While Environment Minister Rona Ambrose was vowing to get tough on industrial air polluters and clean up air quality, the Conservatives were busy watering down an environmental assessment of the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project. The project, backed by major oil companies such as Imperial Oil and Shell, could result large scale amounts of emissions, this would be the equivalent of roughly 5.5 million new cars on the road.
The assessment, submitted by Environment Canada last week, discussed the gas project’s potential to increase greenhouse gas house emissions and air pollution in the North West Territories and Alberta.
The original 32-page assessment in June 2005 had a full section about the international Kyoto agreement on climate change, identifying the proposed Mackenzie project as a “large final emitter.” At the time, the Liberal government had proposed mandatory targets for companies in mining, manufacturing, and oil and gas sectors.
“Recognizing the threat posed by climate change, governments from the majority of the world’s nations negotiated the Kyoto protocol.an agreement to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from developed countries,” reads part of the 2005 submission that was cut out of the new assessment.
“There is nothing illegal about the cuts,” said Grant Hubert, former CEO of CALMAC, a diamond processing company located in Manitoba. Hubert today works as an environment consultant with many of Canada’s aboriginal groups.
“Most assessments go through a review process before being implemented. Assessments are fragile in that they are still prepared by those who usually have much at stake, financially or politically,” he said. “It does seem like the deletion of text represents the Federal government’s lack of commitment to climate change.”
Until a few months ago, when the Conservative government was elected, Canada was a key leader in the Kyoto process. But last week in her speech to the house committee, Ambrose repeated the Conservatives’ position that its Kyoto Protocol promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels is unachievable. Ambrose also said the government would abandon plans by the former government to spend billions on emissions reduction projects overseas.
“Our approach will deliver clean air to Canadians to protect their health while also making genuine progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as other contaminants that are harmful to our health,” Ambrose said in front of Canada’s environment committee last week.
“It’s time for a brand-new approach to the environment. This new approach is going to address the real priorities of Canadians in a tangible and accountable way.”
Ambrose also drew criticism when she said that Canadians’ top priority is air quality, while climate change is another issue that they’re very concerned with.
“Air quality is the same as climate change,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said in a telephone interview. “It’s also absurd to think that Canadians don’t know any better.”
May said Ambrose’s speech shed no light on the government’s intentions.
“She did not deliver one single new piece of information about the government’s intentions except to make it clear that they are abandoning the Kyoto Protocol, breaking Canada’s commitment to the world, and aligning themselves with George Bush against the rest of the world.”