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The Government of Canada’s official website has lots of information about Canadian Environment Week, which runs June 2 – 8. The Harper government, however, seems to have forgotten to mark the occasion. Neither of his official Twitter accounts — @PMwebupdates and @PMHarper — have shared any information about the week. 

Environment Canada’s webpage tells us that Environment Week is “a time for grassroots action to help preserve, protect and restore our environment. This annual event provides us all with an opportunity to celebrate the progress that has been made but also to encourage further efforts all year long.”

It’s no wonder Harper and company aren’t jumping up and down to draw attention to this official week. Their record, in over seven years in power, has been to steadily erode and degrade environmental protections in Canada. As a reminder of what we should be working to defend, or to get back, our parliamentary reporter Karl Nerenberg has pulled together seven stories from the archives that document the government’s record on the environment. 

Seven reminders about the Harper government’s record on the environment 

1) Hot air and cuts to ozone monitoring. Back in 2011, Peter Kent had to explain the decision to cut Arctic ozone monitoring stations.   

Scientists in a number of countries have also been told that Canada will no longer host the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre, in Toronto. The Centre includes an archive of information gathered over many years and used by scientists internationally.

Reacting to this fairly distressing development, one German scientist commented to Nature Magazine: “It appears that the management at Environment Canada was not fully aware of the consequences of its decision.”

2) Dollars for polluting industry, cuts for science and environmentalists.

In its letter to the Canadian Environmental Network, made public yesterday, the federal Department of the Environment said it was not renewing financial support for the Network because of a broader shift away from “core organizational funding.”  Ironically, yesterday’s news also carried a story about another “environmental” initiative, which the government deemed worthy of generous support: the “Canada School of Energy and Environment,” based in Calgary. That organization received $15 million from the federal government and a good part of its vocation has been, in the words of Postmedia News, “to clean up the dirty oil image of Canada’s oil sands and provide the public with a more balanced view of its environmental performance.”

3) Hypocrisy and the story of a journalist-turned-politician — Peter Kent once warned Canadians about global warming.

On Jan. 24, 1984, the CBC television program The Journal broadcast a full edition documentary called “The Greenhouse Effect and Planet Earth.” It was hosted, narrated and written by Peter Kent, who is now Canada’s environment minister. You can find the program here

And you may want to hurry. Evidence of this sort has a tendency to mysteriously disappear from the web.

In his introduction to the documentary, Kent says that it may seem like science fiction but “the scientific community is virtually unanimous”: the planet is getting warmer.

The “greenhouse effect” was a little-known phenomenon at the time of this broadcast, more than 27 years ago. This broadcast may have been one of the first major media reports on the subject.

These days, Peter Kent says climate change is real, but don’t expect us to get serious about it!

4) The Conservatives have turned back the clock on environmental checks and balances.  

The federal environmental review process that today’s announcement seeks to undo has its roots in the 1970s and the beginnings of widespread environmental awareness. Prior to that, especially in the resource boom of the immediate post-war period, it was full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.

5) The government’s crude message to an environmental advisory body: STFU! 

… the government revealed why it is killing the advisory body that the Progressive Conservative Mulroney government created in 1988.

The reason for this killing is simply that the current Conservative government doesn’t agree with many of the Roundtable’s  recommendations.

6) The government pushed ahead with Bill C-45 without full consultation, rushing to pass the legislation through Parliament

The federal government’s virtual withdrawal from a role in determining the impact of mega-projects on water, air, earth, wildlife — and people — will, in effect, close a chapter that began in the 1970s with such groundbreaking initiatives as the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry headed by British Columbia Justice Tom Berger.

7) Environment Commissioner raised the alarm, but the government remained passive and indifferent.

Harper’s is the first Canadian government to quite deliberately try to demonize the environment and environmentalists. That’s why, for months, Conservative MPs would rise each day in Parliament to ritually (and often in a laughable, mechanical manner) decry the NDP’s so-called “job-killing carbon tax.”

No matter that the NDP does not even propose a carbon tax system. The Official Opposition favours putting a price on carbon through a cap-and-trade system.

The Harper Conservatives obviously believe there is a political market for “green-bashing,”a little bit like the “red (or Commie) bashing” of another time.


Happy Environment Week! 

Karl Nerenberg

Karl Nerenberg joined rabble in 2011 to cover Canadian politics. He has worked as a journalist and filmmaker for many decades, including two and a half decades at CBC/Radio-Canada. Among his career highlights...