Given the upcoming Business Beyond Tomorrow conference (featuring David Suzuki as a keynote speaker) hosted by Concordia’s John Molson Sustainable Business Group and the CSU on March 8th, the Concordia team felt compelled to analyze Canadian environmental issues for ourselves before hearing his take. This is the first of a two part series on the Canadian Environment; this article will examine some of the challenges facing Canada presently, while the second will attempt to find fitting policy solutions for certain issues after the conference, with the commentary of renowned Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki in mind. While there is a pressing need for action across the globe, Canada particularly needs to show leadership on sustainability due its vast natural resources. Contrarily however, the inconsistent and deliberately inadequate federal policies from the Harper government are negatively contributing towards environmental disaster both at home and abroad.
While there are numerous environmental issues that need addressing, the root cause for these lies in the perception that Canadians have regarding the balance of the economy and the environment. This misconception is largely what compelled citizens to elect Stephen Harper, as evidenced in the 2008 election in which voters were convinced into thinking that Stephane Dion’s “Green Shift” carbon tax scheme was wasteful and reckless. The economy is an enormous priority in any state, as is the environment. However, the two are not mutually exclusive, contrary to public myth. Good economics stress the importance of Pareto efficiency, which denotes that an allocation of resources can only be considered efficient if it benefits somebody without being detrimental to another. By that logic, corporations creating environmental damage in wake of production causes negative externalities, because the cost of repairing the damage will be placed on taxpayers, other contributing members of the economy. This indicates that an efficient economy and a sustainable environment can and should be corresponding goals. Unfortunately, Stephen Harper’s Canada is one that prioritizes alleged economic growth over all else, including our own environment.
The Conservative government have presided over an abysmal resume of environmental atrocities that have undoubtedly carried negative economic repercussions. The following ideological stances are every bit an economic failure as they are environmental. In 2012, the Conservatives omnibus bill featured a section on changing the Protected Waters Act, lowering the amount of protected bodies of water in Canada from its previous count of 2.5 million to a paltry 159 water bodies which cannot be freely polluted without consequence. This presents a negative externality nightmare, as nearly 2.5 million bodies of water are going to need to be cleaned and compensated through communities and municipalities. A measure such as this where a corporation can dodge some red tape at the expense of governments and taxpayers is an allocation of resources that violates every sense of Pareto provestra canada efficiency.
The worst incidents of economic inefficiency through pollution stem from the Alberta tar sand and bitumen sector. Alberta’s oil is referred to as ‘dirty oil’ by many, as the emissions of extracting it are nearly 30% greater in terms of pollutant units compared to that of regular oil found abroad. The degree of the environmental damage that the tar sands are notorious for is so great that it has severely hindered economic development in many respects. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would ship oil from Canada into the United States has been rejected previously, and its fate is currently in limbo because the American government holds reservations about Canadian oil due to its level of emissions and their insufficient level of regulation. The building and management of the pipeline itself would create thousands of jobs, helping the economies of both nations involved. However, due to the Conservatives dismal track record on environment and their lack of coherent carbon policy, economic growth and development is being hindered since the Harper government has been ideologically laissez-faire regarding the environment at the expense of efficient economics and job creation.
The issues that we’ve examined are only a few among many problems facing Canada’s environment, both great and small. And while they’re undoubtedly in dire need of a policy solution, the underlying causes need to be similarly addressed. Sustainability as a concept only started evolving since the 1980s, and it is clear that the public perception of the word has to change. The Conservative government, among others, has given the public the impression that an arbitrary line must be drawn between economic and environmental issues. This makes words such as sustainability, green, and eco-friendly carry negative connotations with an ill-informed electorate. As basic public sector economics has shown, this should not be the case. Therefore, we believe political rhetoric that implicates green policies as inefficient is misplaced, as are environmentalists who cry foul about our economic system being systemically incompatible with sustainability. With our position firmly in mind, we look forward to attending the David Suzuki conference, and suggesting progressive policy proposals that could potentially help Canadians for generations to come.
– Eli Vincent Zivot and Anissa Saudemont
Business Beyond Tomorrow Conference Info
This Saturday, March 8th, David Suzuki will be speaking as part of the Business Beyond Tomorrow Conference. The event will be taking place from 1-8pm. At the Place des Arts (5eme Salle), and we promise you that it is not an event you want to miss !
If you still don’t have your ticket for the BBT Conference, no worries, they are available online
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