15 May 2009

If the provinces can do it ...

The provinces continue to show some enlightenment on the challenge of global warming even if the federal government continues to keep its head in the sand -- the tar sands, of course.

Quebec was first with a carbon tax albeit a limited one. B.C. deserves credit for the first substantial tax and has enacted legislation to move toward a cap-and-trade system. Quebec will have cap-and-trade legislation in place by the end of June and Ontario and Manitoba will soon follow. The four provinces, along with seven U.S. states, are part of the Western Climate Initiative, which is working toward a regional cap and trade system.

None of this is enough to deal fully with global warming, of course, but it does show a commitment to the challenge. Meanwhile, the federal government lollygags, its efforts less than inspiring. The Environment Commissioner, Scott Vaughan, states that its targets are overstated and it has no system in place to measure results. The feds suggest we must wait on the lead of our southern neighbour.

The provinces don't agree. The premiers of Ontario and Quebec have indicated for some time that, if necessary, they will go it alone on climate change. According to Premier McGuinty of Ontario, "We both agree that we have an opportunity, even a responsibility here in Canada, to put in place a carbon-exchange register that will, one way or another, serve as kind of a pilot project that the federal government and maybe even the government in Washington can use as a base for a national program."

In other words, Canada can set an example. We could be a leader rather than a follower as our current federal government seems content to be. The situation was until recently the same in the U.S. States such as California led the way in dealing with climate change while their federal administration dragged its heels. With the election of Barack Obama, that's changed. Unfortunately, there is no Obama in sight in this country, but maybe we don't need one. The four provinces setting the pace include 80 per cent of the country's population and 75 per cent of our GNP, so much can be done without the help of the dawdlers in Ottawa.

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