A walking, talking contradiction

Imagine being the individual who gets blamed for every environmental problem in the country. If that was not enough, there is the public expectation that the issues will be resolved during your term of office...

It must be tough being the Canadian Environment minister.

Imagine being the individual who gets blamed for every environmental problem in the country.

If that was not enough, there is the public expectation that the issues will be resolved during your term of office.

Finally, the current federal government, no matter who is minister, is not known for its initiative when dealing with environmental issues.

Some of the issues are really big, too, especially in the North.

The most pressing is climate change.

Projections for increases in temperature and changes in precipitation patterns are going to have serious impacts on existing animals and plant life.

On the Arctic Ocean, the disappearance of summer sea ice is expected within decades.

The effect this will have on the planetary environment is not known for certain, but all the projections are not good.

It is regrettable that the current federal environment minister belongs to a government which is choosing to not deal with the causes of climate change at all.

These causes are the releasing of greenhouse gases by humans burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.

As if that was not enough of a burden, the minister has to deal with another northern issue.

The current federal environment minister also happens to be the minister responsible for northern pipeline development.

As the pipeline minister his responsibilities includes both proposed mega pipelines.

The first is the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline running from the Mackenzie Delta along the Mackenzie River Valley into Alberta.

The second is the proposed Alaska Highway Natural Gas Pipeline, running from Prudhoe Bay down to Fairbanks and then essentially following the Alaska Highway to northeastern

British Columbia by going through the Yukon.

Of course the minister is only responsible for the Alaska Highway pipeline on the Canadian side of the border.

Either of these northern pipelines will convey literally billions of cubic feet of natural gas, a fossil fuel whose consumption is causing climate change.

The development of the natural gas fields in the North to feed those northern pipelines will destroy sensitive northern ecosystems through drilling rigs, feeder pipelines and habitat


Think Northern Alberta if one wants to imagine what the North could look like.

But the huge concern is all that fossil fuel being burnt and the greenhouse gas emissions increasing the severity of climate change.

But do not worry.

There is a federal department that will protect the North from climate change.

The Department of the Environment is no doubt stepping up to the plate, probably at the cabinet level, to ensure that Canada dramatically reduces its consumption of greenhouse gases.

Now, this is not to say this puts the minister in a conflict of interest.

It just points out the contradiction of his dual roles.

It should also make for interesting discussions next week when Jim Prentice, Canadian Minister of the Environment, is in Whitehorse as part of the Canadian Ministers of the Environment meeting.

No doubt the other Jim Prentice, the one who is the Canadian Minister Responsible for Northern Pipeline Development, will also be present.

When the talk turns to major initiatives Ottawa will be taking to reduce fossil fuel use, it should be extremely interesting to see which minister speaks.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.

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