Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Blues go anti-Green

Going away for Easter weekend. In the meantime, check this out. I was shocked to hear about it on the radio. It would seem that in spite of their minority status in Parliament, they're not going for the subtle approach.

OTTAWA (CP) - A scientist with Environment Canada was ordered not to launch his global warming-themed novel Thursday at the same time the Conservative government was quietly axing a number of Kyoto programs.

The bizarre sequence of events on the eve of the Easter long weekend provided an ironic end-note to the week in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced his first piece of legislation - aimed at improving accountability and transparency in government.

The day began with what was supposed to be the low-key launch of an aptly titled novel, Hotter than Hell.

Publisher Elizabeth Margaris said that Mark Tushingham, whose day job is as an Environment Canada scientist, was ordered not to appear at the National Press Club to give a speech discussing his science fiction story about global warming in the not-too-distant future.

"He got a directive from the department, cautioning him not to come to this meeting today," said Margaris of DreamCatcher Publishers.

"So I guess we're being stifled. This is incredible, I've never heard of such a thing," she said.

Margaris had driven to Ottawa from New Brunswick to attend the speech, where Tushingham was expected to talk about his novel and the science he based it on.

The novel imagines a world where global warming has made parts of the world too hot to live in, prompting a war between Canada and the U.S. over water resources.

"Due process for this event was not followed and that's why it was cancelled," said Ryan Sparrow, a spokesman for Environment Minister Rona Ambrose .

Publicity for the planned book launch identified Tushingham as an Evironment Canada scientist, Sparrow said, "and it was assumed that he would be representing the position of the department.

"We would not have objected to Mr. Tushingham's appreance if he had been referred to as a private citizen."

Harper says he was not aware of the details, but his government was elected on a platform that included developing a new plan to deal with climate change.

"I obviously not only hope, but expect, that all elements of the bureaucracy will be working with us to achieve our objectives," Harper said at an appearance in Wainright, Alta., Thursday.

The prime minister's comments might be seen as a clear warning to public servants thinking of straying from government orthodoxy.

Harper has been criticized for the tight control he wants to exercise on what cabinet ministers and civil servants say in public. He also opposes the Kyoto protocol, which many scientist believe could help slow global warming.

The scientific, or literary, muzzle was put on Tushingham just as the Tory government was preparing to quietly confirm it is killing off over a dozen research programs related to the Kyoto protocol.

Late Thursday afternoon, on the eve of a long weekend when governments traditionally dump bad news for the least possible public exposure, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn issued a news release saying 15 programs were being eliminated.

Lunn said the programs had run their course.

"The new government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper is committed to putting an end to the massive increase in (greenhouse gas) emissions that Canada has seen over the past decade," said a release.

"To do that, we need a new approach to addressing climate change that is effective and realistic for Canada."

Harper said the Conservative governing platform "will include measures we're going to develop over the next year or so to deal with both pollution and greenhouse gases."

But cabinet documents obtained by the Globe and Mail suggest the cuts won't stop at 15 programs.

The newspaper reported Thursday that the Conservatives will cut 80 per cent of programs aimed at curbing global warming at Environment Canada.

Budgets in other government departments aimed at climate change will be slashed by 40 per cent, the newspaper reported.

Liberal MP Scott Brison was crying foul Thursday.

"It is clear the Conservative government has no plans to listen to expert advice from their own department and is willing to sacrifice sound environmental policy to partisan ideology," said Brison.

Under the Kyoto treaty, Canada is committed to a six per cent cut in emissions from 1990 levels by 2012. Yet emissions have risen by 30 per cent. Harper has said the target is impossible to meet.

Leading environmentalists from across Canada say the opposition parties should defeat the government if it abandons the effort to meet Canada's Kyoto commitments.

Canada can meet its emissions-cutting target under the Kyoto Protocol despite government claims to the contrary, activists from eight environmental groups told a news conference Wednesday.