• James Armstrong

Climate change meeting heats up in Vaudreuil -Soulanges


PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Federal Member of Parliament for Vaudreuil-Soulanges Peter Schiefke recently hosted a Town Hall meeting in Hudson on climate change in the face of the economic realities of the tar sands industry.

Climate change and the Canadian Federal government’s response to it drew positive and negative comments at the recent Town Hall meeting in Hudson Saturday, April 17. Hosted and organized by Federal MP for Vaudreuil-Soulanges Peter Schiefke, the “Meeting the Challenges of Climate Change” presented federal government programs and policies that deal with the global environmental issues.

Appropriately, Schiefke’s presentation took place the day after the signing of the Paris climate treaty by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the United Nations in New York City. “The treaty was signed by 194 countries including the United States of America, China and India,” said Schiefke adding that for some the treaty may not go far enough but that it is important to include as many countries as possible. He said that if the treaty, for example, were rejected by the United States and other large economic powers, it would cause a cascading effect of other countries withdrawing their support. “Countries who are going to invest in green technology are going to have to explain to their citizens why they are investing in green technology while the largest countries are not taking action,” said Schiefke.

“The First Ministers’ Meeting went very well and we finally got to the nuts and bolts of the issue, how are we going to do this, what kind of collaboration are we going to have – it was an open and honest discussion,” he said, introducing the Canadian action plan. “Every province and territory was there.” He also said the PM met with the mayors of major cities across Canada to discuss their plans for reducing emissions. Schiefke emphasized the importance of collaboration at all levels of government to achieve the goal of reducing CO2 emissions countrywide.

With that in mind, the federal budget presented in March 2016 earmarked $1 billion over four years for developing green technology in the forestry, fisheries, mining and energy, and agricultural sectors of the Canadian economy. A $5 billion is dedicated to clean infra-structure projects, Schiefke said investing in clean technologies and supporting sustainable economic growth are essential to the federal government’s commitment to creating a low carbon economy for the country.

A challenge to the presentation in the form of a question came from St. Lazare resident Barry Jackson. “Ask me if I believe in climate change,” said Jackson. Schiefke consented and with the ensuing verbal exchange Jackson made the point that the climate has been changing for millions of years and continues to change. He said that, in his opinion, there needed to be a change in the narrative. Schiefke responded that he respected Jackson’s opinion but that he was not about to entertain a discussion of whether or not human activity plays a role in climate change. “The science is in,” said Schiefke noting the Canadian scientific community, along with scientific communities around the world, has overwhelmingly concluded that climate change is happening and that human activity plays a role.

When questioned about the future of the Alberta tar sands, Schiefke acknowledged that petroleum plays a major role in the Canadian economy. “We cannot shut off the pipes in Alberta,” he said, noting that the recent downturn in global oil prices had a direct effect on the budget in the form of reduced revenues and royalties. He also emphasized that the environmental assessment process for pipelines will be more rigorous and transparent and that federal government subsidies for the petroleum sector have ended.

Concerns for people losing their employment in the petroleum industry were also raised. Schiefke responded that planning for transitioning jobs out of the oil industry to greener/cleaner options has been frequently suggested.

“It is incredibly challenging what we are trying to do. We are trying to bring together provinces that have different economic realities to find a common solution to a huge problem,” Schiefke replied adding that a solution that works for the entire country will come from listening to its citizens.

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