The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Kyoto: Get used to it

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien had been stringing the country along for months, if not years. Would he, or would he not submit the Kyoto Agreement to Parliament for approval?

He made the annoucement yeasterday at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg yesterday: The agreement would be submitted to Parliament by the end of the year 2002.

"When the consultation is concluded and before the end of this year, the Canadian parliament will be asked to vote on ratification of the Kyoto accord."

And so the die is cast... and the Prime Minister now has the advantage. Jean Chrétien has never been seen as a very green politician; indeed, the Sierra Club had argued this year that Brian Mulroney was a more environmentally conscious leader. Now, with nothing to lose, Chrétien can aim to "green" his legacy as Prime Minister. Kyoto is just one part of this; expect to see a national safe drinking water initiative in the next session of Parliament.

Chrétien can even do one more thing to apear more democratic (something where he's also been attacked) and that is to submit Kyoto to a free vote. There's no reason not to. Every party except the Canadian Alliance supports Kyoto. There are no less than 96 Liberal MPs who signed on to a letter authored by Don Valley West MP John Godfrey calling on Parliament to ratify Kyoto. This was a response to the requests of a backbencher, who can use nothing other than persuasion to gain support; he has no power over his fellow Liberals.

Paul Martin, now the unofficial opposition leader, indicated last week that he was in favour of ratification. Make that 97 Liberal MPs, and you can add Jean Chrétien, not to mention Environment Minister David Anderson for a total of 99. More will undoubtedly follow.

Kyoto is not a Chrétien v. Martin issue either. Martin, as mentioned above, supports Kyoto, and many of his staunchest supporters (Dan McTeague, Reg Alcock, Tony Ianno) are signatories to John Godfrey's letter. So have Chrétien loyalists like Dominic Leblanc, Dennis Mills, and Bonnie Brown.

Add it up: 99 Liberals, plus you can be sure that all 14 New Democrats and 38 Bloc MPs will vote yes; so will most of the 14-member Tory caucus. At this point, you're up to about 160 of 301 MPs without any need for arm-twisting. Of course, arm-twisting will be necessary; you can be sure that the oil lobby will pressure MPs like crazy.

Another benefit to a free vote is that Alberta's two Liberal MPs can vote against ratifying Kyoto. Come the next election, Anne McLellan and David Kilgour can face their electors and say "I voted against Kyoto because it was contrary to the interests of my constituents and blah blah blah." Will it work? Probably not, but who knows? Kilgour, in particular, has a good relationship with his constituents -- he won by nearly 5000 votes in 2000.

What of the provinces, and of Alberta's protests in particular?

Well, it is the right of the federal government to negotiate and approve international treaties. This has been the case since Confederation, and is as it should be. This power has never been challenged. It must be the federal government that negotiates international deals, and it mustn't be hostage to a rogue province or two. While the feds should respond to provincial concerns, in the end they must govern for the whole country.

Don't provinces own their natural resources, including the air? Isn't it intrustion into provincial jurisdiction to sign Kyoto?

On the first, yes. On the second, well, yes, too. However, other international deals have intruded on provincial jurisdiction. Just look at international trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.) Provincial governments have power over consumer and some sorporate affairs. NAFTA (and its predecessor) required that no laws be enacted that keep U.S., and now Mexican, operations out of Canada's provinces. When people protest international trade agreements, I rarely hear that they're unconstitutional because they interfere with provincial jurisdiction... but I stand to be corrected.

Of course, Alberta's "environment minister," Lorne Taylor, blasted the federal government. Taylor called Chrétien's decision to send the Kyoto Agreement to Parliament "a breach of trust." Of course, Taylor is only following the first rule of modern Alberta politics which is to not do anything that might offend the oil industry. That's fine if one is only concerned with Alberta, but the federal government must concern itself with all of Canada. Alberta is just one province out of ten, with about ten per cent of the population.

"I was shocked because he's always said he won't announce ratification without consultation agreement of the provinces, and he hasn't done that," Taylor said in Johannesburg.

Give me a break. The only way that Lorne Taylor would say that there had been sufficient consultation would be if the federal government agreed to cave in to Alberta's position which is: Do absolutely nothing that could even remotely hurt the oil and gas industry.

Could Alberta win a political fight with Ottawa over Kyoto? Unlikely. Even the Globe and Mail's John Ibbitson, a provincial-rights fundamentalist, thinks that Alberta would lose this one. Could it win a constitutional challenge against Kyoto, as the Calgary Sun's knuckle-draggers (oops, I mean editors. I really, honestly do.) suggest? I'm not sure, but I don't think that you could prove that the sections of NAFTA that interfere with provincial jurisdiction made the deal unconstitutional.

Other provinces have concerns over Kyoto, to be sure. Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert has said that he's concerned about Kyoto, but his concerns are more about its implementation, not about the merits of greenhouse-gas reductions. Ontario was dead-set against Kyoto when Mike Harris was premier, but Ernie Eves wants to be the mediator and conciliator. Even in British Columbia, which may have the most right-wing government in the country, is not totally against Kyoto. The concerns of the province's oil and gas sector are countered by the province's hydro-electric resources, and the prsence of Ballard Power Systems, a leading fuel-cell maker.

Even Québec, with a government that is loath to accept federal interference in provincial matters, is in favour of Kyoto, due to the fact that the province has a massive hydro-electric industry. It could well be the Saudi Arabia of hydro power in the future.

The fact remains, though: No province has veto power over deals negotiated by the federal government, and this shouldn't change.

So get used to incentives to emit less CO2, and penaties for driving gas guzzlers and wasting electricity. You'll get used to it.

. . : :end of commentary: : . .

Media Coverage

G&M: Chrétien aims for green legacy
G&M: Kyoto cost worries business
National Post: Alberta to fight PM's Kyoto plan
Toronto Star: We'll put Kyoto pact to the vote, PM says
Toronto Star: Chretien Kyoto pledge angers Alberta
Ottawa Citizen / PM sets stage for war with West
I really must comment on this headline. It really should replace "West" with "Alberta." Almost all of the article deals with Albertan concerns, and one "western" government (Manitoba) is pro-Kyoto. One is against (Alberta) the treaty. I suppose that this shouldn't be surprising, given the editorial slant of the CanWest Global outlets.
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