The track record of the new leader of the Conservative Party suggests she is as antagonistic to the environment and climate change as her predecessor Stephen Harper. The former prime minister has a woeful record on the environment and the new leader looks as though she will stay the course. Earlier this month Rona Ambrose, a former environment minister, was chosen as the interim leader of the Conservative Party and the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Ambrose’s tenure as minister of the environment only lasted a year (February 2007 to January 2008), but it was enough to get a sense for what she stands for. At best she can be described as indifferent, detached and apathetic towards the environment and climate change at worst she is hostile and ill-disposed.
Here is a summary of some of her notable actions as environment minister:
On April 7, 2006, CBC reported that Ambrose announced that Canada had no chance of meeting its targets under the Kyoto Protocol. “My departmental officials and the department officials from natural resources have indicated that it is impossible, impossible for Canada to reach its Kyoto target.” said Ambrose.
On April 13, 2006, the CBC reported that Ambrose stopped Environment Canada scientist, Mark Tushingham, from
speaking publicly about his science fiction novel that deals with global warming. According to Tushingham he was prevented from speaking by an order from Ambrose’s office.
She has also shown disinterest in helping endangered species like the Northern Spotted Owls. In 1990 it was listed under the Endangered Species act in response to its well-documented loss of suitable habitat which is down two-thirds from what it was two centuries ago. As environment minister Ambrose said:
“It is my opinion that…there is no imminent threat to the survival or recovery of the Northern Spotted Owl at this time.”
Despite Ambrose’s statement, the Northern Spotted Owl continues to be in decline.
On October 19, 2006, Ambrose introduced a Clean Air Act that purported to reduce the level of greenhouse emissions starting in 2020, cutting them to about half of the 2003 levels by 2050.
The Act prompted prominent the David Suzuki Foundation to say:
“…what we got was George W. Bush style rhetoric, using language designed to confuse. Much as George W’s “Clear Skies” initiative allows pollution to continue increasing, so does Canada’s new Clean Air Act. Certainly, there are some minor initiatives in the Act that are truly helpful, but they are completely buried under an avalanche of nothingness.”
Ambrose gave industries lots of time before they were expected to reduce emissions, and her government was not planning to impose voluntary targets until 2020. Oil companies were only expected to reduce emissions proportional to production.
Ambrose was criticized by Bill Graham, Leader of the Opposition and on May 15, 2006 he described her as someone who “despises” Kyoto. In fact Ambrose’s contempt for the environment led the NDP to table a motion in the Commons environmental committee calling for her resignation on June 21, 2006.
When he removed her as environment minister, even Harper said, “Canadians expect a lot more” from the climate change file.
While Ambrose has been compared to Catherine McKenna, the new Liberal Environment and Climate Change Minister, the comparison does not extend beyond her sex and her age. Ambrose is no friend of the environment nor is she an advocate of climate action. She may be different in tone than her predecessor, but her environmental politics appear to be similar to the pariah that she replaced. The selection of Ambrose as interim leader suggests that Conservatism in Canada remains a bastion for environmental apathy and opposition to climate action.
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