The True North Strong and Dumb

A few months ago, Rhead set a Legal Planet record for attracting comments: 33 (mostly hostile) reactions on a relatively straightforward post about how Canada had achieved the gold medal for “fossilhood”, i.e. most antagonistic to a climate treaty.

Well, it appears as if Rhead has understated the matter:

Federal Conservatives are downplaying concerns over Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s newly-selected boss for Environment Canada and the bureaucrat’s knowledge about global warming.

The department’s new deputy minister, Bob Hamilton, ran into trouble last Monday at a parliamentary committee when he was asked to explain what causes climate change.

“Wow. Umm. They didn’t tell me I’d have to answer questions like that when I took this job. I think that it’s – I don’t know the total answer to that –,” said Hamilton, before Conservative MPs interrupted to prevent him from continuing.

Note: this isn’t just any member of Parliament or even the federal government: it’s the boss of frigging Environment Canada.

My Dad was born in Montreal, and large chunks of my family still live there and in western Canada.  So I’m a Canada-ophile.  But environmentalists have given the Dominion (if one can still call it that)  pass on its environmental policies.  Especially under the Harper government, it has become essentially a Petro-state, deriving an enormous portion of its national income from mineral extraction.  We need to be careful with this, because Canadian positions on the environment vary significantly by region and province: British Columbia, for example, has recently instituted a high successful carbon tax.

But our perceptions of other nations’ climate policies need a readjustment: as I pointed out last week, China has instituted a cap-and-trade scheme, and India has invested heavily in solar.  Middle income countries understand the danger of climate change the opportunities for growth presented by clean energy technology.  Do we?

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About Jonathan

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic – Land Use, the Environment and Loc…

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