Made in Canada

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - This ed­i­to­rial orig­i­nally ap­peared in The Tele­gram

T here’s an in­ter­est­ing ar­gu­ment be­ing made by can­di­dates for the Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship about the fed­eral Lib­eral government, and how much its plans have to change be­cause of another coun­try’s elec­tion.

The sug­ges­tion is that now is not the time to put a car­bon tax in place, be­cause the pres­i­dent-elect of the United States, Don­ald Trump, is promis­ing to get out of cli­mate change treaties and free up Amer­i­can in­dus­try to op­er­ate with­out con­cerns about a car­bon tax regime, or even, ap­par­ently, emis­sions. (Trump has said he be­lieves global warm­ing is a fake con­cept cre­ated by the Chinese.)

Hav­ing a car­bon tax now, some ar­gue, means in­dus­try will flee to a more-com­fort­able United States. And there is a point to that: one of the rea­sons the fed­eral Lib­er­als put a na­tion-wide car­bon plan in place is so that in­dus­tries wouldn’t sim­ply up and move from prov­inces with high stan­dards to their lower-stan­dard neigh­bours. But how low are we will­ing to go? Con­sider a case like this - the Cana­dian government de­cides, based on sci­en­tific re­search, that a ma­jor fish stock is in peril and halts fish­ing on that species in­side Canada’s 200-mile limit. Mean­while, out­side the limit, another coun­try con­tin­ues fish­ing, dis­put­ing the sci­en­tific re­search solely to con­tinue the piracy of catch­ing what it can, de­spite the en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age.

Is the right re­sponse for Ot­tawa to use in­ter­na­tional agree­ments and any other pos­si­ble diplo­matic levers to halt for­eign fish­ing, or should the fed­eral government sim­ply say, “For­get ecol­ogy - we’re go­ing to open the fish­ery and keep catch­ing ev­ery last fish un­til they’re gone. If they’re go­ing to catch the fish, by golly, we’ll catch them all first.”

There are some who would ar­gue for that ap­proach - but at what cost to the world’s oceans?

Put it another way: say Canada’s beef in­dus­try was be­ing un­der­cut by a for­eign coun­try whose beef pro­duc­ers were dou­bling the weight of steers us­ing growth hor­mones that were con­sid­ered dan­ger­ous in this coun­try. If that coun­try started to edge Canada out of tra­di­tional beef mar­kets, would the an­swer be drop­ping Cana­dian an­i­mal health re­stric­tions sim­ply to keep up with the Jone­ses?

Should we put wages and work­place safety leg­is­la­tion be­low that of for­eign man­u­fac­tur­ers, us­ing work­ers’ health, safety and eco­nomic se­cu­rity as an en­tice­ment to have for­eign man­u­fac­tur­ers move here?

Fight­ing to be the low­est rung on the lad­der is a mug’s game. If there are le­git­i­mate en­vi­ron­men­tal rea­sons for tak­ing a step, we should take it.

But sovereignty still has to mean some­thing. If we are a coun­try that makes de­ci­sions about the en­vi­ron­ment, in­dus­try and ac­cept­able stan­dards, we shouldn’t ar­gue we should drop to the low­est de­nom­i­na­tor solely be­cause some­one else wants to take huge risks. The de­ci­sion should be made here - we’re not wait­ing for march­ing or­ders from some­one else.

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