harper must do more than talk up green agenda

On January 23rd, George W. Bush said “climate change.” The fact the former oilman said these words made news around the world.

On January 23rd, George W. Bush said “climate change.”

The fact the former oilman said these words made news around the world.

In the twilight of his second mandate, Bush has pledged support to wind and solar power, to alternative fuels and to increased fuel-economy standards.

He also said the US has to end its dependence on foreign oil.

He’s said all this before (in 2006, he pledged to make dependence on Middle Eastern oil “a thing of the past”).

To date, he’s done nothing about it.

Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address came five days after CBC Radio One news reported the US is pushing Ottawa to expand Alberta’s oilsands production by 500 per cent.

Apparently, the US wants this done quickly.

The increased oilsands production scheme was cobbled together in Houston, Texas, in January 2006, far from prying eyes.

The story was broken by CBC’s French-language network Radio-Canada, which had to pin down the meeting through an access-to-information request.

According to Radio-Canada, American officials and business leaders want Canada to export five million barrels of oil a day to the US.

Currently Canada exports one million barrels.

If Alberta hit the target demanded by US officials, Canada would supply 25 per cent of US demand and would provide half its imported oil.

And Bush would meet his target of lessening dependence on foreign oil. Sort of.

If you think about it for a minute, America pledging to lessen its dependence on foreign oil by getting it from Canada is a compliment, or deeply troubling, depending on your perspective.

To accomplish the increased production, Canada would have to “streamline” its environmental regulations for new energy projects.

Asked about this, the newly green Prime Minister’s Office said that would never happen.

We’re skeptical.

On Thursday, federal Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said Canada was considering plunking a nuclear power plant in Fort McMurray.

According to Reuters, Energy Alberta, a private firm, is pitching the nuclear plant idea. It pledged to have a full-blown proposal on the table in a couple of months.

Currently, the oil industry uses natural gas to separate the oil from the sand. The gas is used to generate steam, which is pumped into the ground to make the tar-like bitumen flow easier.

Many consider this a waste of valuable gas, which has other uses. It also creates greenhouse gases.

Nuclear doesn’t produce planet-warming gases. But it does create nuclear waste, which poses other problems.

“Listen, you believe in reducing greenhouse gases or you don’t,” said Lunn. “You believe in climate change, and if you do, you should be taking a hard look (at nuclear energy for the oilsands).”

Like Bush, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are new to the global-warming ball.

That has a lot to do with Canadian geography. The Conservative’s power base remains tied to neocon Alberta and the oilpatch.

Alberta’s Reform Party morphed into the Canadian Alliance Party, which staged a hostile takeover of the Progressive Conservative Party, creating the Conservative Party.

Today, wealthy Albertans hold sway in Ottawa.

And, with their dependence on the oil and gas industry, they’re not disposed to thinking too much about global warming.

But these days, the public is growing worried about the weather.

That puts the Conservatives at odds with most Canadians. And the rest of the world.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“I think when the Canadian government was elected, the present one, their intention was to kick the whole climate-change issue into the long grass,” Elliot Morley, Britain’s special envoy on global warming, said in an exclusive with the Globe and Mail.

“And I think they underestimated Canadian public opinion, the strength of the opposition parties, who kind of united around this particular issue, and I think they’ve now come to the conclusion that they’ve really got to do something.”

The Conservatives have been forced to action. Like Bush, Stephen Harper is starting to move, grudgingly.

So far, he has started mentioning the environment. And he has reinstated some Liberal programs he abandoned shortly after being elected a year ago.

But it bears mentioning that he’s brought nothing new to the table.

And, so far, Harper is sticking to his assertion Canada cannot meet its Kyoto targets.

Again, that’s Alberta talking.

But there’s mounting evidence that pandering to Big Oil could be ruinous.

On Friday, a report by 2,500 scientists will be released by the UN.

It predicts droughts, rising sea levels, torrential rainstorms — those who have seen it suggest it is profoundly disturbing.

It will ramp up public concern, firming it up as an election issue.

Acting to protect the environment does not come easily to Harper.

So, with an election possible this year, he’ll position himself as an environmentalist by doing as little as possible, and talking it up, while working to destroy Liberal leader Stephane Dion’s credibility on the issue.

That’s the political strategy. But there’s more at stake than Canada’s next majority.

Canada must demonstrate tangible, dramatic action to curb its greenhouse gas emissions.

If it doesn’t assume a leadership role, Kyoto could fall apart, warned Morley.

“There is a real danger of failure,” he said. “It will be a complete disaster for the global economy and the global environment if that was the case, and that’s why there has to be a step change in progress from the major powers.” (RM)

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Sandy Silver speaks to media after delivering the budget in the legislature in Whitehorse on March 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Territorial budget predicts deficit of $12.7 million, reduced pandemic spending in 2021-2022

If recovery goes well, the territory could end up with a very small surplus.

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

City council meeting in Whitehorse on Feb. 8. At Whitehorse city council’s March 1 meeting, members were presented with a bylaw that would repeal 10 bylaws deemed to be redundant or out of date. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Out with the old

Council considers repealing outdated bylaws

A bobcat is used to help clear snow in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 4. According to Environment Canada, the Yukon has experienced record-breaking precipitation this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon will have “delayed spring” after heavy winter snowfall

After record levels of precipitation, cold spring will delay melt

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Most Read