Once a person finds out you’re Canadian, a picture appears in their mind. A vision of polar bears as pets, igloos as houses and maple syrup covering every meal immediately appears. For future generations however, a new image will overpower the rest: one having Canadians as money hungry, oil filled, environmental threats. This new image is quite a change from the proactive, earth friendly Canada the world knew two decades ago. And who can Canadians thank for this shift in environmental protection? The federal government of course.
Although the current federal conservative government isn’t fully to blame, the recent dramatic cuts of both money and jobs in the environmental department overshadow the lackluster performance of the former Liberal government. Under the previous government, Canada was ranked 28 of 30 countries for green initiatives in a 2005 study done by Canadian environmentalist, David Suzuki’s foundation. While agreeing to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 6% below the 1990 levels by signing the Kyoto Protocol, they instead allowed Canada’s emissions to increase 20% by 2005.
With a new year, came a new government. Conservative Stephen Harper was elected as Prime Minister in 2006. With this came the beginning of the end of environmental protection in Canada as we knew it.
In the six years Prime Minister Harper has been the leader of Canada, 200 million dollars has been cut from both environmental research and monitoring, the number of review agencies for projects has been severely decreased (only three exist today), over 700 Environment Canada jobs have been cut and most recently, Canada has withdrawn from the legally binding Kyoto Protocol. The reason given for these drastic reductions in environmental protection is of course, the economy. The propaganda explains that in order for the economy to survive, cuts need to be made, and those cuts need to come from the environment budget. It is acceptable however, for the government to spend 60 billion dollars on military warships and fighter jets, or so they say.
The most shocking and internationally condemned action taken by Canada is by far its withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol was the first step in cutting greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The federal government stated that the emissions’ cut was unrealistic and through attempting to meet their goal, the economy would suffer. And of course by the economy, they mean the Alberta tar sands. While some do credit the tar sands for keeping Canada out of the recent recession, they are also credited with releasing the most amount of greenhouse gases the country has ever seen. With tension in the Middle East, the United States promotes and supports the Alberta tar sands as it is seen as ethical oil. The oil from Canada is from a democratic, free society, whereas by buying oil from Middle Eastern countries, America is seen as supporting their way of life and government; something they went to war over.
So let’s try to understand the mechanics of the Alberta tar sands shall we? Because we can’t talk climate change in Canada without mentioning these destructive reserves. The process in which to extract the oil in Alberta creates far more emissions than extracting regular crude oil as the energy needed to do so is extensively more. This is because the oil in Alberta is situated in bitumen, which is a very thick, black substance. As opposed to conventional crude oil drilling, wherein the oil is simply drilled and captured, the oil in the bitumen must be extracted from the sand. The process in which these two substances are separated is extensive, time consuming and, as expected, costly. The oil in Alberta is available through both mining and in situ processes. The mining process damages the land severely, whereas in situ involves far less damage. The in situ process of extracting oil involves heating up the bitumen to a temperature where it becomes less viscous, allowing for it to flow to the surface. Once deemed unconventional oil because of the drastic measures needed for extraction, it has recently been branded as conventional, allowing the public to feel better about these polluting, expensive tar sands. Cue government funded commercial displaying lovely scenery where oil was once mined.
So what can we do? Get involved! As the government has control over how Canada’s environment is treated and funded, electing politicians with the environment as a priority will result in change. It is only through being proactive citizens can our voices truly be heard. With more education on the environment and more importantly, our impact on it, the masses will understand the crisis at hand and become motivated. After all, this is a democracy and every vote counts!
Not only is the Canadian government finding every way possible to decrease the amount of green initiatives already in place, but it is knowingly polluting the atmosphere and destroying the land. It has become a country internationally frowned upon for its lack of efforts in the fight against climate change, as money and power have taken priority. Now, let me ask you, is this the kind of country you are proud to call home?