Made in Canada
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.