Canadians are too hard on themselves

By David T. Jones on January 7, 2010

There is an aphorism to the effect that you can always make a sensitive person feel guilty. Extrapolate that judgment to a national level and one can conclude that Canada is so afflicted.      

There is much wrong, indeed evil, that is done in the world that we can do nothing to mitigate, let alone eliminate.   To paraphrase scripture, too often “we do those things that we ought not to have done and leave undone those things that we ought to have done.”  We cudgel ourselves with “what ifs.”   If we had only paid more attention; worked harder; spoken out; saved more/spent less, the wrong would be righted (or would never have happened at all).

Of course there is more than a touch of arrogance in such expressed (or secret) guilt.  The individual is given to believe that his/her efforts would have made a difference when, bluntly, they would not.  Or the effort is really designed not to prompt positive action but to promote punishment—given the benefit of twenty-twenty political hindsight.

Thus watching from Washington, one smiles a bit at the woe-is-me (blame us) lamentations concerning both official Canadian policy toward “climate change” and the provincial sniping over who is greener/blacker than thou.

During the recently completed Copenhagen conference to address climate change issues, Canadian officials took a very low profile, allowing their policies to be characterized as “fossils” (presumably because of the use of “fossil” fuel) and even to be caricatured as the “colossal fossil“ for the conference.  Canada quite adroitly stood aside from the collective chaos; there was no order that could be imposed on the worthies, not even the Obama charisma generated more than a vague aspirational agreement of which the conference “took note” rather than taking action.  The Canadian alternative would have been to commit economic suicide at the behest of a mob of juvenile delinquents playing reindeer games on the Copenhagen streets.  

What these worthies appear to want is for Canada to adhere to the ridiculous reductions in “greenhouse gases” and consequent limits associated with the Kyoto Protocol.  That such commitments were never regarded seriously by the Liberals when they were agreed apparently has no relevance to the current critics.  Jump off that cliff—now.

Moreover, the prime minister is belabored for closely linking prospective Canadian energy policy to still-to-be-decided USG policy.  But such an approach is no more than practical realism.  Should Canada dash forth and create energy policy only to find that it has no connection to what the USG ultimately decides?  (And then be forced into ignominious adjustment while the Opposition sneers).  Our countries are indeed attempting to coordinate such policy, but unfortunately for near-term action, the USG is pretzeled over its domestic struggles regarding national health insurance policy.  There is little left-over political enthusiasm for the vagaries of “cap and trade” or, frankly, even less for the suggestion that “climate reparations” to the tune of $100 billion per year should be shoveled out inter alia to African kleptocrats.  It is also useful to recall that Americans largely remain unconvinced that (a) the climate is warming; (b) if warming, it is the consequence of human action; and (c) whether humans can do anything to reduce the process—if it is occurring—without action so draconian that they would prefer to deal with the consequences rather than try to prevent them.     

But instead of just blaming us for our errors (always a good device for Canadians), your provinces have adopted a beggar-thy-neighbour approach that is baffling in itself.  For example, Quebec seems to believe that federal equalization payments reflect its inherent virtues rather than money extracted from the pockets of other Canadian taxpayers—very substantially Albertans.  The Alberta oil sands are an incredible national asset and will be for generations; significant efforts are being made to “clean” this oil during extraction, but, in the end, the taxes that Albertans pay have a significant laundering effect.  

Likewise, one suspects Quebeckers would not be amused were Albertans to side with various aboriginal and Inuit loudly protesting that every Quebec dam (proposed as well as extant) destroys unique salmon fishing grounds and should be prohibited and/or torn down so the rivers will flow pristine to the sea.  Sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.

In short, Canadians should give themselves a break.  Isn’t it enough to struggle with the climate you have rather than getting hot under the collar about a climate that may never come to pass?


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