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Dion slams Tories ‘greenhouse gas’ mentality

Posted by mhudema on July 7, 2008

Dion slams Tories’ greenhouse gas ‘mentality’
Liberal leader sees bleak environmental future with current government attitude on emissions
Erika Beauchesne
The Edmonton Journal
Federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion is shielded from the rain under an umbrella held by his wife Janine Krieber while talking with students at the University of Alberta on Sunday, where he spoke at the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition summit.
CREDIT: Larry Wong, The Journal
Federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion is shielded from the rain under an umbrella held by his wife Janine Krieber while talking with students at the University of Alberta on Sunday, where he spoke at the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition summit.

EDMONTON – A group of young activists had federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion dancing and singing along to an anti-climate change ballad Sunday at the U of A.

“Ooh, it’s hot in here, there’s too much carbon in the atmosphere,” rhymed Dion, clad in jeans and cowboy boots for his tour of Western Canada.

Dion was in town Sunday to sell his green shift carbon tax plan. And while he was singing the same tune as the more than 100 young people attending a climate change conference, Dion has had a harder time convincing the Alberta government of the plan’s benefits.

He told the conference his policy would save the province’s reputation abroad, which he believes has suffered because of poor environmental stewardship.

“In Europe and the United States especially, some people are saying we should not accept their oil when the footprint and greenhouse gas emission is too high.”

He criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s view that Canada should not accept concrete greenhouse gas emissions targets as long as some of the world’s largest polluters — such as China, India and the United States — refuse to do so. “If we accept this kind of mentality, there’s no hope for your generation and the generations to come.”

Dion said the tax would spur development of green technologies and create green jobs across the province.

“There is no price on carbon, there is no price on pollution, so the polluting industries have a free ride, when the clean technologies (suffer),” he said. “Imagine Fort McMurray to be sustainable. We’ll have know-how that we’ll be able to export around the world and make megatonnes of money with it.”

Dion’s plan, announced last month in Ottawa, would collect more than $15 billion in new taxes on carbon dioxide emissions. He has promised deep income and corporate tax cuts to make it revenue neutral.

But the Alberta, Saskatchewan and federal governments all vehemently oppose the plan. Alberta has argued it is little more than a wealth transfer program that would suck money from the province, cripple the oil and gas industry and create headaches for consumers.

In Calgary on Saturday, Dion said provincial environmental policies have sullied Alberta’s image. His comments provoked a strong reaction from Premier Ed Stelmach’s office — a spokesman said Dion should keep his nose out of the province’s business.

On Sunday, Dion was vague when it came to addressing oilsands development — a major focus of the weekend-long climate conference.

Without endorsing a halt to future development, he said the province needs to make the industry more profitable but in a sustainable way.

PJ Patterson, a Torontonian who was in town for the conference, said he was pleased Dion came out and he thinks “the debate that will come around the green plan is a constructive thing.”

But Mike Hudema, a local Greenpeace campaigner, said that while a carbon tax is a move in the right direction, he would have liked to hear more details on how he would deal with oilsands development. “What we’re seeing here in Alberta is a real lack of leadership where this government has refused repeatedly to put the foot to the brakes when it comes to tarsands,” Hudema said. “When there’s a void of provincial leadership, it’s time for the federal government to start stepping in.”

Dion is to meet with Mayor Stephen Mandel this afternoon, and then host a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. at the Polish Hall.

exbeauchesne@thejournal.canwest.com

© The Edmonton Journal 2008
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