19 November 2013

Harper outshames Ford

Embarrassing our country more than Toronto Mayor Rob Ford would seem to be an impossible task. Yet our prime minister has done just that. On November 12th, the federal government issued a formal statement that included the following remark:

“Canada applauds the decision by Prime Minister Abbott to introduce legislation to repeal Australia’s carbon tax. The Australian Prime Minister’s decision will be noticed around the world and sends an important message."

In other words, our government not only supports Australia's retreat from the fight against global warming, it encourages other nations to follow suit. As The Guardian put it, "Canada has dropped any remaining pretences of supporting global action on climate change." This at a time when Ottawa is falling short on its own promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and has no plan to get back on track.

But what is most offensive about this statement is its timing. In response to the massive destruction typhoon Haiyan did to his country, Philippines lead negotiator at the UN climate summit in Warsaw, Naderev Sano, whose own family suffered from the storm, pleaded tearfully to the world to end this "climate madness." Mr. Sano attributed the typhoon, the most powerful ever to make landfall, to climate change. He might be right or he might be wrong, but to issue this callous statement in the face of his country's tragedy is like slapping the man in the face.

We can overcome the Ford follies—just one buffoon behaving badly, after all, even if he is a high profile buffoon—but our shameful behaviour on the biggest threat facing humanity will scar our reputation for a long time. And if our government is successful in convincing other countries to ease off on the global warming struggle, much more than reputations will suffer.

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