From: Dr. David Suzuki, David Suzuki Foundation
Published May 12, 2006 12:00 AM

Canadians Getting Mad about Lack of Environmental Action

The longer I spend on my book tour, the more I'm convinced that Canadians are really starting to get angry about environmental issues.

They aren't just upset because there are so many issues in the news right now, but because it doesn't seem as if anyone's doing anything about them. The problems just keep coming up: polar bears drowning due to melting ice, bird species disappearing because their habitat is being destroyed, persistent pollutants accumulating in the food chain, and the list goes on. But where are the solutions?

Here we have a concerned public, who want to do their part to help, but they are becoming increasingly frustrated by what they see is a lack of action on the part of their leaders. Meanwhile, leaders are responding with ...a lack of action.

Case in point - the recent federal budget. Here was an opportunity for Mr. Harper to lay the groundwork for how his government could rescue Canada's floundering environmental record. It was a chance to put to rest concerns that he couldn't care less about the environment by doing something bold and ambitious. One of Mr. Harper's heroes, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney did just that with the Green Plan that helped make him Canada's "greenest" prime minister.

Yet, the prime minister did nothing. The environment is barely touched on in the 600-plus-page budget document. And climate change, perhaps the most pressing environmental issue facing the world today, one that is expected to have profound repercussions for our economy and quality of life, doesn't even rate a mention. This, in spite of the fact that Mr. Harper has been dismantling pretty much every single piece of the previous government's climate change plan.

The Liberals took eight years after signing Kyoto to come up with a plan, which is why Canada's emissions are so high today. But at least we finally had a plan. Now Canada has nothing. Instead, we have vague promises about a "made-in-Canada" solution - a meaningless phrase if there ever was one. The previous plan was, of course, made in Canada too. Mr. Harper is simply playing politics of the disingenuous kind he always said the Liberals did. Now, he's proving himself the master.

This kind of partisan nonsense is exactly what is getting under the skin of Canadians. It simply isn't helpful. They have burning questions that demand answers: Why do cars still burn so much gas? Why can't I buy a home that uses less energy? Why do small things come in such big, wasteful packages? Why doesn't more electricity come from clean sources, like wind?

In other words, they want to know why it's so hard for them to make the least damaging, most socially and environmentally aware consumer choices. The answer is simple - because governments aren't doing their jobs. Instead of showing courage, they cower. Instead of being leaders, they pass the buck. And instead of acting in the best long-term interests of their constituents and their country, they pander to the lower common denominator with a smile and a wave.

Of course, there are exceptions. Some provinces and many municipalities are truly showing environmental leadership. But it seems the further you go up the political food chain, the weaker the political resolve. This doesn't have to be the case, but it's the hand we've dealt for ourselves.

I hate to say it, but we got ourselves into this mess. If Canadians really want action on the environment, we have to demand it from our leaders. And if our leaders fail, we have to throw the bums out.

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Source: David Suzuki Foundation

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