Thursday, March 6, 2014

How did conservatives lose control of environment file?

The former leader of Canada’s Reform Party, Preston Manning, reminded me of how Conservatives “continue to be seen as defensive and weak on the environment,” as he put it in a recent speech in Ottawa.

Mr. Manning said, “… the problem is environmental conservation got characterized as a shield issue, not a sword issue, and that mitigates doing anything substantial.”

And there you have it in a nutshell, as they say. Where Conservatives once brandished their environmental record like swords of righteousness, we now hide behind shields of timidity and defensiveness.

Simply said, conservatives have lost control of this important file. Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was named the “greenest” prime minister in Canadian history. And, though modern environmentalist have tried their best subsequently to denigrate his contribution—can’t have a “green” conservative, after all, that’s an oxymoron—Mulroney earned his bona fides honestly with the 1991 acid rain accord, which he championed and finally convinced a reluctant American president to sign.

Furthermore, as Mr. Manning pointed out on a TV appearance, we as a group want to “conserve”, it’s part of our name. Conservation of traditional norms and values is in our political blood. What could be more natural to a conservative than wanting to conserve our environment.

The battle against pollution—the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change (see Wikipedia)—has been as equally joined by conservatives as by progressives unless, of course, you’re taken in by the hyperbole of the Left.

Resistance to the Kyoto Protocol seemed the first real break of the Right from what had become the new environmentalists.

Greenhouse gasses, primarily CO2, had become the real enemy, and conservatives were not willing to see our carbon-fuelled economy hobbled by unproven carbon-tax and Cap and Trade schemes.

The hypocrisy of giving a pass to the world’s most egregious polluters like China (26.43%), U.S. (17.33%) and India (6.41%) who represent over 50 per cent of all 2010 emissions was obvious for all to see. This, probably, is what prompted Jean Chrétien to sign on to the agreement in 1997, ratify it in parliament in 2002, and all the while doing little or nothing to actually implement the Accord.

In fact, as is well known, our federal Liberal government’s inaction led to increases in Canada's greenhouse gas emissions of around 24.1 per cent. Thankfully, a Conservative government put an end to this sham by withdrawing from the Kyoto Accord in 2011.

The conservative movement, for the most part, had its suspicions raised about the validity of the Climate Change (a.k.a. Global Warming) movement that had largely taken over debates on the environment, when CO2 continued to enter the atmosphere at record levels since 1998, yet global warming did not continue over that period.

This seemed to reinforce earlier suspicions that the whole thing was an elaborate rouse to shift massive amounts of money from the developed to the undeveloped world, as evidenced by so-called climate finance schemes like the one where developed countries are expected to provide climate finance of $100-billion a year by 2020.

Things, however, have a way of going full circle. And I believe there is growing awareness on the part of conservatives that we have gone too offside on this file and need to retake, at least, some of the high ground lost over the Climate Change debate.

Even some Conservative politicians realize it is good business to do so. I notice Gary Doer, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., included in a recent letter a reminder to the U.S. government that Alberta was “the first jurisdiction in North America to require large emitters to reduce their GHG emissions intensity.”

The ambassador also referred to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s comments  in late-2013, saying, “our government is certainly prepared to work with the United States on a regulatory regime that will bring our emissions down.”

This is an excellent start. Along with a continued common sense approach to minimizing land, air and water pollution—not just greenhouse gas emissions—in the oil sands region and elsewhere across our nation, it could very well restore our credibility on the environment file.


  1. It is Conservative revisionist history to say the Chretien Liberals did nothing on Kyoto. Every attempt to advance the Kyoto file was opposed by premiers, especially Ralph Klein. HArper and Stockwell Day also opposed action. You can't stand in the way of progress and then point the finger at the other guy and say you did not do anything. Conservatives have been a barrier to success.

    It is pure crap to

  2. Until the US is ready to move on regulation of their fossil fuel industries, actually walk the talk, it would be irresponsible for Harper to put Canadian industries at such a huge job killing disadvantage.
    Frankly, I'm getting tired of Manning's one sided chirping
    Having never succeeded in advancing the conservative movement, he has no idea all the balls that have to be juggledcwhen running a diverse country.

    1. "Frankly, I'm getting tired of Manning's one sided chirping
      "Having never succeeded in advancing the conservative movement, he has no idea all the balls that have to be juggled when running a diverse country." Really, Wilson?

      With all due respect, Wilson, I believe Mr. Manning has forgotten more about this stuff than you'll likely ever know. He co-founded a successful national political party, the first person to do so in what must been a half-century. And he has been at the forefront of the Canadian conservative movement since he left politics, with his involvement with his Manning Centre for Building Democracy, Fraser Institute and Canada West Foundation. You're off-side on this one, Wilson.

    2. Well said Russ.