Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Opposition Should Attend Kyoto Talks

It's a complicated question, as to whether the opposition is justified in following our government to UN Climate Change Conference in Nairobi. The reasoning against, articulated succinctly in my last post by Curiousity Cat:
With due respect to the Bloc, NDP and Liberals, this is wrong. Whether they like it or not, the Tories are the government of Canada, duly elected. To send delegations to an international body to undermine the legally elected government of our country is misguided and insulting to all voters.

They should stay home and pass legislation to ensure different policies are made the law of the land.

No question, it could set a dangerous precedent having the elected federal government challenged on the international stage. Seldom will we see unanimous support by all parties for any government initiative. Could this development mean that everytime we have an internal dispute, it festers into an embarrassing international spectacle? How can the government of Canada hope to speak with clarity, if their actions are constantly undercut?

First and foremost, we live in a democracy that allows for dissent and freedom of speech. In that sense, these MP's are free to express themselves, much in the same way we allow domestic protest at G8 summits and other international meetings. Contrary points of view manifest everywhere in our system, why do we demand a unilateral voice on the greater stage? No one had a problem during the last round of talks in Bonn, when Canadian environmentalists spoke out against the Conservatives.

The argument that we insult the process by upstaging the legally elected government falls short when you consider the actual vote. Two thirds of Canadians cast votes for these opposition parties, why should a flaw in the parliamentary system disenfranchise the majority? Canadians overwhelming support Kyoto, should this sentiment not be reflected, or do we resign ourselves to the minority speaking with impunity? If our government was a majority then the question becomes more complicated, but in a fragile minority situation, the government doesn't dictate the debate, nor does it have leverage to ignore the opposition view.

Canada has signed on to a legally binding treaty. Kyoto flaws aside, we have an obligation to work within and try our best to reach our targets (whether we do or don't is irrelevant to the spirit). You could argue that our legally elected government is ignoring international law, and in so doing relinquishes any moral argument about jurisdiction. If the opposition wishes to inform the international community that Canada remains committed to our Kyoto obligations, then it allays any perceptions that Canada shirks its responsibilities.

I would argue that this situation is unique, and doesn't necessarily set an easily used precedent. There are many stories out today about the Tories preparing to join the Asia-Pacific Partnership on climate change. While the propaganda argues that this group is meant to compliment Kyoto, the nature of the proposals are in direct contrast to the Kyoto approach, in fact it is the rival group. A vast majority of experts have concluded the partnership is nothing more than a scheme to blunt criticism, while emissions go unchecked and greed is king. Given the Conservative duplicity, given the fact that Ambrose has overtly worked to undermine the Kyoto talks, given our international obligation, not only is the opposition justified, Canadians should demand that we have another voice to express our true desires.

I understand why there is hesitation about undermining the government. However, on this issue, with the stake so high, I am willing to turn a blind eye, in the hopes that whatever damage is done is counter-balanced by the longterm gain of calling out our shameful, disingenious government.


Peter Loewen said...

SteveV: Whether a minority government is a flaw of the system or not is up for debate. But it seems quite clear that given our system the Conservatives are the government of Canada, and it is their prerogative to do what they wish on the environment.

Anyways, the press that the MPs will get from hectoring in Kenya will be bad. It won't look good on them and you can bet that the Conservatives will accuse them of "playing politics" and embarassing Canada. I think it's a short sighted strategy, even when the question of etiquette are put aside.

Steve V said...

"their prerogative to do what they wish on the environment."

A quick seat count suggests otherwise.

Shannon said...

"Canada" signed an international treaty. Not really . Canadians had no say in signing Kyoto. Most don't have a clue what it means or how damaging this whole UN ponsi wealth reallocation scam will be for the country.
The Liberals signed this without even asking all of the provinces or industries or taxpayers if it was a good idea. Therefore, nobody knew what was being promised on our behalf.
But, the promise was broken by the Liberals - NOT by Canadians. The Liberals promised a GHG reduction that could not be achieved.

And, for those screaming about backing down from an international agreement - how about the UN sanctioned NATO mission in Afghanistan. The same people screaming about Kyoto and some kind of "honour" in keeping a bad promise want us to back out of the most important world wide mission to rescue a failed state and millions of people.
Sheesh. Hypocricy is rampant. THAT is what is embarassing.

knb said...

Peter, we do not yet know that they will hector and frankly I would doubt that.

Steve, I've been thinking about this on and off and I'm hard pressed to see the downside.

You said: Canada has signed on to a legally binding treaty.

That to me is paramount. To discard it, is criminal.

I truly hope we can raise this discussion beyond the past. Obviously, looking back provided context, but it is time to move on folks! It is time to move on.

Looney in Lotusland said...

Even though the Liberals did nothing for 13 years and spent 6 billion dollars doing it they have a winner with Kyoto. As long as Canadians remain overwhelmed by the propaganda of global warming they will buy into Kyoto=Environment as the issue. People may be dying during smog alerts and our land and water may be being poisoned but the media focus on climate change seems to trump real science and common sense.

knb said...

shannon:"Canada" signed an international treaty. Not really . Canadians had no say in signing Kyoto.

Hmmm, you sound a little angry shannon. Your argument is hollow however...the government of the day "signs" on behalf of all of us...voted on of course, on behalf of all of us.

Afghanistan, yes, there was a vote, but it was between a rock and a hard place. Harper said, screw you, no matter the vote, I will do. He has the power to do that in this circumstance...he misused it.

You also said: want us to back out of the most important world wide mission to rescue a failed state and millions of people.

Who has said that???? THE most important mission to rescue a failed state? I'd argue that my friend.

Frankly I'm tired of vacuous attacks, very tired.

wilson61 said...

well said Shannon.

knb said: ''You said: Canada has signed on to a legally binding treaty.
That to me is paramount. To discard it, is criminal.''
Canada has told the international community that we remain committed to Kyoto (as was reported in Steves previous thread) BUT are unable to reach the target DATES the Liberals committed us to.

Japan wants to renegotiate Kyoto too, and are proposing changes along the line that Ambrose is asking for too, and without penalties. Other countries are backing Canada also.

The opposition can not speak officially, so they can wave banners in the halls, (take Garth with you, he can do the MPTV thing). Go for it. But MY tax dollars better not be paying for this very expensive and vendictive trip by the opposition!!!

Steve V said...

"The Liberals signed this without even asking all of the provinces or industries or taxpayers if it was a good idea."

So, the Liberal federal government had no juridiction to sign international treaties, nor did it have the right to make this international law in Montreal. Interesting, considering the topic. The government has no right to do anything without consulting with everyone to get their personal approval. Hmmm.

"As long as Canadians remain overwhelmed by the propaganda of global warming"

You sound like Harper a couple years ago. For every one study that questions global warming there are a thousand that support it.

What is particularly hilarious, people are now citing Japan as an ally to point out the flawed Kyoto protocol. Japan has an abysmal environmental record, on almost every issue. Bush, Japan and China, what a ecological, progressive bunch we are siding with. I couldn't be prouder.

Anonymous said...

I can't leave this alone.

It is unbelieveable that the opposition parties are going to go to Nairobi, picket the Canadian delegation and try and get media sound bites. The hypocrisy. The gaul. The arrogance.

If they truly feel the need to do something this outrageous, call a vote of non-confidence, bring down the government and let's go to the polls. The rest of this is just the audacity of pompus cowards. To quote Jack Layton from the last campaign, "this beating of the chest is not helpful".

Some of the people writing stuff wouldn't know Kyoto from Osaka. Todd, a little environemnt lesson for you: 1. don't listen to Greenpeace, they too are politicians. 2. Canada is 2% of total emissions, if we destroy our economy we can probably drop that back to 1.8%. By the way, David Suzuki and Elizabeth May know this, they are just having too much fun playing the politics of "scapegoat" to bother telling the truth. 3. The Green Plan everybody is trashing is actually the first thing the Canadian government has done to physically decrease our emissions.

What kind of car does John Godfrey drive? Does he count carbon credits when he gets on a plane? When was the last time he planted a tree or did anything to help forest management or forest protection in Canada?

I hope the media pins him & Cullen to the wall and make them justify this international embarrassment.


Looney in Lotusland said...

Steve ask yourself this question: how did Canada get suckered into targets so extreme that even the dimmest amongst us knew would be impossible to reach? Chretien provided the pathetic "they will count our trees for credit" excuse and many people bought it. Our European friends, having signed on to achievable targets for themselves must have been laughing at us. Why then sign on at these levels? Let us follow the money.

Steve the scientists, the environmental crusaders, the fund raisers, and the hangers on are just part of the "jobs for the boys" patronage group and the dollars involved are but chump change. There is nothing new here. No the monster is in the hot air credits to be paid to developing nations. Mo Strong, the man who created both CIDA and Kyoto and who has been residing in China since his involvement with the oil for food scandal popped up, has his finger prints all over this one. Here is the scam. The Liberals were about to allocate ten billion dollars for the Kyoto agreement commitments, which the Conservatives have cancelled by the way. Next the money is funneled into CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) which up until the Federal Accountability Act was beyond the oversight of the Auditor General. Contracts are then awarded to loyal Canadian corporations in a fair competition ( are buying this so far, right?) to build windmills in the Gobi dessert to offset our domestic CO2 emissions. It doesn't matter if anyone even sees the windmills let alone demonstrate that they are functional but the money has been paid to the higher purpose and all Canadians will "feel warm" for meeting our Kyoto targets. Folks this is a win win for everyone. Other than the bribes needed to pay off foreign officials the bulk of the money stays right here in Canada, with Liberal friendly firms, and Canadians get to appear holier than though on the international stage

Anonymous said...

It is one thing to oppose the Tory government's policies, here at home.

It is disrespectful to our democratic tradition to send MPs to international bodies to hector the legally selected government.

The place to battle the Tories is right here, in Canada. The opposition parties have the votes; let them use Parliament to express the views of the majority of voters in Canada.

If Bloc, NDP and LPC MPs traipse around international bodies second-guessing the elected government, they will make Canada look like a banance republic.

The Rat said...

KNB, most of your argument so far has been a series of two-faced and hypocritical examples.

You don't like a minority representing Canada because most Canadians didn't vote for the winners? You call that quirk of the parliamentary system? It would do you well to remember that even the mighty Chretien never had 50% of the Canadian vote. So I assume you will be supportive of NDP and Bloc reps dogging future Lib government using that argument?

bigcitylib said...

Frankly, given the importance of the issue, and the fact that the government supporters amount to a few nuts, I say it would be foolish not to go. It is important to show the world that the people of Canada are better than their government.

As for Kyoto, everybody was consulted, including "industry", and the gov. cut almost everybody a break. One of the reasons it is so difficult to reach our targets.

knb said...

the rat: I do not call minority governments a "quirk" of our parlimentary system.

In answer to your question, if a minority Liberal government in the same numbers as the present CPC, took an action that all three parties unanimously objected to, yes, I would expect them to be called on it. That's the beauty of our system.

BTW, I think I heard Rona Ambrose say that the opposition members were invited by her, to go to Nairobi. It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

wilson61 said...

Want a peek into the future of the carbon credit buying scheme? And what the opposition will hear when they 'protest' at the meeting:

NHS carbon trading sees millions go up in smoke
By Melissa Kite Deputy Political Editor, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:13am GMT 05/11/2006

Hospitals have lost nearly £6 million since a controversial Government scheme to cut carbon emissions was introduced.

The chaos caused to essential public services by Labour's participation in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme is revealed in a series of emails and documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

They show that hospitals have suffered a net loss of £5.8 million since the beginning of 2005. Campaigners say that this is the equivalent of employing 309 nurses...

Reporters calling for answers from the Department of Health suggested that £1.3 million a year was being lost by hospitals buying and selling carbon credits...

...He said that, using current carbon prices, hospitals would incur costs of £810,000 a year but the administrative costs of the scheme were £3,000 per trust, adding an extra £300,000 to the total...

However, the think-tank Open Europe did precisely that, and 85 trusts replied to its request for information. The net overall loss for the first phase of trading (2005 to 2007) so far is £5.8 million.

One of the big losers was North Glasgow, whose four hospitals lost nearly half a million pounds...

When it was launched last year, carbon trading was trumpeted as a way to curb the damage big business does to the environment. But the oil company Shell has made £49.9 million selling its unused allocation and BP has made £43.1million, while public bodies are struggling to break even...

Miss Brayford replied: "The education sector also feel aggrieved."

Another manager from Epsom and St Helier complained that the cost of the scheme for 2005 including admin is "circa £28,000. Had we spent that money on upgrading lighting installations, say, we could have put an additional recurring £10,000 per annum of public money towards patient care and reduced national CO2 emissions by circa 8 tons per annum."

Neil O'Brien, the director of Open Europe, said: "Only the EU could have come up with an environmental policy that takes money from the NHS and gives it to big oil companies."...

"The only conclusion we can draw is that they were so embarrassed by the amount of public money that is going on this scheme that they suppressed the truth.

wilson61 said...

Dion Says Targets Can’t Be Met: Former environment minister Stephane Dion has conceded that a future Liberal government would be unable to meet its Kyoto commitment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels. (National Post, July 1, 2007)

"In 2008, I will be part of Kyoto, but I will say to the world I don't think I will make it. Everyone is saying target, target. But ... it is to be more than to reach a target. It's to change the economy. It's to have resource productivity, energy efficiency when we know that energy will be the next crisis for the economy of the world." (National Post, July 1, 2006)

For the past two months, Mr. Dion has been explaining away an interview with the National Post's John Ivison, in which he seemed to suggest that, whereas France had to do nothing to meet its Kyoto targets, Canada's were unattainable. In Victoria, Mr. Dion made the same point to me — adding for good measure that Jean Chr├ętien had only proposed these stringent targets to trump the Americans. (Globe and Mail, August 21, 2006)

wilson61 said...

Kyoto Report Card 2004
Executive Summary
Can you name one piece of legislation that the federal government has passed to meet Kyoto since ratifying in 2002? No? Neither can the Sierra Club of Canada. And two years after Canada ratified Kyoto, this explains why Canada has made little progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

*****...So why then are senior government officials, such as the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources, George Anderson, admitting publicly that Canada won’t make it to Kyoto?***

Olaf said...


I think that the logic of your support is flawed.

You suggest that a seat count shows that the Conservative government should be challenged on the international stage, because it doesn't speak for the majority of Canadians. However, what if a majority government received 43% of the vote (from about 60% of the population who voted)? Should they likewise be challenged internationally by opposition MPs, because they don't represent the majority of Canadians?

I suppose that by this logic, a fully 50% of eligible Canadians would have to vote for a party for that parties decisions in government to be binding on future governments. This would be a highly unlikely scenario, but would be necessary to satisfy your majoritarian creterion.

Even then, such a government wouldn't represent all Canadians, even though they may represent the majority. Therefore, by your principle that these MP's are free to express themselves, much in the same way we allow domestic protest at G8 summits and other international meetings, shouldn't MPs from opposition parties always be able to go to international conferences and undermine government initiatives? They're just exercising their freedom of speech? By what authority could you deprive them of this right? Shouldn't they be able to speak for those Canadians who the government doesn't represent, just as these MPs are speaking for those Canadians who didn't vote Conservative?

I have many other objections to the comments in the thread but I'll leave those until I'm satisfied with the above...

robedger said...

Good post. I'm still a little torn on the issue, but thanks for the thorough analysis.

wayward son said...

"Canadians had no say in signing Kyoto."

Bullshit. Canadians supported Kyoto then and they support it now.

"the media focus on climate change seems to trump real science and common sense."

The media coverage on climate change has done more than any reasonable person would to pander and include the ridiculous lies of the oil-funded skeptics. The real science is that climate change exists. The real science is that humans are causing it.

"Japan wants to renegotiate Kyoto too, and are proposing changes along the line that Ambrose is asking for too, and without penalties."

Without penalties there might as well be no accord at all.

"Go for it. But MY tax dollars better not be paying for this very expensive and vendictive trip by the opposition!!!"

Why not? My tax money has been used to fly the PM to things like hockey games and other non-governmental things. I don't see why my money can't be spent for MPs who were elected to represent Canadians going to a conference and representing Canadians. If the government refuses to represent us then someone had better.

"What kind of car does John Godfrey drive?"

That is a good question I think that we should ask all of our politicians these questions. Elizabeth May, by the way, who you like to deride has never owned a car (or a cell phone) as far as I know.

"how did Canada get suckered into targets so extreme that even the dimmest amongst us knew would be impossible to reach?"

I don't understand how Canada's target was extreme and impossible to reach, yet the UK which had a stronger target somehow managed to surpass their target with ease. Can someone explain to me why it is that our target was impossible?

"Our European friends, having signed on to achievable targets for themselves must have been laughing at us."

Most of the European countries had targets as high or higher than ours. Oh, and they are not laughing at us, they are disappointed, as they should be.
(Loony in Lotusland the rest of your post is so completely full of shit I am not going to bother responding to it.)

Peter Loewen said...

SteveV: Like it or not, the Cons are the government of Canada, just as Paul Martin's minority Liberals were. Until such a time as another election or a larger coalition of parties can form a government, the Conservatives have the sole constitutional prerogative to represent Canada outside the country, and to honour or dishonour international treaties - binding or non-. This does not mean that they should dishonour treaties, or that they should necessarily dishonour them. It's only to say that the world will notice whether or not someother hysteric decides to point it.

dalestreet said...

I don't really think that these opposition MPs airing our "dirty laundry" in Nigeria is the best tactic, however, I find it quite rich that Conservatives should take such offence. My memory isn't what it used to be but didn't Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day write a letter to The Wall Street Journal critising the then, Liberal, majority government for staying out of Iraq? Sounds like this opposition is taking some pages from Conservative playbook.

Olaf said...

Hey Steve,

Check out Jeff's post on the matter. He completely annihilates any moral high ground which Conservatives can claim on the matter... *sigh*