With the passage of the kyoto Agreement this week, attention will now be turned to the minutiae of negotiations with polluting companies. You might think there's already a basic script this could follow. After all, neo-cons Ernie Eves and Ralph Klein, who built careers lecturing the poor on responsibility, self-reliance and reducing waste, might be predisposed to give similar advice to the fossil fuel industry. Don't hold your breath.The standards applied to people with few resources apparently aren't used for those unleashing greenhouse gases. If they were, here are the lessons welfare recipients could teach Kyoto naysayers.Neo-cons see the poor as "welfare bums" who will again feel good about themselves when they are dumped from the welfare rolls.
Applying these teachings to the Kyoto debate, there would no longer be a free ride for "carbon bums," who profit from fossil fuels but don't want to bear the burden of costs associated with reducing greenhouse gases.
Lesson one -- taking responsibility for the consequences of your actions.The petroleum and electricity industries accounted for a combined 36 per cent of all Canadian emissions in the year 2000, but they are not clamouring to pay 36 per cent of the cost of Kyoto implementation. Emissions from petroleum industries increased by 40 per cent between 1990 and 2000, largely because of increased production for export.
The industry likes to talk about a "made-in-Canada plan," the cornerstone of which is delaying action and transferring responsibility for the mess to our kids. They never explain what's so Canadian about it.
"It's time to get off the dole and start pulling your weight," is the way the Tories would have put it in the old days.
Lesson two -- ending dependency. Eves taught this when he was still finance minister. "We want to open up new opportunities and restore hope for people by breaking the cycle of dependency," Eves fondly quoted from the Common Sense Revolution. Welfare rates were then cut by 21 per cent and eligibility restricted. By June of 1997, the government reported that 260,000 people had left welfare (although none of the neo-con comrades knew exactly where they had gone).
Today, Eves's graduates could recommend the self-reliance path to George Bush. Were he less dependent on foreign oil, he might be able to spend more time at home. They could point out to Bush that stealth bombers and American lives wouldn't be needed to protect access to wind and sun energy.
This lesson would be equally appreciated in Alberta, a land ever vulnerable to the boom-and-bust cycle of a resource-based economy.
Depending on fossil fuels simply condemns these folks to being perpetual pumpers of crude and subservient to foreign masters.
Lesson three -- using your resources wisely.
Pregnant welfare recipients had their food money cut off so they wouldn't waste it on beer while the Minister of Community and Social Services taught recipients to bargain with shopkeepers for cans of tuna. (Of course, many ended up at food banks for want of food or merchants willing to bargain.)
The same hard lesson can be applied to Canadians' use of fossil fuels. We emit far more greenhouse gases per capita than most of the planet's other inhabitants. Indeed, Canada increased its emissions by almost 20 per cent in the last decade, more even than the United States. Using a monster SUV to get to hockey practice, for instance, is like spending food money on beer.
A question from the class:
Former welfare recipients, watching their old teachers in the debate over Kyoto ratification, may want to ask why the comrades now use their propaganda machines to claim consultation with the provinces is the key to success. They recall that "consultation" used to be a forbidden word because it reflected a lack of nerve or resolve. When their welfare support was cut or eliminated, no one in government consulted with recipients, studied the impact on them or pushed for delays to help them adjust. They were told that in a revolution, decisive action was needed and delay was not possible.
If the same model were imposed today, the message on Kyoto would be: don't blink, keep on track.