A Real Dictator?

Dictator_Frame1When right-wing Americans accuse Barack Obama of acting like a dictator, we Canadians just laugh. Obama doesn’t posses near the executive powers of our own Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Compared to Harper, Obama is a wuss.

Here, briefly, is how the Canadian parliamentary system works. In Canada in a national election people vote only to elect their local member of parliament. They do not cast a ballot to elect a Prime Minister as such. Following the election, the leader of the party that has the most Members of Parliament (MPs) becomes the governing Prime Minister.

However, a party leader has total control over who is allowed to run in an election. For a candidate’s nomination papers to be accepted, they must bear the leader’s signature. Once elected, they are to remain loyal to their party leader. Votes in the House of Commons, where legislation is passed, are “whipped” to maintain strict party discipline.

Together, the elected members of a party form a “caucus” to determine that party’s policies and strategies. The party leader has complete authority over the caucus, can throw any member out of caucus at will, and unilaterally determines the agenda of the caucus. The system gives the party leader complete dictatorial powers.

question_period.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxIf the party in power possesses a majority of MPs in the House of Commons, its legislation will always pass. There will be debate on the floor of the House, but often it will be a sham debate held only for the benefit of the cameras. When a party member rises to ask his or her minister a question, these days it is a prepared question scripted by the party’s communication office. The minister will then rise to answer with a response scripted by that same communications office. When opposition MPs rise to ask a question of a minister, that minister will respond with one of the available scripted responses – even if it does not pertain to the question asked – a practice that has become increasingly common during Question Period under the present Conservative administration led by Stephen Harper. No one is to go off script.

As political columnist Andrew Coyne recently stated at the McKercher Lecture Series at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Law,

This is “an MP’s lot: to do as they are told, speak as they are told, vote as they are told, stand in their place when they are called upon [for a vote] and sit down after, to attack their opponents on cue, and shout their support for the leader, often to the tune of a standing ovation.”

Coyne continued, saying that Canadian Prime Ministers “have amassed powers that are quite without parallel” within any parliamentary system in the world. The Canadian Prime Minister appoints the Senators who give all legislation a “second reading” and can either approve the legislation or amend it and send it back to the House for reconsideration. He appoints the Governor General (the Queen’s representative in Canada) who provides the final signature passing any bill into law. The Prime Minister appoints members of the Supreme Court and all Federal Court judges. He appoints the ministers in his Cabinet, every Deputy Minister, and all parliamentary secretaries and committee chairs. In addition, he appoints the Governor of the Bank of Canada, the heads of all major crown corporations (national public utilities, etc.), and the Chief of the RCMP (the national police force). Even the (supposedly) independent officers of Parliament such as the Auditor General, the Information Commissioner and the Privacy and Ethics Commissioners are all appointed by the Prime Minister. These appointments are not subject to opposition, debate, or review. The decision is solely the Prime Minister’s.

Coyne continued,

And that is just the start. The Prime Minister alone, for example, decides when to dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections. Coupled with the power to declare any vote a matter of confidence, he effectively has a gun to the heads of any member of either side of the Commons who might be tempted to defeat a parliamentary bill.

Mind you, if government MPs are powerless, they are Caesars compare to the opposition in their desperate futile attempt to hold the government to account. Have you watched Question Period? They can’t get their questions answered when they ask them. Indeed, they can’t get the documents they demand. And when they do … they can’t trust the numbers in them. And on those rare, rare occasions when a government is finally being held to account, when it really comes under close scrutiny, it prorogues [suspends Parliament] for months at a time.

We should note that Stephen Harper has pushed the exercise of these powers further than any Prime Minister before him, leading Elizabeth May, the leader of Canada’s Green Party to complain that Stephen Harper isn’t acting as a “real” Canadian. Nevertheless, these powers exist under the Canadian parliamentary system.

By contrast, President Obama possesses none of these executive powers. The American system of checks and balances limits his authority in every of these areas. He will never possess the kind of unilateral executive authority that our own Canadian Prime Minister has.

So take note, Americans. If you want to see a real dictator in action, don’t look to Obama in Washington. Look north of your border to Canada’s Stephen Harper.

Photo credit: Adrian Wild / The Canadian Press

What’s Stephen Harper’s Next Move?

HarperThe Canadian Parliament resumes sitting today as Prime Minister Stephen Harper returns from his state visit to Israel.

Reaction to Harper’s trip to Israel has been mixed. Many commentators have noted our Prime Minister’s refusal to publicly criticize any of the Israeli government’s policies even though Canada’s official position is that the new settlements being built in Palestinian territories are illegal. Others have publicly lamented the loss of Canada’s role as an impartial broker in Middle Eastern affairs.

With Parliament resuming the focus will now return to Canadian domestic issues. The ongoing Senate scandal will be high on the list of issues to be dealt with. So also will be safety and environmental issues surrounding the increasing transport of oil by rail and pipeline.

Economic issues are bound to come to the fore as well, with the Finance Minister rumored to have a new budget ready for release sometime in February. Jobs and employment figures will certainly be on the table, as will the future of Canada’s Health Care system with the current Federal-Provincial Health Accord expiring next year.

Canada_votesmallThe Conservative government will no doubt be talking up its accomplishments as it positions itself for the upcoming 2015 federal election. Next month marks the beginning of the ninth year of the Harper government’s rule, an exceptionally long time for Conservative rule in Canadian politics. The only previous Conservative governments in the last half-century were under John Diefenbaker (1957-63), Joe Clark (1974-79) and Brian Mulroney (1984-93).

Harper’s first two terms as Prime Minister were as head of a minority government. He won a majority in the 2011 election, but with only 39% of the popular vote thanks to Canada’s multi-party system. A poll conducted last November showed only 29% of Canadians favoring the Harper Conservatives. One cannot help but think of Brian Mulroney’s disastrous final election bid in 1993 that saw the Conservatives suffering the worst defeat ever for a federal governing party.

Stephen Harper’s policies since becoming Prime Minister have been driven more by ideology than by practicality. He represents the most conservative faction of the Conservative Party (his roots are in the Alberta based Reform Party), and his policies have been strongly criticized by former Conservative Prime Minister Joe Clark.

NCC logoBefore becoming leader of the Canadian Alliance Party (the precursor to the Conservative Party of Canada), Harper served from 1998 to 2002 as president of the National Citizens Coalition, a conservative think tank which has actively campaigned against the Canada Health Act, the Canadian Wheat Board, closed-shop unions, the mandatory long-form census, and electoral laws that limit third-party spending. It has promoted increased privatization, tax cuts and cuts to government spending.

Since becoming Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has worked steadily to accomplish many of the goals promoted by the NCC. In 2011 the Conservative government announced that the long-form census questionnaire would no longer be mandatory. In October 2011 the Harper Conservatives introduced legislation to scrap the Canadian Firearms Registry; it was passed in February 2012. In August 2012 the Conservative government ended the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly on wheat and barley purchases. Most recently, Bill C-377, which would place increased restrictions on labour organizations, has been reinstated in its original form in the current session of Parliament after being softened through amendments by the Senate in the previous session.

Health Council of CanadaEven more serious are the changes envisioned by Harper for Canada’s system of health care. The Harper government has announced that it will stop funding the Health Council of Canada which coordinates national approaches to Canada’s provincially operated health systems. The Health Council basically provides the ‘glue’ that holds the nation’s health care system together. According to a report in the Toronto Star,

The vacuum in federal leadership will fragment the health care system into 14 separate systems operating independently from each other. This fragmentation undermines the core principles of the Canada Health Act, especially comprehensive coverage and portability between provinces and territories.

Lack of federal coordination and guardianship means that more and more Canadians will lack access to comparable health services in primary care, prescription drugs, home care, rehabilitation and longer-term care.

This latest move follows other actions taken to undermine Canada’s national health care system.

First the Harper government derailed the national pharmaceutical strategy contained in the 2004 Health Accord. … Then the Harper government unilaterally announced major cuts to federal transfer payments for health as well as fundamental changes to equalization payments. The cumulative effect will be to take more than $60 billion out of health transfers and equalization payments in the decade following 2014. … Now the Harper government is saying when the 2004 Health Accord expires next year, it will not be renewed.

EI ProtestLast month the Toronto Star provided an extensive listing of other programs that are being targeted by the Harper Conservatives. It reports that since taking power eight years ago, “the federal Conservatives have chipped away at programs that helped define the compassionate, caring Canada built over the course of several generations.” In particular, “Social programs long valued by Canadians are in the Conservatives’ crosshairs.”

Federal health-care spending is to be reined in. Canadians in future will have to work two years longer before receiving old age security — a measure Harper said was meant to address Canadians’ disproportionate focus on “our services and entitlements.”

And at a time when 1.3 million are without jobs, the federal government has toughened the criteria that employment insurance recipients must meet to hang on to their benefits. In all, only 37 per cent of jobless Canadians are eligible for EI benefits.

The Star reports that

Dozens of groups dedicated to improving human rights or the wellbeing of the most vulnerable citizens have also seen their funding reduced or eliminated as Ottawa redraws its priorities and budget allocations.

At least 10 aboriginal organizations and more than a dozen environmental groups, including the Experimental Lakes Area research site and the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission, were hit. Groups working on child care, rights advocates, health-care researchers, numerous immigrant support organizations and women’s groups … received less support from Ottawa.

These moves have been going on since the Conservatives formed their first minority government in 2006. That year, having inherited a $13 billion budget surplus, the Conservatives still eliminated $1 billion in spending.

Gone were the Court Challenges Program, which had funded legal actions by gays and rights activists, and the Law Commission of Canada, a respected federal law reform agency. At the same time, the Conservatives took aim at Status of Women Canada, closing regional offices and barring the federal organization from funding women’s groups involved in advocacy and research. Also among Harper’s first moves was cancellation of the $5-billion, five-year national child care program set up by the Liberals.

But, the 2012 budget, announced once the Conservatives finally won a majority government, revealed the broader scope of Harper’s agenda.

[It] cut the Canadian International Development Agency’s budget by $319 million; trimmed spending in the Aboriginal Affairs Department by $165 million and reduced Environment Canada’s budget by $88 million. It also scrapped the independent National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy … .

The budget legislation overhauled environmental protections established over many years, weakened equal pay rules meant to protect women, aboriginals and others working for federal government contractors, and launched a crackdown on charities, including environmental groups, suspected of doing too much political advocacy.

But it was changes to the EI system that sparked some of the angriest responses to the Conservative agenda. The new rules require laid-off workers to take jobs they might previously have considered unsuitable, possibly with up to 30 per cent less pay. If not, they could lose their EI benefits.

Stephen Harper’s conservative agenda for Canada shows close parallels to the regressive policies advocated by conservative Republicans in the United States. But these moves are not broadly supported by the Canadian public.

The vast majority of Canadians want their national health care system to be preserved. They want environmental regulations to be rigorously enforced. They want the rights of aboriginals, women and minorities to be protected. And they want the elderly, the poor, and the unemployed to receive adequate support.

Stephen Harper has been steadily dismantling Canada’s social contract ever since his party took power. He is causing irreparable damage to “the compassionate caring Canada built over the course of generations.” We need to make this his last year to govern.

It’s time for Canadians to show Stephen Harper the door.

Stephen Harperphoto credits: Chris Wattie/Reuters; Adrian Wyld/CP

Nelson Mandela’s Canadian Connection

NELSON-MANDELA-1991426This week as the world remembers the legacy of Nelson Mandela, Canadians are recalling his special relationship with this nation. As Evan Solomon, host of CBC Radio’s program The House, noted on Saturday,

If Nelson Mandela belongs first to South Africa and then to the world, he also belongs uniquely to Canada, where he was made an honorary citizen. It’s a special bond forged in the midst of the international struggle against apartheid by the Prime Minister [of Canada] who, against great pressure, brought sanctions against South Africa.

Back in 1985 the call for sanctions against the apartheid government on South Africa was an extremely contentious issue. Both President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were firmly against it. But that year Canada elected a new Conservative leader named Brian Mulroney who took a different view.

Mulroney, Brian (DHC 5)As Brian Mulroney recalled on Saturday when being interviewed by Solomon,

I felt when we came in that the support that Canada had been giving to Mandela and the ANC and the fight against apartheid was both tepid and inconsistent with our values. If Canada stands for anything internationally as a modern medium-sized power, we should stand for the protection of human liberties and civil rights, and here we were with the greatest human liberties struggle on the face of the planet going on, and we were not raising the flag with the vigor that we ought to have been. So I made this a priority of the government and indicated to the Cabinet that we would fight this at the United Nations, at the G7, at the Commonwealth, and at the summit of the Francophonie [an international organization of French-speaking nations].

This policy was carried out by Canada’s foreign minister, Joe Clark, who championed Canada’s opposition to the apartheid regime on the international stage. At the time, Canada was the only G7 nation to take such a resolute stance against apartheid.

Mulroney recalls that

with the United States and the United Kingdom out, Canada was the leading industrialized Commonwealth player and G7 player who was in full support of Mandela. They needed a white industrialized country in support of the ANC’s objectives. And we were it.

From his prison cell on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela learned on a BBC broadcast that “a young Canadian Prime Minister had taken control in Canada” and had made Mandela’s cause Canada’s top international priority. Mandela intently followed developments as the movement gained ground, and was immensely grateful for Canada’s leadership in pushing to end apartheid.

Soon after the world celebrated Nelson Mandela’s release from jail in May 1990, Mulroney recalls that Mandela phoned him and said,

Because of the tremendous support that Canadians have given me and given my movement, I would like to make my first trip to a democratically elected parliament to speak before the Parliament in Ottawa.

BRIAN MULRONEY, NELSON MANDELAMandela made that trip to Ottawa in May 1990 to tumultuous acclaim, and delivered what Prime Minister Mulroney called the most memorable speech to Canada’s Parliament since that of Winston Churchill in 1939. On the floor of Parliament he thanked Prime Minister Brian Mulroney who, he said,

has continued along the path charted by Prime Minister Diefenbaker who acted against apartheid because he knew that no person of conscience could stand aside as a crime against humanity was being committed.

And addressing all Canadians, he stated,

We are deeply moved that today you honour … us, who were outcasts only yesterday, to experience if only fleeting, what it means to stand and speak at a place whose existence is based on the recognition of the right of all the people to determine their destiny, and whose purpose is to ensure that that right is guaranteed in perpetuity. We are made better human beings by the fact that you have reached out from across the seas to say that we too, the rebels, the fugitives, the prisoners deserve to be heard.

In May 1994 millions of viewers around the world watched as Nelson Mandela became the first black President of South Africa. He served in that capacity until 1999. During that time, Mandela distinguished himself in working to heal that nation’s wounds in the wake of the oppressive apartheid policies that until then had divided South Africa’s European and indigenous populations.

Alberta’s current Premier, Allison Redford (then a young lawyer) worked closely with Mandela during those years in trying to rebuild the legal system in South Africa. In 1996 Mandela oversaw the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the many crimes committed under apartheid, and it did much to heal that nation’s wounds.

Canada’s close relationship with Nelson Mandela continued, and on November 19, 2001, he became the first living person to be made an honorary citizen of Canada.

Belatedly, Canada came to recognize that South Africa’s apartheid laws had been constructed to a large extent on Canada’s own Indian Act of 1951 (updated from an earlier act of 1876), which placed the affairs of all “status” Indians directly under government controls. Canadian aboriginals have suffered greatly under the provisions of that act. Of particular concern is the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse experienced by generations of aboriginal children who were taken from their homes and placed in residential schools.

TRUTH-AND-RECONCILIATION-COMMISSIONIn 2007 Canada established its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission built upon Mandela’s model used in South Africa to hear testimony from survivors of abuse in the residential schools, and to heal the wounds suffered by Canadian aboriginals over a 120-year period. The commission expects to complete its work by 2014.

Mandela’s relationship with Canada has now come full circle. Just as Canada provided key support in Mandela’s struggle to establish justice for the native people of South Africa, now he has provided Canadians with a model for establishing a greater measure of justice for Canada’s aboriginal population.

Nelson Mandela’s influence and legacy reaches far beyond his homeland of South Africa. It is making an important difference in Canada as well. And for this we are truly thankful.

Credits: Getty; Fred Chartrand/CP; Wm. DeKay/CP; CP

Strategies for … Job Creation?

melber-house-jobs1The Harper Conservatives in Canada and the Republican Party in the U.S. have more in common than I thought. Both say that job creation is their top priority. How do they each go about pursuing this goal?

By the end of May 2013 the Republican led House had held 183 votes on various bills. Precisely one of these had to do with job creation. Instead, the main focus was on attempting to repeal Obamacare (in whole or in part) 39 times and pushing through bills to severely limit women’s access to abortion. The anti-abortion bill passed by the House this week is clearly unconstitutional and will never become law. How this helps to further the Republicans’ “top priority” of creating more jobs is beyond me, and Americans have every right to ask if the planning and research put into these bills is effective use of their tax dollars.

In Canada the job creation strategy has been somewhat different. For those who follow Canadian politics the following graphic pretty well sums up the current strategy coming from the Prime Minister’s Office:

PMO Budget Paln

By the way, neither strategy is proving to be very successful. Perhaps it’s time for our governments to actually focus on job creation?

Canada Shamed in Refusing to Sign UN Arms Treaty

Once again Stephen Harper’s government has embarrassed Canada on the international stage. In April Canada joined 153 other nations in voting to pass a comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations General Assembly.

Harper-ParliamentBut this week, as more than 65 countries around the world, including Canada’s major allies, formally signed on to this landmark agreement, Canada waffled and refused to present the treaty to the Canadian Parliament for signing. The Globe and Mail termed the decision “bizarre” as only Iran, Syria and North Korea – all human-rights pariahs – are on record as opposing the treaty.

The Arms Trade Treaty marks a significant achievement in international negotiations.

The treaty covers small arms and light weapons, missiles, tanks, combat vehicles, aircraft and warships. Most importantly, it prohibits the export of arms intended for use against children and civilians, in crimes against humanity and acts of genocide.

Canada was seen as dragging its feet throughout the treaty’s development. Back in 1997 Canada took a major leadership role in leading discussions to ban land mines, and was highly praised for its efforts. This time around it was the U.K., Mexico, Japan and Kenya that led the way. In late March when 32 countries formally backed Kenya’s initiative to bring the treaty to the UN General Assembly for a vote, Canada was conspicuous in its absence.

In the final vote, our diplomats supported the treaty, but Canada’s increasing reluctance to take leadership roles in these negotiations is a cause for concern and risks sabotaging its reputation as a champion of human rights.

Assault-Weapons-Flickr-Creative-Commons-ChayakThe Star even asks,

Has the Conservative government lost its moral compass? The Arms Trade Treaty is intended to curb the uncontrolled flow of weapons and ammunition to criminal regimes, terrorists and others who commit war crimes, terrorism, piracy, organized crime, atrocities and human rights abuses.

Why would Canada oppose such a treaty? Look to the gun lobby.

During the negotiation phase two years ago, Canada sought to have all sporting and hunting firearms explicitly excluded from the treaty. The Mexican delegation strongly objected, stating that, “in their experience, a great number of arms confiscated from its notorious gangs are sporting and hunting firearms that have been modified and transformed into assault weapons.”

Observers at the time stated that Canada’s insistence on this exclusion might derail the negotiations. Canada’s position attracted the scorn of countries like Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico and Australia, and under intense pressure Canada eventually dropped its request for the exclusion of civilian firearms. In its place, the Canadian delegation settled for a statement in the treaty’s preamble recognizing “the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership, and use are permitted and protected by law.”

Although Canada voted in favor of the treaty at the United Nations on April 2, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that his government would take its time in deciding whether to actually sign the treaty. When pressed in Parliament this week by New Democrat MP Paul Dewar to “sign the deal now,” Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said the government instead “will be consulting” with Canadians, the provinces, industry and others before making up its mind.

Why the hesitation to take a clear position and sign the treaty now? The treaty only applies to National Firearms Associnternational weapons trade. It does not apply to domestic gun sales or require control on guns used in Canada. Some gun owners, however, believe that it will, and gun organizations in Canada and in the U.S. have been stoking their fears.

In the United States, the National Rifle Association has been seeking “emergency donations” to stop the U.S. from ratifying the treaty. In Canada, the National Firearms Association argues it will be used as an excuse to establish a new gun registry.

Baird even suggested in the House of Commons that the opposition might want to use the treaty to revive the long-gun registry that the Conservatives killed and “bring [it] in through the back door.” But as The Star points out,

That makes no sense. The treaty focuses on cross-border weapons transfers. It doesn’t interfere with national sovereignty, legitimate arms sales or domestic gun laws.

The Globe and Mail speculates that Harper may  be stalling until after the Conservative Party’s convention in Calgary later this month. Gun owners make up a significant part of the party’s base, and Harper’s government is currently facing enough criticism without having his core membership turn against him over an issue like this.

The Globe also notes that the fight against the long-gun registry  provided a dependable “cash cow” for conservative fundraising in the past. Feigning opposition to this arms treaty to placate gun owners’ concerns could significantly add to the party’s coffers once again.

That thought is cynical to be sure, but past experience has shown that this Prime Minister carefully calculates his every move. In the meantime, he must also deal with how his waffling on this issue affects Canada’s international reputation. Others may not appreciate the subtleties of domestic Canadian politics and will judge Canada accordingly.

Duffy’s Downfall

Yes, Canada has its political scandals too. You can always count on Rex Murphy to provide the definitive smack-down on the usual political hubris in Ottawa.


Be Careful Who You Pick On, Joe

XL_pipelineJoe Oliver, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, was in Washington, D.C. last week to promote the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This massive construction project would transport Canadian tar sands oil some 2000 miles from Alberta through the U.S. Midwest to Oklahoma for refining, and eventually to the Gulf of Mexico for export to other countries.

Environmentalists have been critical of the project, saying that the increased tar sands production would emit at least 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year into the atmosphere, significantly warming the Earth’s climate.

TarSandsThe International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that

With current policies in place, global temperatures are set to increase 6 degrees Celsius, which has catastrophic implications.

If, on the other hand, the international community is to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (the agreed upon target under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), then 80% of the world’s existing reserves of oil, coal and gas must be left undeveloped. Canada’s continued development of this extremely dirty fossil fuel thus seriously undermines the goal of sustainability.

Nevertheless, Joe Oliver and Stephen Harper’s Conservative government continue to push for the rapid development of the Canadian tar sands.

JamesHansenLast year James Hansen, a former NASA scientist and a leading climate change activist, stated in an article in The New York Times that if Canada proceeds with its plans to export oil from its tar sands reserves “and we do nothing, it will be game over for the planet.”

Late last month Joe Oliver decided to pick a fight with Hansen, calling Hansen’s statement “nonsense,” and accusing him of “crying wolf.” In an interview with reporters Oliver stated,

It does not advance the debate when people make exaggerated comments that are not rooted in the facts.

Oliver then listed the benefits he said will come from the Keystone XL pipeline project. He added that Canadian “oilsands development will continue, whether the Keystone pipeline is approved or not.”

al gore global warmingThis week Oliver decided to take on Al Gore. In last Saturday’s interview with The Globe And Mail, Gore said we should stop treating the atmosphere like an “open sewer.” Oliver accused him of making “wildly inaccurate and exaggerated comments.” He claims that Canada has done much to reduce emissions into the atmosphere saying, “We’ve done a lot, we’re going to do more. I’m very proud of our record, and it’s a record that we’re happy to stand on.”

Yet Canada’s record is not as stellar as Oliver suggests. In 2011 Canada was awarded the Fossil of the Year award at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban for its failure to address climate change. It was the fifth year in a row that Canada was given this award, prompting the criticism that

Canada’s actions have become so egregious that they have been left behind on the sidelines of global climate progress.

Oliver continues to believe the so-called dangers of climate change are vastly overblown. Many in the scientific community are concerned that Oliver fails to take the scientific data seriously. This week a group of 12 prominent Canadian climate scientists responded to Oliver’s criticism of Gore. They released a letter to him in which they offered to help the minister “understand the scientific data behind climate change and energy development.”

The letter states,

We are at a critical moment. … The longer we delay the transition to [a] low-carbon economy, the more drastic, disruptive and costly that transition will be. The implication is clear: the responsibility for preventing dangerous climate change rests with today’s policymakers.

One of the letter’s authors, David Keith, a Canadian who teaches public policy and engineering at Harvard University, was quite blunt in stating that the Canadian government needs to “grow up” in its attitude toward climate change and stop “using the atmosphere as a waste dump for carbon.”

We may think of scientists as a bunch of nerdy introverts who rarely emerge from their laboratories. But they are increasingly in the public spotlight these days. And when they are attacked, they stand together and come out swinging.

Be careful, Joe Oliver, when you pick a fight.