By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 0 Comments
Mike De Souza finds that the Conservatives purchased carbon offsets to account for emissions related to the Vancouver Olympics.
The Harper government paid $226,450 to conserve trees in a British Columbia forest to prevent its activities at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics from contributing to global warming, say newly released internal memos obtained by Postmedia News. The three memos, prepared for Environment Minister Peter Kent, said the money was used to buy certified credits to compensate for about 16,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions generated from federal employee travel, security, the torch relay and other government activities at the Vancouver Olympics, which were hailed as the first carbon neutral games in history…
The total would be equivalent to paying a carbon tax worth about $13.55 per tonne of emissions. It does not include other credits that were donated and purchased by suppliers and sponsors to make the Vancouver event entirely carbon neutral.
But it gets worse. Not only did the Harper government pay for its emissions, it apparently did so with an official pronouncement of pride in having done so.
Today, Canada’s Environment Minister, the Honourable Jim Prentice, announced the Government of Canada’s commitment to offset federal greenhouse gas emissions for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
“Canada is proud to be the first host country in history to help offset the greenhouse gas emissions of its Olympic Games,” said Minister Prentice. “This commitment is one of many ways our Government is contributing to sustainable Games and meeting our global climate change responsibilities.”
Of course, the Olympics occurred in 2010, a year before the Conservatives started criticizing Liberal and NDP plans for cap-and-trade and two years before the Conservatives decided that to put a price on carbon was to wish great suffering upon Canadian families.
That said, the Prime Minister, presumably unaware until now of this price paid, will no doubt now wish to reconsider his generally fond assessment of the Vancouver Olympics. And it is probably a good thing that Jim Prentice quit in November 2010 for he would surely have to resign if he was in cabinet this morning.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 1:35 PM - 0 Comments
The former environment minister tells Evan Solomon that he opposes a carbon tax (the exchange begins around the 3:15 mark here). As for a cap-and-trade… it’s complicated.
As environment minister, Mr. Prentice was a big fan of establishing a price on carbon.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 5:01 AM - 0 Comments
A star-studded photo gallery by Mitchel Raphael
The 2012 Press Gallery Dinner was a night of glamour and mock awards.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 4:34 PM - 0 Comments
While the New Democrats continue to try to shame Conservative backbenchers—see Olivia Chow’s statement on Monday and Niki Ashton’s statement on Tuesday—the Conservatives have responded by finding new ways to lament for the prospect of a cap-and-trade system.
Kyle Seeback worried yesterday that the possibility of cap-and-trade would ruin the magic of winter. John Carmichael segued from marking the 20th anniversary of the Toronto Blue Jays’ first World Series championship to worrying that a cap-and-trade system would leave Canadians with less money to spend on baseball. And while wishing Thomas Mulcair a happy birthday, Jacques Gourde lamented that cap-and-trade would raise the price of birthday cakes.
(Is it possible that when John Baird, Jim Flaherty, Stephen Harper and Jim Prentice were advocating for cap-and-trade and a price on carbon, they were intending to ruin hot chocolate, baseball and birthdays? Is the hidden agenda finally revealed?)
Here again is everything you need to know about the Conservatives’ carbon tax farce.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 15, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Most of these quotes have appeared here at one time or another over the last year and a half, but in case you were looking for something you could frame and hang on the wall, here in one place are the greatest moments in the Conservatives’ carbon tax farce.
Conservative party platform, 2004 election. A Conservative government will implement the commitments of Stephen Harper’s February 2004 paper, “Towards a Cleaner Canada,” including … Investigate a cap-and-trade system that will allow firms to generate credits by reducing smog-causing pollutants.
Bob Mills, June 8, 2005. Unlike the smog blind Liberals, the Conservative Party of Canada has a real plan to deal with air pollution. We will legislate caps on smog-causing pollutants like nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds. We will also propose a cap and trade system within Canada that will give companies incentives to actually reduce smog-causing pollutants.
Mark Warawa, November 2, 2006. Nothing prevents the Montreal Exchange from establishing a carbon credit along the lines that currently exist in Chicago. The notice of intent that we released last week explicitly mentions carbon trading as one of the issues we will be consulting on.
Mark Warawa, November 27, 2006. Mr. Speaker, actually the environment minister had very good meetings with her international counterparts and they were establishing a workshop that will be held within weeks. The EU, U.K. and United States will all be participating in discussions on carbon trading.
John Baird, February 8, 2007. A carbon trading system is certainly up and running in the European Union, whereas a carbon tax…. I suppose it would depend on what kind of proposal you were making. It would be in the eye of the beholder.
John Baird, February 8, 2007. I will tell you that when it comes to compliance mechanisms, domestic carbon trading for the private sector is something we’re open to and looking at. A number of colleagues have pushed me on the idea of the Montreal exchange, as have Toronto and other areas. It’s something we’ll be coming forward on in short order when we release our industrial targets.
Mark Warawa, February 12, 2007. Mr. Speaker, as we have said, and as I have told the hon. member many times, we are open to domestic carbon trading, to looking at it…
Mark Warawa, March 27, 2007. I was quite surprised by some comments made by Mr. Cullen, unaware apparently…. Hopefully, he has read the Clean Air Act. Under clauses 29 and 33, it very clearly talks about carbon trading. It’s on pages 28 and 29. So carbon trading has always been part of the Clean Air Act. The market should decide where that trade will occur. So it is already part of the Clean Air Act…
Stephen Harper, June 4, 2007. Of course, it may not be possible for all countries, or all industries and firms within all countries, to reduce their emissions by the same amount on the same time line. That is why other compliance measures such as carbon offsets and carbon trading are also necessary. They are part of Canada’s plan and, provided they are not just an accounting shell game, they must be part of a universal, international regime.
Mark Warawa, November 29, 2007. We need to look at solutions, and this government is committed to solutions, solutions such as energy efficiency, renewable fuels, carbon capture and storage, a domestic carbon trading market.
John Baird, January 7, 2008. We’ve got to put a price on carbon. We’re doing just that.
John Baird, January 11, 2008. Our plan also will require big industry to pay into a technology fund starting at $15 per tonne of carbon, putting a price on carbon for those who emit the most.
Conservative party policy declaration, 2008. We support a domestic cap-and-trade system that will allow firms to generate credits by reducing smog-causing pollutants.
Jim Flaherty, February 26, 2008. Our government is also providing $66 million over two years to lay the foundation for market based mechanisms that will establish a price for carbon and support the development of carbon trading in Canada.
Ted Menzies, February 27, 2008. In budget 2008 we are taking further action to fulfill our commitments to a cleaner, healthier environment. For example, budget 2008 is committing $250 million for carbon capture and storage projects. Furthermore, our government is providing $66 million over two years to lay the foundation for market-based mechanisms that will help establish a price for carbon and support the development of carbon trading in Canada.
Mark Warawa, March 31, 2008. Our plan includes setting up a carbon emissions trading market, including a carbon offset system, to provide incentives for Canadians to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We’re providing industry with the tools it needs, the tools of a domestic carbon market, and we’re also establishing the market price of carbon. We’ve heard from industry, we’ve heard from environmental groups, and we’ve heard from our international partners that these are necessary parts of the plan, and they are now part of a plan.
Stephen Harper, May 29, 2008. Canadian industries that do not meet their emission reduction targets will be required to do one of three things. They will have access to a domestic carbon trading system which will include offset credits for non-industrial practices that reduce emissions. We eventually hope to participate in a North American trading regime, depending on what action the United States takes, and I’ll talk about that in a second. We likewise hope to participate someday in a more mature and robust emissions trading regime internationally. As well, industries will have access to credits through the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism … I should mention that while our plan will effectively establish a price on carbon of $65 a tonne, growing to that rate over the next decade, our Government has opted not to apply carbon taxes.
John Baird, May 30, 2008. “As Canada’s Environment Minister, I am pleased to be in Montreal today to celebrate the opening of the Montreal Climate Exchange,” said Minister Baird. “Carbon trading and the establishment of a market price on carbon are key parts of our Turning the Corner plan to cut Canada’s greenhouse gases an absolute 20% by 2020. Clearly, our Government’s action to fight climate change is working hand in hand with groups like the Montreal Climate Exchange.”
Conservative party platform, 2008 election. We will work with the provinces and territories and our NAFTA trading partners in the United States and Mexico, at both the national and state levels, to develop and implement a North America-wide cap and trade system for greenhouse gases and air pollution, with implementation to occur between 2012 and 2015.
Stephen Harper, June 20, 2008. Prime Minister Stephen Harper pulled no punches on Friday in describing a carbon tax proposal by Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, saying it would “screw everybody” across Canada.
Stephen Harper, September 11, 2008. The Liberals’ carbon tax plan will plunge Canada into recession, sparking economic unrest that will revive Quebec’s separatist movement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.
Throne Speech, November 19, 2008. We will work with the provincial governments and our partners to develop and implement a North America-wide cap and trade system for greenhouse gases and an effective international protocol for the post-2012 period.
Jim Prentice, January 27, 2009. It is right there in black and white in our platform, and we have now made a commitment in this area. We will implement a North American cap and trade system for greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric pollution, and we will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020.
Jim Prentice, February 12, 2009. Canada, in the North American context, has some of the most significant hydro possibilities that remain to be developed, and once a price is put on carbon, many of those hydro projects will become quite competitive.
Jim Prentice, June 10, 2009. The offset system will be a key part of that overall commitment. It is intended to generate real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by providing Canadian firms and individuals with the opportunity to reduce or remove emissions from activities and sectors that will not be covered by our planned greenhouse gas regulations. It does so by establishing a price for carbon in Canada – something that has never been done before in this country.
Briefing note for Jim Prentice, September 11, 2009. “I think you would agree with me that encouraging businesses and individuals to change behaviour requires appropriate price signals … We believe that a carefully designed cap-and-trade system will send the appropriate price signals to encourage changes and ultimately help reduce emissions.”
Stephen Harper, October 14, 2009. “There will be compliance mechanisms that set a price on carbon but obviously that will come into effect when we have continental or perhaps even an international cap and trade regime.”
Jim Prentice, December 2, 2009. Our policy is simple, to enter into an agreement with the major emitters in Copenhagen and to harmonize our targets and regulations with our partner, the United States, while establishing a carbon trading system.
Jim Prentice, December 3, 2009. The Leader of the Opposition reinforces this government’s strategy for a national cap and trade system that will include absolute caps, put a price on carbon, and be structured so it can be harmonized with a future United States system.
Harper government news release, December 2009. The Harper Government is working in collaboration with the provinces and territories to develop a cap and trade system that will ultimately be aligned with the emerging cap and trade program in the United States.
Peter Kent, May 19, 2011. “There’s no expectation of cap-and-trade continentally in the near or medium future and we don’t believe that it would be wise to go with a shallow market in a closely integrated continental economy,” Kent said. “It can always be something to consider in the future.”
Mark Warawa, December 5, 2011. Mr. Speaker, Europe addressed the issue of the price of carbon continentally. We have said that we will deal with the issue of a cap and trade agreement continentally, if the United States does the same thing continentally.
Peter Kent, June 18, 2012. Carbon pricing in any form is a carbon tax…
John Williamson, September 17, 2012. Cap and trade or cap and tax, a price on carbon is a tax on carbon. That makes it a carbon tax.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 12, 2012 at 2:42 PM - 0 Comments
market driven cap + trade vs
#NDP planned rev for myriad of gov programs. Hmmm sounds like a duck.
It seems to me that Ms. McLeod is attempting to differentiate between a cap-and-trade system in which the government auctions credits (and thus receives revenue) and a cap-and-trade system in which the government gives away credits. It’s not clear to me at this point that the Harper government ever absolutely ruled out ever deriving any revenue from the cap-and-trade system they proposed and pursued. They very well might have. (I previously sought to confirm this, but forgot to follow up with the official I was dealing with. I’ve just now sent a request to a different government official seeking clarity and documentation and will post whatever I receive whenever I receive it.) For the sake of the historical record, it is a detail worth noting.
But here’s the thing (a thing we explained in our last post): According to Ms. McLeod’s Conservative colleagues, whether or not the Harper government expected to generate any revenue from cap-and-trade is entirely irrelevant. Because cap-and-trade, in any form, establishes a price on carbon. And, so far as the Conservatives are now concerned, anything that puts a price on carbon is a carbon tax.
Peter Kent, June 16. “Carbon pricing in any form is a carbon tax…”
John Williamson, September 17. “Cap and trade or cap and tax, a price on carbon is a tax on carbon. That makes it a carbon tax.”
(Here is Jim Flaherty endorsing a price on carbon in February 2008. Here is John Baird endorsing a price on carbon in May 2008. And here is Jim Prentice endorsing a price on carbon in June 2009. And here, here, here and here Conservatives now lamenting the idea of putting a price on carbon.)
So we’re back where we started. The “revenue” quibble continues to be—according to the Harper government’s own logic—a red herring. And the basic policy that Ms. McLeod and her fellow Conservatives now oppose is still the same basic policy that the Conservative party and the Harper government were proposing and pursuing when Ms. McLeod was a candidate and MP.
I do give Ms. McLeod credit for engaging the discussion. Via Twitter, I asked her a follow-up question and will post any response she offers.
Here again is everything you need to know about the Conservatives’ carbon tax farce.
By macleans.ca - Monday, October 1, 2012 at 6:27 AM - 0 Comments
The political workweek of Sept. 24-28 generated five stories with sequels and endings and next chapters that we look forward to reading (and writing):
- The outcry over Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose’s surprise vote in favour of a Tory backbenchers’s motion to study when life begins might have been the sort of story flares briefly and is soon forgotten. After all, even though Ambrose also has cabinet responsibility for the status of women, her vote in the House for a study, which would have reopened elements of the abortion debate, didn’t have much practical impact: the motion was easily defeated. Full stop? Maybe not. For starters, another Conservative MP plans to table a motion condemning sex-selection abortion, a matter on which Ambrose expresses deep concern. She’s been praised for her handling of shipbuilding contracts, trusted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper sort out the F-35 fiasco, but will she become a political liability for reasons that have nothing to do with her core files? Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 28, 2012 at 10:04 AM - 0 Comments
Jim Prentice raises concerns about pipeline development on the West Coast.
The Calgary native told his hometown audience that Ottawa’s neglect of the aboriginal relations could doom proposed oil pipelines, including Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway project and Kinder Morgan Inc.’s TransMountain pipeline expansion.
“The obligation to consult with and accommodate first nations … these are responsibilities of the federal government,” said Mr. Prentice, who held posts as minister of Indian affairs, industry, and environment before leaving government in 2010. “And take it from me as a former minister and former co-chair of the Indian Claims Commission of Canada, there will be no way forward on West Coast access without the central participation of the first nations of British Columbia.”
By John Geddes - Friday, September 28, 2012 at 10:04 AM - 0 Comments
There’s some intriguing news and commentary today on yesterday’s sharp remarks from Jim Prentice—the former federal cabinet heavyweight, now CIBC financial executive—on how the Conservative government has failed to properly engage First Nations on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline.
Prentice knows the file. He served successive stints as Stephen Harper’s industry, Indian affairs and environment minister, before jumping to the bank early last year. He’s pro-pipeline but pragmatic on the fact that earlier court rulings require Ottawa to properly consult First Nations on resource development in their traditional territory.
His point that the government has simply failed to properly take that legal obligation into account makes me think of a broader pattern. In a series of key court decisions, the Harper approach seems to be to bull ahead with controversial policies, and just hope that judges don’t rule against them.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 9:35 AM - 0 Comments
As noted yesterday, the Conservatives are particularly fixated on the fact that the NDP’s commitment to cap-and-trade was detailed in “black and white” in the party’s platform. In fairness, it is a standard Jim Prentice once held the Harper government to.
It is right there in black and white in our platform, and we have now made a commitment in this area. We will implement a North American cap and trade system for greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric pollution, and we will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020. These major commitments represent more than any other party has done.
Here, again, is everything you need to know about the Conservative farce.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 21, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Herein, everything you need to know to understand the Harper government’s latest attempt to attack the NDP.
So what is the basic issue here?
In terms of public policy, this is a debate about putting a price on carbon. There are two ways to do this. You can directly tax major emitters for the carbon they release into the atmosphere. This is generally referred to as a “carbon tax.” Or you can set a limit on the amount of carbon a company can release into the atmosphere and then issue permits to exceed that limit which companies can sell amongst each other. This is generally referred to as “cap-and-trade.” Either way—either set by the government or the open market—a price on carbon is established. And if it costs money to release carbon into the atmosphere, companies will have an incentive to produce less carbon. That incentive will presumably encourage companies to find ways to pollute less (consumers will also presumably have an incentive to seek more environmentally friendly options). And that will presumably help counter the problem of climate change. If the government takes in revenue as the result of a carbon tax or cap-and-trade, that revenue can be used to fund green energy and emission-reducing policies and initiatives, as well as reducing income taxes to counter the impact of the higher costs that impacted companies might pass on to their customers. Here is the Pembina Institute’s briefing on carbon pricing, here is the OECD’s briefing on carbon markets and here is the Environmental Protection Agency’s guide to cap and trade. Here is Wikipedia’s rundown of countries and states that have considered or implemented carbon pricing. And here is Stephen Gordon’s guide to the economics of pricing carbon.
What has the NDP proposed?
In its 2008 and 2011 platforms, the NDP proposed a cap-and-trade system. When he was seeking the leadership of the NDP, Thomas Mulcair presented his own cap-and-trade proposal. (Brian Topp quibbled with Mr. Mulcair on one aspect of Mr. Mulcair’s proposal.)
What do the Conservatives say about what the NDP has proposed?
The Conservatives say the NDP proposal is a terrible, ruinous thing.
That sounds very serious. But your use of the word “farce” seems to suggest something silly is going on here.
You are very perceptive. There are at least three parts to the farce. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 17, 2012 at 4:45 PM - 0 Comments
Today, I am pleased to announce another important building block in our Climate Change plan – designed to help us achieve our targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to generate real emission reduction opportunities across the economy.
We are releasing two draft documents that lay the foundation for the development of a carbon market across Canada. The first of these documents sets out the rules and requirements to generate offset credits – from the registration of a project to the issuance of the actual credits. Projects that could qualify for offsets span the economy, from farmers using reduced or no-till techniques to store more carbon dioxide in their fields, to wind turbines producing clean electricity using only the wind, to landfill sites that are able to turn captured methane into usable fuel…
The offset system will be a key part of that overall commitment. It is intended to generate real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by providing Canadian firms and individuals with the opportunity to reduce or remove emissions from activities and sectors that will not be covered by our planned greenhouse gas regulations.
It does so by establishing a price for carbon in Canada – something that has never been done before in this country. And as business leaders, I don’t need to tell you what happens when you put a price on something that used to be free. Suddenly, your CFO becomes very interested in carbon!
Here is how the Harper government explained its offsets system.
By Paul Wells - Friday, July 13, 2012 at 3:39 PM - 0 Comments
Time to change the agenda–again?
What if the major policy initiative of Stephen Harper’s majority mandate is a non-starter?
This will take some explaining. Let’s begin with a pop quiz. You’re in charge of a big pipe that carries liquid a long distance. One day you notice the pressure inside the pipe is dropping. What on Earth could be making the pressure in your pipe fall?
If it takes you less than 17 hours to answer, “hole in the pipe,” then you would have been much too clever to work for Enbridge in July 2010, when more than three million litres of diluted bitumen gushed out of that company’s pipeline and into the wetlands and rivers near Marshall, Mich. That’s an amount of ethical oil roughly equivalent to the amount of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The oil kept spilling for 17 hours after the initial alarm. By Enbridge’s own rules, the response to a pressure drop should have been to shut the line down until the cause was known, but, you know, whoopsie.
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 9:09 AM - 0 Comments
Charlie Smith at the Georgia Straight is the one who pointed this out, and it’s super-interesting. Jim Prentice, banker, former cabinet minister, friend to the oilman, had a piece in the Vancouver Sunon the weekend that starts off much as you’d expect — “The time has come when Canada must diversify beyond its traditional U.S. energy export markets and seek new ones, specifically those in the Asia Pacific” — and then takes a surprising turn:
A key element to achieve that end is a clear public policy framework that provides consistency and transparency. The absence of private and public sector leadership, however, is a serious impediment. …
To begin, however, the constitutional obligation to consult with first nations is not a corporate obligation. It is the federal government’s responsibility.
Second, the obligation to define an ocean management regime for terminals and shipping on the west coast is not a corporate responsibility. It is the federal government’s responsibility.
Finally, these issues cannot be resolved by regulatory fiat – they require negotiation. The real risk is not regulatory rejection but regulatory approval, undermined by subsequent legal challenges and the absence of “social license” to operate.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 18, 2012 at 12:52 PM - 0 Comments
Talking to the House this weekend, Peter Kent discussed the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy and carbon pricing (emphasis mine).
Peter Kent: … One major point of disagreement with the National Roundtable report was, it again recommended carbon pricing. And I’ve got to say again, our government is not going to impose a carbon tax on Canadians…
Evan Solomon: But they’re not saying carbon tax. To be fair, they said it could be a price on carbon, which could be a cap-and-trade. They have not said or recommended, quite specifically, a carbon tax at all.
Peter Kent: Carbon pricing in any form is a carbon tax, because to be a realistic dollar figure, it would get Canadians at the gas pump for example, and right across the economy, but at the gas pump, it would get us to where Europeans are.
Evan Solomon: But you know they have one in Alberta, provincially. They have a $15 a tonne, it goes to a fund, nonetheless it’s a price on carbon.
Peter Kent: But that will do nothing to get GHG actual emissions down. The carbon market in Europe is under $10 a tonne, half of what it was when they began that market. The EU is no longer issuing. It’s a volatile market, which is probably the most unstable market in the world … we believe that the emitters who are regulated are the ones who will actually get emissions down.
During the 2008 campaign, the Conservatives loudly opposed a carbon tax, while promising to pursue a continental cap-and-trade system. But, according to the Environment Minister, a carbon tax and cap-and-trade are the same thing.
Continental cap-and-trade wasn’t merely a campaign promise either. The Harper government repeated the promise in its 2008 Throne Speech. Jim Prentice identified continental cap-and-trade as an exciting opportunity in November 2008. Mr. Prentice then referenced it in his December 2008 speech to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland. In September 2009, Mr. Prentice lobbied the Alberta government on the virtues of cap-and-trade. And, in December 2009, the Harper government claimed to be “working in collaboration with the provinces and territories to develop a cap and trade system that will ultimately be aligned with the emerging cap and trade program in the United States.”
Peter Kent ran, unsuccessfully, as a Conservative candidate in 2008. Presumably, he endorsed the party’s platform. Even if he didn’t, as recently as last May, the Environment Minister allowed that cap-and-trade “can always be something to consider in the future.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 1:49 PM - 0 Comments
The former Conservative MP has concerns about the Harper government’s environmental policies.
“I always thought that ‘conserve’ was part of the Conservative mantra, but I might be wrong,” Mills said at a news conference organized by Green party leader Elizabeth May. “Stephen Harper puts other priorities, I think, ahead of the environment, and I think that’s a mistake.”
Mr. Mills was appointed to the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy in 2009 by former environment minister Jim Prentice.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 6:56 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Thomas Mulcair challenged the government side to live up to the principles Stephen Harper once championed and so John Baird stood and claimed a different high road altogether.
“Mr. Speaker, this Prime Minister, this Minister of Finance and this government are focused like a laser on the economy,” he assured the House. “They are focused on economic growth, job creation and not on partisan games.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister proceeded then to lament that the NDP’s Peter Julian had spoken for too long in response to the Finance Minister’s budget speech.
A moment later, Bob Rae stood to review the budget bill one clause at a time. “Mr. Speaker, under these proposed budget changes, the Inspector General of CSIS will be gone,” he reviewed from a piece of paper he held in front of him. “The Centre for Rights and Democracy will be gone. The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy will be gone. The First Nations Statistical Institute will be gone. The Governance Institute will be gone. The National Aboriginal Health Organization will be gone. The National Council of Welfare will be gone, environmental assessment will be gutted, Parks Canada will be gutted and old age security will be gutted.”
There was some degree of mumbling and grumbling from the government side. Mr. Rae proceeded to his point. “These are basic protections for Canadians. These are basic ways in which Canadians have rights and governments do not have all the rights,” he explained. “When will the government learn it is taking the wrong path?”
The question was rather rhetorical and the answer surpassed the question in this regard. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 15, 2011 at 4:15 PM - 2 Comments
In September 2009, when he was environment minister, Jim Prentice met with representatives from the Alberta government to discuss a national cap-and-trade program.
“I think you would agree with me that encouraging businesses and individuals to change behaviour requires appropriate price signals,” a briefing note, which outlines “points to register” with the Alberta government, reads. ”We believe that a carefully designed cap-and-trade system will send the appropriate price signals to encourage changes and ultimately help reduce emissions.”
That was, of course, the stated policy of the Harper Government at the time.
John Baird has since warned that cap-and-trade (or at least a Liberal proposal in that regard) is “dangerous” and “unCanadian” and “incredibly divisive,” while the Prime Minister has said cap-and-trade (or at least an NDP proposal in that regard) would “wreak enormous havoc on the Canadian economy.”
Mind you, Environment Minister Peter Kent allowed in May that a continental cap-and-trade program “can always be something to consider in the future.” And, indeed, the government’s website still describes it as an “option.”
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 2:36 PM - 3 Comments
At this year’s Politics & the Pen gala, Anna Porter took home the $25…
At this year’s Politics & the Pen gala, Anna Porter took home the $25 000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for political writing for her book The Ghosts of Europe: Journeys Through Central Europe’s Troubled Past and Uncertain Future. Below, Porter with House Leader John Baird.
Belinda Stronach and Peter Mansbridge.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 3:11 PM - 1 Comment
Former cabinet minister Jim Prentice held a goodbye party before the House rose. Prentice…
Former cabinet minister Jim Prentice held a goodbye party before the House rose. Prentice (left) with Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.
Tory MP Lynne Yelich (left) with Karen Prentice.
By Colby Cosh - Friday, December 24, 2010 at 8:06 AM - 90 Comments
Much like “Jurist”, I had to laugh at the headlines conjured up in the wake of the most interesting Wikileaks revelation so far concerning Canada. The Globe, summarizing the leaked minute of a private meeting between former Environment Minister Jim Prentice and U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson, says “[Prentice] threatened to impose new rules on oil sands”. Okayyy, but it’s not really a threat if you make it only in the presence of a third party, is it? We’ve all met fake tough guys who are full of stories about how they really told so-and-so off, but who are really just imagining what they would have said if their spine weren’t made of marmalade. Similarly, the CBC has it “Prentice was ready to curb oilsands”, mysteriously failing to add “…but he didn’t really get around to it, and then one day he just cleaned out his desk and left.”
The actual text of the cable suggests that Prentice’s underlying cynicism did not go unnoticed by its presumptive author—the Ambassador himself. Be honest, now: don’t you cringe a little at this part?
Minister Prentice was clearly making every effort to establish a connection with Ambassador Jacobson, outlining his respect for the Administration and his interest in President Obama’s “back story”, persona, and goals. …Prentice appeared keen to forge a personal relationship with Ambassador Jacobson—to the mutual benefit of both countries.
Obviously the whole point of such face-to-face meetings is to “establish personal connections”, but if your sister came back from a blind date with a report like this you’d say “Gawd, what a schmuck.” Minister Try-Too-Hard got careful about his language, however, when he and the ambassador came to grips with the actual tar-sands issue. At every turn in Jacobson’s account of the conversation, Prentice’s concern is with image, not environmental reality. Just imagine this paragraph without the bits in bold type:
During a discussion of the Ambassador’s travels, Prentice asked for his views on the oil sands. Prentice shared that he was concerned about the media focus on the sands and the possible impact on Canada‘s international reputation. He recalled that he was first concerned about oil sands coverage during a trip to Norway where the public was debating whether or not Norway should be investing public funds (Statoil) in ‘dirty oil’. As Prentice relayed it, the public sentiment in Norway shocked him and has heightened his awareness of the negative consequences to Canada‘s historically ‘green’ standing on the world stage. Calling himself “conservationist-minded”, Prentice said he would step in and regulate the sands if Canada’s image in the world gets further tarnished by negative coverage. …Prentice did say that he felt that Government of Canada’s reaction to the dirty oil label was “too slow” and failed to grasp the magnitude of the situation.
As an honest Albertan, I’ll call your attention to two other things about this paragraph:
(1) In an exchange of views on the oil sands, Prentice apparently doesn’t actually say a word about the oil sands—only the international reaction to them.
(2) “Conservationist” is a conscious alternative to “environmentalist”, not a synonym for it. Conservationists are what we had before we had environmentalists. After years of interviewing Alberta politicians and businessmen and hearing them take this line, I understand “conservationism” to denote an emphasis on the value to human beings of wilderness and biodiversity, as opposed to a worldview that says the grizzly’s needs and priorities (and the lichen’s) are indistinguishable from our own. Since this distinction is rarely discussed, it’s an easy means of equivocation: saying you’re “conservationist-minded” can easily mean you wouldn’t personally want a derrick to spoil the view at your A-frame in Kananaskis.
The punch line of the Wikileak arrives when Prentice disavows any actual intention to act on planned tar sands expansion: “In response to the Ambassador’s inquiry about a possible moratorium on further expansion in the oil sands, Prentice didn’t think it was necessary at this time and felt growth to [3-4 million barrels a day] was sustainable.” And there’s a little dénouement when Prentice again summarizes his goals—as the Environment Minister of the Dominion, mind you—solely in terms of image: “At the end of the day, Prentice wants Canada to be billed as the most environmentally-conscious energy superpower.” One wonders at the need for “billed as” to be present in that sentence.
I’m being unkind to Prentice; I don’t know that I would behave any differently in his place, and I’m certainly, as a matter of core philosophy, on the “conservationist” side of the conservationist/environmentalist divide. Moreover, he’s right that government was somewhat slow to react to the publicity crisis, though I don’t see why that should be blamed on the federal government rather than Alberta, since Alberta’s so belligerent about its responsibility for and ownership of its oil.
But Prentice has long been regarded, in the downtown-Toronto conventional wisdom, as a lone Nice Moderate who struggled to fit in with a pack of faith-crazed ideologues. Maybe people should consider the possibility that he really was, after all, a foam-jowled Calgary wolf—one who just happened to be particularly expert at wearing sheep’s clothing. The rap on this federal government, the common theme of the attacks on it, is that it doesn’t respect evidence in decision-making. Those who still see Prentice as a potential alternative leader will, I think, be precisely those who overlook his obsessive concern with “labels” and “standing” and “reputation”. Does he sound, in the cable, like a data-driven Environment Minister? Does it sound like he was much concerned with what the oil sands are doing—or not doing—to the watershed, the wildlife, the people downstream, and the climate?
I ask because if Canadian oil sands policy is going to be determined exclusively by the squealings of people who have seen ugly photographs of them but don’t otherwise know anything about them…well, the sands and the people who make a living from them are going to lose that fight. If your position is “Shut ‘em down”, then an emotional, esthetics-based debate is easy for you to win. There is a policy case, weak or strong, to be made on behalf of the tar sands; it would be a lot harder to argue that they make the world prettier or the landscape pleasanter or the animals happier.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 13, 2010 at 9:10 AM - 66 Comments
Environment Minister John Baird, this weekend, on the Cancun accord. “This represents the first step to a single, new legally binding agreement … A first step.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, last week, on the Copenhagen accord. “Mr. Speaker, the Copenhagen accord was only a first step.”
Environment Minister Jim Prentice, last February, on the submission of Canada’s emission targets to the Copenhagen accord. “We took our first step down that road on Sunday, January 31, 2010.”
Environment Minister John Baird, three years ago, on the Bali climate talks. “With the United States now signed on to this framework the results of this conference show progress and we see that as an important first step.”
Environment Minister Rona Ambrose, four years ago, on the Clean Air Act. “After more than a decade of inaction on the environment by the previous government, Canada’s Clean Air Act is the first step in turning things around to protect the health of Canadians.”
Headline of news release from the office of Environment Minister Stephane Dion, five years ago, on the coming into force of Kyoto targets. “Achieving Our Kyoto Targets – A First Step Toward a Greener Canada”
Environment Minister David Anderson, nine years ago, on the Kyoto Protocol. “The Kyoto Protocol is only the first step on a long road towards implementing an effective solution to climate change.”
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 4:29 PM - 4 Comments
Our weekly, and wholly arbitrary, ranking of the ten most worthy, or at least entertaining, MPs, excluding the Prime Minister, cabinet members and party leaders. A celebration of all that is great and ridiculous about the House of Commons. Last week’s rankings appear in parentheses. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry and John Geddes - Friday, November 12, 2010 at 12:00 PM - 11 Comments
Those who think Jim Prentice might come back to politics and romp to power should think again
It was not long after Jim Prentice announced his impending departure from federal politics that speculation about his leadership aspirations began anew. But it’s entirely possible, perhaps even probable, that Ottawa has seen the last of him.
Explaining the decision to accept a senior executive position with CIBC, Prentice said it was merely a matter of time. “When I entered federal politics in 2001 I made a commitment that my time in politics would last eight to 10 years,” he said. “It has now been nine years and it is time for me to pursue new opportunities outside of public life.” A well-regarded cabinet minister who ran for the Progressive Conservative party leadership in 2003 (finishing second to Peter MacKay), he was sometimes thought to be a potential successor to Stephen Harper. That speculation will not end with Prentice’s exit, but if he stays away he would do so in good company.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 8:05 PM - 2 Comments
Our weekly, and wholly arbitrary, ranking of the ten most worthy, or at least entertaining, MPs, excluding the Prime Minister, cabinet members and party leaders. A celebration of all that is great and ridiculous about the House of Commons. Last week’s rankings appear in parentheses. Continue…