Friday, February 16, 2007

C-288: 9/10ths crass politics, 1/10th affliction

Pablo Rodriguez votes for Bill C-288, April 14, 2007The work of Parliament is typically nine-tenths politics and one-tenth wrecking, and Bill C-288, passed Wednesday night in the House of Commons, shows these measures in perfect proportion. Introduced last May as a private member's bill by Québec Liberal M.P. Pablo Rodriguez, the bill — An Act to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol — succeeded almost entirely by virtue of the facile environmental sentiments it pretends and by the opportunities it presented for opposition parties to make political mischief, and only in very small part by any actual legislative muscle it contains to force its professed objective. In short, Bill C-288 as it was written and passed cannot compel what its name purports, which is to ensure Canada meets any Kyoto Protocol obligations; and it is a safe bet that the opposition Liberals are banking on just that fact should they form the next government.

This has not stopped the media from fulminating on the possibility of a constitutional crisis — or a "coup d'état," if you will — should the Conservative government ignore the legislation, as they have "suggested." Much else has been made in the press on what turns out to be in substance only another piece of empty legislative rhetoric, the kind to which the House and reporters have long been accustomed. One wonders again why reporters, who are paid full-time to publish information, at least as they would have it, cannot seem to find the time to do just the basic research on their stories that bloggers like Bob Tarantino and Lance from Catprint in the Mash have done, which in this case would be simply to read the actual text of the bill. As with climate changeism itself, the media's reliance on sensational stories is a strong incentive to allow extravagant and dramatic claims to proceed without much scrutiny into their truth or context, or only much later. It is this lack of scrutiny that bloggers and independent analysts address, and that accounts for the general decline of the media's audience.

The germane sections of Bill C-288, as Bob Tarantino notes in an extensive and considered piece, are sections 5 and 7 that spell out the obligations of the Minister of the Environment and Cabinet, but the actions they compel amount to little more than the tabling of a "Climate Change Plan" and sundry other research and bureaucratic reports and summaries. Nothing in the act, however, obliges the "Climate Change Plan" to be reasonable, practicable or consequential, nor does it contain provisions to test the plan in any objective or meaningful sense. Most significantly, as Tarantino continues, there are no likely legal positions a court could use to compel the government to abide by the legislation in any specific manner. Catprint in the Mash also observes that section 6, paragraphs 1(a.1) and 2, essentially allows the federal government to "off-load all the hard work [of adhering to the Kyoto Protocol's targets] to the Provinces."

Like most of contemporary law-making, this bill exists almost entirely to wreathe politicians in commonplace sentiments and to create make-work projects for bureaucrats to arrange the assemblage. Its utility to opposition parties is a chance to position themselves on an electoral teeter-totter of environmental populism and, particularly for the Liberals, a chance to compete for the government's privilege of distributing those make-work projects and placate select constituents. The one-tenth of wrecking potential contained in the bill is section 6, paragraph 1, which allows the "Governor in Council" (Cabinet) license to summarily and without legislative oversight "make regulations" regarding but not limited to a provided list of environmental objectives, but I would be very much surprised if existing legislated provisions could not already be interpreted to constitute this privilege.

Even should this bill represent an entirely new and undemocratic transfer of powers, it presents no immediate or precipitous threat to Canadian life, apart from already existing steady drip of tax and regulatory obstacles. Any regulations that ensue from this act will, like all others preceding it, bear mostly on government departments and non-governmental agencies, whose expansion and expenses to meet new protocols will be borne by taxpayers. Similarly, the costs of any new regulations on industry will, as always, be either passed on to consumers or to taxpayers in the form of subsidies. The most conspicuous result of regulation is almost invariably to employ more people than ever to do absolutely nothing worthwhile.


Libby van dyke said...

I saw a 1/2 hour worth of An Inconvenient Truth the other day. Wow, Al Gore pointing out statistics from a boom genie and reminiscing about his privilaged childhood as a wealthy cattle ranching senator's son was fucking intense! It moved me beyond words. You guys have got to see it and stop denying the truth! Just look at the pictures he shows - there are some awesome high-tech graphics and some great endangered landscape photos. And the profound scientific knowledge and wisdom with which he speaks!

He's come a long way since merely campaigning to censor rock lyrics. Now he's getting those same kinds of bands he would have censored and getting them to devote their precious time and crack-fueled energy to some Live Earth concerts!

Wow! Al Gore is the great sage of the climate generation!

Thucydides said...

Memo to Stephen Harper:

Please remember when reffering to this bill to include the affirmation that your government will continue to follow the former Liberal government's plan for Kyoto while your government continues to carry out its work in finding workable remedies for environmental issues.