Saturday, February 21, 2009

Harper's Double Lie

If you were like me, you gagged when you heard the prime minister complain during President Obama's visit that it was 'difficult to regulate the environment when there was no regulation south of the border.' Is he implying that he has been chomping at the bit to limit greenhouse gas emissions, but has been held back by George W. Bush? C'mon Steve.

There is a second problem with the prime minister's statement--it isn't true. There has actually been a lot of effective regulation south of the border, for the simple reason that many state and local governments in the U.S. had the good sense to not follow their president. But Bush's policies have served as a convenient excuse for both Liberal and Conservative governments to drag their feet. I wrote about the Liberal record back in 2006-- from 1990 (Kyoto's base year for measuring changes) to 2002, global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, increased 16.4 percent, according to the International Energy Agency. The U.S. increase was 16.7 percent, and most of Europe hadn't done much better. And Canada? Between 1990 and 2002, our greenhouse gas levels rose 23.6 per cent ! The reason: Chretien loved the optics of signing the treaty when the US didn't and loved setting ambitious targets, but caved to provinces and businesses who didn't want him to actually implement those targets, and whose cooperation was needed in order to implement them.

That proved to be a very convenient truth for the Conservatives when they took office in January 2006. As climate change soared to the top of opinion polls, Harper tried to change the topic (talking about smog) and then had his telegenic Environment Minister, Rona Ambrose, explain to Canadians and the world community that Canada had no intention of meeting its Kyoto targets, because the Liberals had left them so far behind that they couldn't catch up. (Of course, had the Tories been in power, Canada would never have signed or ratified the treaty in the first place.) But now that Obama is hugely popular, Harper finds it convenient to blame somebody else--his old pal, George W. Bush. Nice try, Steve.

A petition worth signing

The underfunding of science and technology in the Tories' so-called Economic Recovery Plan has already been pointed out in the media. But on closer inspection, it may be even worse than we thought. Another item on the Tory hit list is social sicence funding. It seems ridiculous to skew social science research funding toward business, after 20+ years of New Public Management and neoconservatism and neoliberalism. Does Canada really not have enough MBAs?

Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton has been circulating a petition to the government that will hopefully correct this telling flaw in the Tory budget.

To sign the petition:

Here's Nikki's petition:

To the House of Commons in Parliament Assembled

We, the undersigned residents of Canada, wish to bring to your attention the following: For more than thirty years, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) has been promoting and supporting university-based research and training in the humanities and social sciences. SSHRC funding has been used to complete ground breaking research in countless areas in Canada and around the world. The Federal Budget presented on January 27th contains a sentence that has the potential to halt this kind of research: "Scholarships granted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council will be focused on business-related degrees". These measures are backward and insulting to the thousands of Canadians that are students and researchers in the social sciences and humanities. THEREFORE, we petitioners are calling upon the government to remove this sentence from the 2009 Budget and ensure that SSHRC funding not be allocated to one specific discipline but to the range of studies in the social sciences and humanities.

Niki Ashton is an NDP MP (Churchill) Parliament Hill: House of Commons Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 Constituency Offices: Thompson Office: 83 Churchill Drive, Suite 307 Thompson, Manitoba R8N 0L6 Hours: 9:00AM - 4:30PM Phone: (204) 677-1333 Fax: (204) 677-1339