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Céline Hervieux-Payette

The Hon. Céline  Hervieux-Payette, P.C., LL.B. Appointed to the Senate on March 21, 1995 and appointed Leader of the Opposition on January 18, 2007, Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette represents the province of Quebec and the Senatorial Division of Bedford.

The hypocrisy of ideology

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Published by Senator Grant Mitchell on 07 June 2012

I am struck by the Conservatives' apparent disconnect between their commitment to the F-35s, which are warrior nation jets and the absence of real action of any kind on climate change.

If you compare them on the two key parameters that seem to determine the Conservatives' commitment to the F35s, threat and economic implication, at the very least, it would seem that the commitment should be equivalent:

1. The Conservatives use security threats to justify the purchase. At various times, they invoke terrorism, Russian bombers, war in the third world, etc. as the justification for this kind of purchase.

While, clearly, we cannot be naive about the military threats facing us, it should be noted that an F-35 is not going to do much for stopping a terrorist strapped to a bomb in a Canadian city. Moreover, the Russian bombers that the Conservatives conjure up from time to time were built in the 1950's, have propellers, and jet fighters can barely fly slow enough to remain beside them without stalling. And, we play hockey with these people.

That is not to say that we will never be drawn into another Libya or Afghanistan for that matter (which I hope will never come to pass).  There is a legitimate reason for us to play the role of responsible international citizen in assisting our allies in the proper circumstances in conflicts of this nature. We need to be adequately equipped to do that. There is a moral obligation in some senses to this, and, there is also great advantage in the international prestige and stature gained by being a good and reliable partner.

So, why then not apply this kind of analysis to climate change action. Clearly, if you believe the science, and the Conservatives say they do, you have to appreciate the magnitude of the threat to economies, jobs, quality of life and even to world order, risk of wars and threat to human lives.

Already, in Canada, we are witnessing the economic consequences of climate change impact on our east and west coast fisheries, forest resources, and even agriculture through extreme shifts in weather patterns between floods and droughts. What are the economic costs of the currently melting permafrost on the destruction of northern infrastructure? How many Canadian jobs have already been lost? Wars will be precipitated by climate change and probably already have been. 

I would say that by way of risk, intensity and consequences the threat of climate change at least equals the military threats facing Canada and the world. So, how is it justifiable to spend $25.0 billion plus without the blink of an eye, or even proper analysis or open tendering, on jets and essentially nothing on climate change.

These risks, driven as they are by climate change, are all but infinite. I often ask those who say they accept that climate is changing, but not that we are causing it, about how frightened they must be, unless they think that somehow, miraculously, the natural (sunspots?) warming will stop spontaneously at some comfortable, livable temperature. It follows, that we should all be praying that we are causing this climate change. If are not causing it, then we cannot fix it.

2. The Conservatives' comeback to this threat comparison will be that climate change action will inflict huge damage on the economy. But, what is the logic in saying that putting money into climate change action will harm the economy, while putting money into enormously expensive jets will not?

Much of the money spent on the jets will be spent outside of Canada. Much, if not most, of the money that would be spent on climate change action would be spent in Canada. Climate action plans and support would legitimately include programs to encourage district and decentralized power generation which would support farms and rural communities. Conservation measures would reduce input costs in our economy and by definition address a key problem with Canada's economy, productivity. A price on carbon would drive innovation and creativity and create certainty for the industrial sector which is continually calling for it.

So, why, if at the very least, the threat levels are commensurate and the economic impacts are actually more promising for climate action, does this government invest obsessively in the one and starve the other. The hypocrisy of ideology.

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