Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An InconvenientTruth About Canada

One of the problems with Canada at the Copenhagen talks is that the environment is a provincial issue of responsibility and not a federal one. The problem is that the Federal government signs international treaties for the country even in areas that the Federal government has no role in.

International treaties that deal with areas of responsibility of the Provincial Crown should be dealt with through instructions from the provinces and not from Federal Crown. The Federal government may sign a treaty, but it can not enact the changes needed to achieve what is promised. The Federal government has no authority to make laws with respect to the provincial environment.

In 1997 Canada signed the Kyoto Accord. The Liberals remained in power for seven more years and clearly showed the problem with the Federal government going ahead with something in the provincial realm, the country achieved nothing. Chretien and Martin did nothing more to reduce greenhouse gasses than Harper has done. The biggest difference is that the Liberals pretended they cared and would do something. Gordon Campbell has had a bigger impact on greenhouse gas emissions than any Prime Minister.

BC should have a seat at these talks, the whole nature of who gets to sit at the table and who does not is crazy. Certainly BC is a more important player globally than New Zealand. BC has the legislative tools to make cuts in emissions, in fact it has more power to do so than countries in the EU. If BC were on its own, it would have the 50th largest national economy in the world. I can hear you, but what about PEI?

There are 17 countries at these talks that have smaller populations than PEI. These countries all have the same vote as Canada does. But you can not mix sovereign nations and sub national units. Actually you can if it makes sense to do so.

The Copenhagen talks would not suffer from having relevant sub national units of countries represented at the table. There are actually few countries where the sub national units have the responsibility for the environment. If it was not Canada at Copenhagen, but the ten provinces, I suspect the talks in Copenhagen would benefit. The biggest provinces in Canada are the leaders in North America on climate change issues. Alberta owns the tar sands.

Canada could easily state that the treaty needs to be signed by the Provincial Crown and not by the Federal Crown.

When it comes to doing something about emissions, a Canadian province is a better size and scope to be able to make functional changes that will reduce emissions. The Federal government often tries for a one size fits all approach in the country and normally fails with this. With ten provinces, there will be ten different approaches, each tailored for the local area. There will also be ten different models in use. In five to ten years it should be clear which model works the best.

Canada should hold regular first minister meetings on climate change. It is from these meetings that the Federal government should take its direction. When the Federal government works outside of its area of expertise and competence problems arise. The best the Federal government could do is work as a facilitator for the provinces.

No comments: