In a clear sign that the Harper government‘s anxiety over the tars sands is increasing exponentially, the rhetoric from the Conservative government has become ever more shrill and less rational in tone. Rumors have abounded for some time that Harper himself is in fervent denial of climate change, but his PR handlers have cautioned him not to personally come “out of the proverbial closet” on climate change because it would cost Conservatives votes, the thing they care most about. But this stance appears to be changing, as Canada’s “natural resource curse“, consequent economic downturn, Canada’s failure to invest in innovation, and national productivity crisis converge on the Harper government. An ominous parallel can be drawn with South African President Thabo Mbeki‘s official denial that HIV did not cause AIDS, which became an international embarrassment for South Africa. The implications for all Canadians are immense.
Joe Oliver, Canadian Environment Minister Denies Climate Change Science
Mel Brooks, Writer, Director and Producer of the 1977 comedy film “High Anxiety”
Over the last few years, the Conservative government has quietly made a number of domestic and international policy moves that give clear evidence of its denial of climate change science. However, Harper himself has remained largely silent on these issues, providing him with just enough political cover to avoid being personally tarred for denying science. Now, over the last few weeks, Harper’s Environment Minister, Joe Oliver, has been making statements on climate change and the tar sands that have led the national Canadian media to react with disbelief, and sharp criticism in print. By allowing his Cabinet Minister to speak out so brazenly suggests that Harper needs to turn up the volume on climate change denial, again without overtly risking making such statements himself, though it clearly underscores that denial of science is the official Canadian government policy.
“I think that people aren’t as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees,” Oliver said in an editorial board interview with Montreal daily newspaper, La Presse. “Scientists have recently told us that our fears (on climate change) are exaggerated.” Meantime, a newly-published peer-reviewed study by Canadian and Chinese scientists has linked fossil fuels to rising temperatures in China. For his part, Oliver was not able to identify which scientists he was using as a source, the newspaper reported. Canada is the only country in the world to have pulled out of the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
Two weeks ago, Oliver was proclaiming that the Alberta oil sands industry was the“environmentally responsible choice for the U.S. to meet its energy needs in oil for years to come.” Globe & Mail Journalist Tzeporah Berman wrote in response, “At a time when climate change scientists are urgently telling us to significantly scale back the burning of fossil fuels, having a minister promote exactly the opposite really does feel like being told that two plus two equals five.”
The logical conclusion that can be drawn from all of this is that Harper’s national economic policy centered on the tar sands, is coming apart at the seams. The Conference Board of Canada (now led by former UBC Sauder Business School Dean, Daniel Muzyka), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a United Nations body, and leading Canadian media have all reported data that are extremely disconcerting for the Canadian economy.
Tragically, we are observing Canada increasingly losing its reputation as a World leader in humanitarian ideals and sensitivity for the Earth, not to mention Canada’s global competitiveness, as exhibited by Harper government policy that is nothing less than reactionary anti-intellectualism, which makes Canada a pariah to the community of nations. Canada’s strategic options to reverse its economic woes are dwindling.
What would you do in this situation?