Monthly Archives: April 2006

When “Greenest” Isn’t Green

Last night, Brian Mulroney was declared Canada’s “greenest” prime minister by a group of environmentalists selected by Corporate Knights magazine. Someone with more restraint than myself would probably just say “way to go” and leave it at that, but, well, here we are.

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Mulroney oversaw the creation of a Canada-US acid-rain treaty, and signed on to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. He spoke frequently and passionately about the need to take action on issues of environmental health. If he’d had five priorities, the environment would have been one of them.

Signing treaties, regulations, and agreements was where Mulroney excelled. Unfortunately, we’re far more threatened by our economic systems and structures than by lack of regulations. And in this area, Mulroney took us backwards, not forwards.

No amount of regulation alone can possibly hope to stand up against an economic machine that is designed to extract virgin resources and turn them into waste more quickly and efficiently than has ever before been possible (what Ray Anderson calls the take-make-waste economy). According to Anderson, “less than 3% of the material processed through the [industrial] system has any value whatsoever six months after its extraction from the earth.” Trying to regulate against a system that is designed to create waste is a bit like dealing with the proverbial bull in the china shop by covering it with foam padding. The point is, the bull shouldn’t be there in the first place.

The greening of Canada will only happen when we create closed-cycle, local economies. Standing directly in the way of this goal is Mulroney’s most well-known legacy, NAFTA. Not only does chapter 11 of NAFTA prohibit the Canadian government (for example) from interfering with an American corporation’s “right” to make money by asking them to, say, please stop putting carcinogens in our water, NAFTA also encourages the development of global economies in opposition to strong, local, green economies and communities. It will need to be significantly re-negotiated or replaced before much progress can be made towards building a green economy.

For me, NAFTA detracts from the other positive contributions Mulroney made to genuine progress. If he truly is our greenest prime minister, we could stand to get a lot greener.

The Other Leadership Race

Last week, Elizabeth May, who is resigning as executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada after 17 years, announced she’s considering running for the Green Party of Canada leadership. Today, she expanded on why.

She joins David Chernushenko, a current deputy leader and former Ottawa Centre candidate, who’s been twice endorsed by the Ottawa Citizen.

This is great news for the party (read: country, planet), because both May and Chernushenko are well qualified for the job — albeit for different reasons. In a perfect world I’d have them as co-leaders, since they have complementary strengths. I remain hopeful that whoever comes second in the leadership race (assuming it’s one of them) may offer to serve as deputy leader, and have that offer accepted.

So keep an eye on this one. The next leader is almost certain to be included in the televised leaders’ debates, which will automatically make the Green Party an even more significant player. And a word to the wise: if you want to vote for the next leader, you need to join the party by June 27th.

That was then…

Newsflash: I don’t disagree with everything Stephen Harper says. For example, in 2002 Harper wrote that “standing committees of the House should not simply be extensions of the Prime Minister’s Office, and members of Parliament should choose their committee chairs by secret ballot and set their own agenda.”

Bang on! I couldn’t agree more. The centralization of power only leads to corruption and opacity. Harper was ahead of his time, actually. The Gomery report would later note that “there has been an increasing concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s Office,” and that many Canadians believe that the structures of power should ensure that “no one single individual, such as the Prime Minister, can influence by appointment the decisions of others.” Go Harper go!

Except that now that he’s the PM, he’s changed his mind. The Globe and Mail reports that Harper is, “choosing which Conservative MPs will become chairs of Commons committees, reversing a parliamentary reform that he championed while leader of the Official Opposition.” Oh well, so much for priority number one.

And who gets to benefit from the Prime Minister’s first committee chair appointment? Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott, who the Globe notes is best known for frequently issuing anti-abortion press releases.

Bush Baby vs. Hillier

The man Robin Williams calls a Bush Baby has told yet another person they’re not allowed to speak publicly. Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier now joins Conservative MPs, cabinet ministers, people who use cell phones in meetings, and an Environment Canada scientist who believes in global warming on the list of people who aren’t allowed to talk without checking with the PM first.

Seriously, how long is this list going to get? And how far down is my name?