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Harper’s Canada: An environmental policy fact sheet

Part two of our series outlining key events and issues that have defined Canadian politics over the past several months. Here’s how our environmental policy is shaping the political narrative, both at home and abroad.

A lot has happened during the past year in Canadian politics and current affairs. Canadians are increasingly speaking up about federal policies. Environmental issues have taken centre stage as the debates heat up over resource development projects like the Northern Gateway pipeline. And threats to democracy are raising concern among citizens and experts from coast to coast.

Today, it’s become almost impossible to discuss Canadian politics without talking about the environment. To help illustrate this social and political shift, here’s a fact sheet that highlights key events and decisions related to Canadian environmental policy.

Environmental issues are increasingly defining Canada’s relationship to the international community

  • The oil sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Tar sands extraction accounts for about 6.5% of Canada’s total GHG emissions
  • If Alberta was a country, its per capita GHG emissions would be higher than any other country in the world
  • With expanding development, oil sands emissions increased 14% from 2009-10


  • Dec. 12, 2011 - Environment Minister Peter Kent announced Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, the first country to withdraw
  • World leaders like Desmond Tutu condemned the decision, appealing to the government to halt Canada’s increasing contribution to climate change
  • Yale and Columbia Universities ranked Canada 37th in the 2012 Environmental Performance Index, below other industrialized countries like Germany, Japan, Brazil
  • Instead of taking heed of international critics, the government is reportedly involved in secretive lobbies and aggressive efforts to make tar sands more palatable abroad
  • Documents recently revealed almost $54,000 in taxpayer money spent on a 2-day oil lobby retreat in the UK (from 2011)
  • A team of 25 lobbyists are reported to work on the pro-oil issue, plus consultants to help teach techniques for addressing criticism


  • The proposed EU fuel quality directive legislation was expected to discriminate against tar sands for its emissions, by ranking different resources by their carbon footprint and contribution to climate change
  • Canadian government and industry have been fighting back to prevent this legislation, training diplomats in Europe to lobby on behalf of oil companies
  • Feb. 23, 2012 - an EU vote to pass the fuel directive ended in stalemate, with 12 countries in support, 8 opposed and 7 abstained
  • Without a "qualified majority", the EU proposal will now be considered by European environment ministers and a final decision is expected by July


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