Open letter to MP Ryan Leef:
On Oct. 26, eight Yukoners travelled to Ottawa for PowerShift 2012, a national conference on climate change for young Canadians seeking more effective and progressive government action. During our visit, we had the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the Conservative government’s commitments and actions with respect to mitigating greenhouse gases (GHGs) and eliminating taxpayer subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. While we appreciate that you were eager to engage with us, the substance of our discussion was disappointing.
On the issue of mitigation, you told us that Canada is pursuing a sector-by-sector regulatory approach to meet its emissions reduction target (equal to 2-3 per cent from 1990 emissions levels). This target, however, is too low to avert potentially irreversible climate change, which would require a reduction of 25 per cent to 40 per cent from 1990 levels according to the IPCC. Worse still, Canada has consistently delayed, weakened, or abandoned its regulatory efforts to achieve this meagre objective.
Take, for example, new federal regulations for coal-fired electricity plants. As a result of industry lobbying, emission limits were watered down from 375 to 420 tonnes of carbon per gigawatt hour of electricity, the allowable lifespan of each plant was extended from 45 to 50 years, and implementation has been delayed until July 2015. To put this impotent regime in perspective, Ontario’s regulations will likely achieve a greater reduction in GHGs from coal-fired plants by 2014 than federal regulations will achieve by 2040.
On the issue of tax breaks for the fossil fuel sector, you noted that the government’s 2012 budget is taking steps to meet its international commitment (made at the 2009 G8 Summit and the 2012 Rio+20 Summit) to rationalize and phase-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. The scale and pace of these measures, however, is woefully inadequate.
Budget 2012 only eliminated two specific tax breaks, representing less than 1/10th of the estimated $1.4 billion in annual subsidies available to the fossil fuel sector. Additional measures proposed do not cut deep enough, exempt many oilsands projects into the most favourable tax breaks, and occur over a maybe-too-late period of time. Clearly, the government’s austere tone towards public service cuts, which are born by Canadian communities and citizens, is out of sync with it’s seemingly casual attitude towards millions of dollars in tax breaks to profitable corporations.
In closing, we urge you to adopt a stronger position on climate change mitigation, and work with your colleagues in government and in the all-party caucus on climate change to take more immediate and effective action. More substance, and less rhetoric in parliamentary debate is a good place to start. Over time – but before it’s too late to make a difference – it is our hope that Canada will take the steps necessary to meet our commitments, and recognize the long-term economic opportunity that exists in transitioning away from a fossil fuel-based economy.
Cass Andrew, Malcolm Boothroyd, Jenni Matchett, Graeme Poile, Robin Reid-Fraser, Stephen Roddick, Rasheeda Slater and Jodi Gustafson