Well earned congratulations go to all three winners of yesterday’s federal election: the Harper Conservatives, who got their majority and may now succeed the Liberals as Canada’s “natural governing party”; the Layton NDP, who became the Official Opposition with a chance at government some day; and Elizabeth May, who won the Green Party’s first elected seat in Parliament.
What will all this mean for the environment? On most day to day environmental issues of air, water and waste, the federal government plays a limited role, behind the provinces and the municipalities. The major national and international environmental issue is climate change, widely described as Stephen Harper’s least favourite topic, despite wilder weather and water stress. That thorn in the government side, the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, may now be repealed or gutted. Instead of a national cap and trade or carbon tax, we will likely see expensive hopes for ethanol and for carbon sequestration, and ever closer ties with the US. Like the US, we may see more cutbacks in resources for Environment Canada, but perhaps with the same or greater funding for clean and renewable energy options, as proposed both by Obama and by the NDP. We may also see more enforcement of environmental offences, as it fits well with the government’s “tough on crime” agenda.
Where will the best environmental ideas come from in the next four years? I will look first to the articulate Elizabeth May, and to other environmentally focussed MPs such as Linda Duncan, who has tried for so long to get her federal Environmental Bill of Rights passed. The NDP has long environmental roots, although they were less apparent in their current program. NGOs like Pollution Probe and Evergreen will also continue to play an essential role in the idea space. The Conservatives will likely look for an opportunity to take something environmental from the NDP platform, most likely the palatable concept of Green Bonds. But who knows? My crystal ball is in for repairs.
Good luck to all the new MPs- may you serve our country well.