Polling emboldens environmental
groups to pressure Tories
[PoliticsWatch updated 2:15 p.m. January 9, 2007]
Emboldened by polling showing the environment is now the top issue
for Canadian voters, a coalition of environment groups held a press
conference on Parliament Hill Tuesday to make demands on the
Conservative minority government.
Climate Action Network Canada, which represents
40 groups including Greenpeace and the Sierra Club of Canada, issued
a seven-point strategy for the government to tackle climate
"The prime minister has acknowledged that Canadians expect more
from their government on the environment and he's absolutely
right," said John Bennett, executive director of Climate
Action Network Canada.
"Canadians know that we're facing a climate crisis and they
want to see real action and they want to see a recommitment to the
During the press conference the environmental groups repeatedly
referred to this moment in Canadian politics as
For the first time in the country's history, the federal government
made a major Cabinet shuffle largely centred around the
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has enlisted the skills of one
of his most trusted and effective cabinet ministers, John Baird,
to handle the Tory government's environmental policy.
This came after the Tories spent most of their first year in power
dismantling Liberal programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and
introducing a climate change plan without any short-term
But the environment has suddenly catapulted to the top of a list of
issues for Canadians ahead of health care, which is usually No.
A Decima Research poll for the Canadian Press released last week
showed 19 per cent of respondents said the environment was the issue that concerned them most personally, followed by health care at 13 per cent.
The issue has jumped to the top in part due to mild winter weather
in central Canada and the wild weather on Canada's west
"We have serious public pressure and we've had that missing for
a very, very long time," said Louise Comeau of the Sage
"The historic moment we're at .. where we can look to see real potential change on climate change has been brought about by the Canadian public," said
Clare Demerse, an analyst with the Pembina Institute.
"We feel that the Canadian government up to now has a deficit of credibility, but they are looking and speaking about changing that and we feel that is because of the concern Canadian public has shown in polls and in this time of strange weather."
The environmental groups' seven-point plan recommends:
> Implement a climate change plan that re-commits meeting all of
Canada's obligations under Kyoto.
> Introduce absolute emission targets for big industry that take
effect in 2008
> Introduce automotive emission standards at least as stringent
> Announce national objectives for low-impact renewable energy
> Restore the EnerGuide for Houses program
> Increase climate change research
> Invest in programs to educate Canadians about climate change
The recommendations will be presented to Baird later on Tuesday when
he meets with representatives from 10 environmental groups in B.C.
The meeting was arranged by Baird's office on Sunday evening.
Of the seven recommendations, the biggest stumbling block appears to
be Canada meeting its Kyoto targets.
In a television interview over the weekend, the prime minister said
Canada will be 50 per cent over its Kyoto targets come 2012 and
there's not much that will change that.
"We can't tell the Canadian population to heat their home one-third less of the time ... so we've got a major challenge, and we are going to get on with
it," Harper told CTV.
At a press conference Tuesday, Liberal MP John Godfrey
criticized the prime minister's comments on the weekend regarding
"Now the prime minister says that Canada's emissions will be 50 per cent above the Kyoto target by
2012," Godfrey said. "This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you cancel existing programs and do not replace them, if you deny yourself the full range of domestic and international measures available then of course Canada will fail to meet its targets.
"By definition, targets are unattainable if you don't try to attain them."
Comeau also rejected the prime minister's comments and said Canada
could meet its targets if it takes advantage of "all the flexibility"
in the Kyoto protocol.
She said this would include Canada purchasing international emission
credits from other countries, something both Harper and former
environment minister Rona Ambrose have said the Canadian
government would not do.
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