Stephen Harper, the Conservative Prime Minister of Canada, has expended significant political energy on rolling back environmental protections throughout Canada. Much of this has dealt with Harper’s criticism, lack of enthusiasm, and eventual withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. Since 2010, Harper’s government has been criticized for what journalists say is the muzzling government scientists who do research on climate change. Requests to meet with these scientists for interviews are delayed and rejected at high levels of government.
Throughout, we have seen a consistent assault on environmental protection and environmental science by the Harper administration.
But one interesting moment arose this week while John Baird, Foreign Affairs Minister, answering questions in Parliament, explained the controversial budget slashing of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy. The National Roundtable is a research agency funded by the government to deliver environmental analysis of policy options. The official reason given from the Harper administration for the cut funding is that the work of the Roundtable was done elsewhere.
But Baird explained the reason for the cuts clearly:
“Why should taxpayers have to pay for more than 10 reports promoting a carbon tax, something which the people of Canada have repeatedly rejected?…That is a message the Liberal party just will not accept. It should agree with Canadians. It should agree with the government to no discussion of a carbon tax that would kill and hurt Canadian families.’’
Admitting that he cut funding to a research group because of their policy positions has generated significant outrage. But, I wanted to go a little deeper. Is this there policy position? Are they just a shill organization supporting the liberal carbon tax position?
I went to the organizations publications page. Looked at the climate reports and read the executive summary of each report. There are 15 total reports and Baird claimed that they have more than 10 promoting a carbon tax…And yet, it takes a while until you get to one that even mentions a carbon tax. In fact, the most recent 7 reports do not even mention a carbon tax in them.
You have to go all the way back to 2009, when Harper was still engaging in climate policy discussions, to the report A Carbon Pricing Policy for Canada which does discuss a carbon tax, a cap and trade permit system, or a combination of the two. The recommendations do not support a carbon tax, instead they support a unified cap and trade system to deal with greenhouse gasses. That idea may have been taken from a radical socialist Prime Minister in Canada named Stephen Harper who said only a year earlier “We will work with the provincial governments and our partners to develop and implement a North America-wide cap and trade system for greenhouse gases”. A cap and trade system, or mixed system is preferred in multiple other reports and you have to go all the way back to 1999 in order to see the organization even entertain a carbon tax alone as a policy option (they do not recommend it, just discuss it as an option). As one commentator explained: “The roundtable had freedom to go anywhere it wanted, but consistently stayed within the parameters of the stated government climate policy of the day.” To claim this is an organization promoting a carbon tax in multiple reports is just false.
Baird’s comment tells us the reason that the Harper administration is cutting the funding to the National Roundtable. It is because of what they talk about. But it isn’t their policy position. They are not the carbon tax promoters that Baird contended they are and their policy position should probably be considered to be along with Harper’s from 2006-2010 when he radicalized his position. They are getting their funding cut because they talk about climate change at all.
Cutting funding to an agency that takes policy opinions counter to those in power is one thing (pretty shaky as well). But, cutting funding to an agency simply because of their topics is quite another. What is in the air over Canada? Don’t ask the government, they aren’t even thinking about that issue anymore.