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Ontario, Quebec rip into Harper at COP15

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Getting targeted by a Yes Men hoax was not the only problem the Government of Canada was facing today at the talks.

Pressure is building on Canada from all sides as we move into the crucial last week. Maybe there was something in those gift baskets full of treaties that reps from the Indigenous Environmental Network left at the Canadian Embassy this morning to highlight their ongoing protests over the tar sands. Because much as environment minister Jim Prentice tries, he can't keep the tar sands off the radar.

The real trouble actually started last night when Ontario and Quebec held a joint press conference to highlight the initiatives that both provinces have taken to go well beyond the emission reduction commitments the feds are bringing to the table. But according to the "reviled" Steven Guilbeault (wrongly accused of perpetrating the Yes Men hoax), the presence of some employees of the federal government, surreptitiously planting releases pumping federal investment in the two provinces, was upsetting enough to the provincial hosts, that it significantly raised the temperature of the media meet. The provinces took the gloves off and offered up some strong criticism of the road being taken by Harper and co.

"It's absolutely imperative that Canada take a tougher position regarding greenhouse-gas emissions," Ontario's environment minister John Gerretsen said.

"I don't think it takes a genius to figure out that with the tar-sand oils that are being developed in Alberta and Saskatchewan that -- of discussions that I've seen and been a part of -- they want to continue to develop those. Obviously if they are developed, there might have to be larger greenhouse gas emissions [reductions] elsewhere in the country in order to meet our overall targets. And we want fairness."

There is another reason that Ontario and Quebec are concerned about Canada's position at the talks. Our country is one of only two countries holding out on agreeing to start the emissions cut countdown from 1990. By insisting on 2005 as the starting year, the feds reward Alberta, which substantially increased emissions between 1990 and 2005. But they also punish Quebec and Ontario for coming on board early with pre-2005 emission cuts by discounting their early cuts and then making it a bigger climb for these provinces to meet the new targets to come. Not pretty.

Canada's two most populous provinces will likely soon be joined by B.C., Manitoba and others indicating that while the feds seem willing to punish more than 80 per cent of the country's population in order to please the Alberta oil men, there is a strong base for push-back.

This is not a short-term problem for Harper. In fact, it looks like just the beginning of a serious showdown with some real political risks.

Add to this the fact that the annual Climate Change Performance Index was launched today and Canada again finished in 56th place out of the 57 countries evaluated, only outdone by Saudi Arabia.

Finally, Power Up also came out with a report today which compares Canada's performance with the U.S.. Harper and Prentice have repeatedly commented that their policy is to match that of our neighbour to the south. This report exposes that this is far from the actual practice of our national government. The report highlights the fact that Canada's global warming emissions are growing significantly while U.S. emissions are declining. As well, the U.S. government is providing unprecedented levels of support to clean energy and efficiency while Canada's primary programs are expiring. In fact, the U.S. is outspending Canada as much as 14-1 per capita on renewable energy.

"Although Canadian and U.S. targets proposed at Copenhagen are superficially similar, the U.S. "target" does not include many of the programs before the legislative branch and none of its executive branch programs. Canada has no program to meet its proposed cuts."

All of this comes as a real showdown over the Kyoto Protocol is launched by an organization of 77 developing nations. They are unhappy that the talks may not be affirming the continuance of Kyoto as legally binding to the signing parties and talks have been suspended for hours while facilitators are trying to bring them back in the room. Of course, it is the official policy of the Canadian government to replace not continue their Kyoto commitments, once again placing them on the very forefront of the issue that could scuttle a deal here this week. Not a good day to be Canadian but the good news is, not a good day for the shameful government either.

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