic targets that could have been easily beaten and then exceeded.   In fact we could have quite conceivably achieved the Kyoto goals without having ever committed to doing so.

There was precedent for this happening at around the same time during the nineties -- when we put ourselves in a much stronger financial position by setting worst case scenario targets for fiscal balances; which led to strong surpluses, a big reduction in debt to GDP and an end to income tax bracket creep.   The provinces for the most part also benefited from better fiscal positions even after the shock 1995 poison pill budget that offloaded a lot of the cost for social programs to the provinces.

But Canada has in a fairly short period of time made itself look bad.   We are going to have to be held to account in some way or another for the fallout from the tar sands, clear cutting and strip mining.   Whether this is a penalty that Harper claims no longer has to be paid (I think it does, actually) or poorer relations even with democracies that share our values of basic human rights and free elections, this is unacceptable.    Pollution does make its way around the planet.    Don't forget that the fallout from Chernobyl, Ukraine was so widespread that every part of the permanently inhabitated planet experienced some trace levels of radioactive isotopes.   With only one exception -- the Falkland Islands, according to the CIA.

What a comedown from the 1990s, when we led the world in banning CFCs and leaded gasoline, and pushing a convention to ban all land mines.    When we pushed the US to adopt clean environment policies -- in the 1970s, about the only thing Trudeau was able to convince Nixon on.   And on it goes.

I'm not going to say I'm ashamed to be a Canadian.   Of course I'm proud to be one.   But the definition of what it is to be Canadian has undergone a huge redefinition this week.   And for that, I am embarrassed.

UPDATE (2:50 pm EST, 1950 GMT):   Minor corrections and clarifications.


Anonymous said...

"But the definition of what it is to be Canadian has undergone a huge redefinition this week. And for that, I am embarrassed"

I agree tha Canada has redefined itself recently. We aren't going to be pushed around by the international community anymore, suddenly being the bad guy rolls right off our backs, that we have done most of the heavy lifting in Afganistan and they didn't, that we aren't going to crawl on bended knee because we are so polite and don't want to hurt anyones feelings anymore, that Stefan Dionne's fear that our exports will be slapped with carbon tariffs is for kiss-asses and sycophants, that tar sands clear cutting and strip mining are the things that allow you to have this blog, I can go on.

And oh yes, I am not embarrassed one bit. Instead I say Go Canada, its about time we started kicking some ass.

Good bye Kyoto. And if all goes well, good by to the UN's secretive REDD program and good bye to the EU's Carbon Trading market.


Gene Rayburn said...

" tar sands clear cutting and strip mining are the things that allow you to have this blog"

funny, I thought blogger was owned by google and run by them as a free service out of California.