MP, Scarborough-Guildwood, Liberal Party of Canada Environment Critic
The Honourable John McKay P.C., M.P. is the Liberal Member of Parliament for the riding of Scarborough—Guildwood in Ontario. A native of Scarborough, he was first elected in 1997 and has been subsequently re-elected five times. Between 2003 and 2006 he served as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, helping to oversee the tabling of two consecutive balanced budgets. From 2011-2013 he served as the Critic for Defence for the Liberal Party of Canada, now serving as the Party’s Environment Critic.
Canadians no longer need to make the false choice between the environment and the economy. On Monday in Vancouver, Justin Trudeau unveiled a detailed plan for real change that will create jobs, grow the economy and protect the environment.
On Tuesday April 21st, Joe Oliver presented his first budget as Finance Minister. Its 518 pages have been universally described in less than flattering terms. It is really the Conservative platform dressed up as a budget -- long on promises, short on funding. It's been obvious for years that climate change is not a priority for this government, but to produce a 518 page document that is the basis for the Conservatives' next election platform and not mention the existential threat of the century is truly appalling.
As the provinces' experience with carbon pricing proves, we don't need to choose between our environment and our economy. In fact, they go together. Indeed, Canada must be able to take advantage of the billions of dollars in investment that will be made in green technologies. Justin Trudeau is already doing the important work that needs to be done.
Recent cuts to Environment Canada's operating budget have left the department a shadow of its former self and unable to enforce what little environmental laws are left. The Harper Government has burned enough environmental legislation to keep the Minister warm for an entire winter in her home in chilly Gjoa Haven. Nero fiddles while Rome burns.
Alberta's economy is on the precipice of free-fall where Norwegians are able to look over the precipice and know that they are not going over it. How did this happen? The simple answer is that Norway decided to de-link its economy from oil revenues and Canada did not.
For someone with a Master's Degree in Economics, Mr. Harper seems to ignore one of the most important rules of investing: hedge your bets. Harper's all-in bet on the carbon economy means that when the price of oil goes for a tumble, so does our economy and with it, our petrodollar.
The short term problem is that Alberta has expensive oil which will make it challenging for all governments to achieve their fiscal goals. Revenues are down. Already we are seeing the incredible shrinking surplus of the Harper government. Medium term the market will right itself and business will pick up.
Some might describe it as the genius of capitalism; the ability to adapt on the fly according to the circumstances. Hence the drive to technological fixes in alternative energy generation, storage, and distribution. While the existential threat to the species is a clear and present danger, capitalism's ability to adjust is subject only to the limitations of the human mind.
MPs on both sides of the House support the creation of the Rouge National Park, but it must be done properly. The Park is very close to my home and I have taken my children and my grandchildren to it often, both in winter and summer. So, I am quite familiar with the land and am very pleased to see that we have moved to the point of presenting legislation.
Frequent turnover at the head of a Department in the Public Service, sometimes referred to as Canada's Permanent Government, is almost never a good sign. It is often indicative of some serious friction at the highest level which almost inevitably reverberates throughout the department. It is therefore concerning but not surprising that Michael Martin is just the latest Deputy Minister at the Department of the Environment.
Astute readers of the Harry Potter series and keen political observers may see parallels to the current Harper Government™ as it seems to operate in a parallel universe clinging to its fantasies, denying obvious facts, and not helping Canadians adapt to the profound changes climate disruption will inevitably bring. Minister Aglukkaq is entitled to her fantasies; however she is not entitled to the facts.
Climate change has emerged as the single most important issue of our time, and it is nothing short of baffling that this government has chosen to bury its head in the sand and hope it goes away. Not only has the Harper government ignored the issue, but it has also gone to great lengths to suppress further research and any meaningful remedial or mitigating action. When Stephen Harper took office in 2006, he promised that we would not recognize Canada when he was done with it. He is on-track to keep that promise. For the sake of my grandchildren and all of us Muggles, I hope that Canadians prove him wrong in 2015.
Very little mitigation or adaptation activity is happening at any level of government. For example, the Mayor of the City of Toronto seems to have much more enthusiasm for tax cuts than installation of storm sewers, notwithstanding last summer's catastrophic storm which the TD economists price at $944 million.
This budget certainly does a lot of things. It ignores struggling families desperately in need of daycare options. In 2006, the Conservatives cancelled the Liberal National Daycare Program, opting instead for a $100/month subsidy. Canadian families know how to stretch a buck, but $100 does not stretch very far.
Instead of using the recommended language that Canada takes global warming seriously and that we recognize that human-caused climate change is a serious issue that must be dealt with, the Harper Government touted their non-existent record and resorted to taking pot-shots at the opposition. It seems that Conservative Peter Braid (Kitchener-Waterloo) has grown tired of this silly cycle.
Surplus budgeting is a worthy goal; however, the means by which the Government gets there has to be transparent. Increasing El premiums beyond sustainment and reducing eligibility is not transparent. Sale of undisclosed assets is not transparent. Lapsing budgets by stealth is not transparent.
The report from the Commissioner for the Environment goes on and on through painful chapter after painful chapter cataloguing, in great detail, highlighting failure after failure by the Harper government to address everything from biological diversity and the conservation of migratory birds to Recovery Planning for Species at Risk and Ecological integrity of National Parks.
Mother Nature seems to be a little out of sorts these days. In excruciating detail, the IPCC documents her unhappiness with anthropogenic (a.k.a. man-made) activity. She is even giving some early warnings directly to the PM and his Minister of the Environment. Mother Nature is not impressed and neither are Canadians.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book about the five stages of grief. Denial of inconvenient facts is the first stage. It is followed by anger. Clearly the Conservatives have a deep well from which to draw. Bargaining is the third stage after denial and anger. The problem however is that Mother Nature is indifferent to Prime Ministers. Mother Nature doesn't do Bargaining.
In response to the IPCC's massive and comprehensive report which cites incontrovertible evidence that climate change is real, man-made, and it will have a significant impact on Canada, the Government puts out a press release blaming the Liberal Party for its alleged past environmental failures. Apparently it must be Sir Wilfrid Laurier's fault because, after all, he was the Liberal Prime Minister when the Industrial Age began.