Green Foreign Aid

This week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper named former broadcaster Peter Kent to his cabinet and handed him the environment portfolio and an excuse to wear more green ties. However, it is time that we consolidated much of the environment ministers duties under the CIDA minister.

The environment portfolio is a defensive one for any government that labels itself “conservative” because parties and advocates to the left of it will always say that the government isn’t doing enough on whatever the latest planet-saving project may be.

Conversely, critics on the right have complained that the linking of CO2 climate change too easily links human production and economic activity to a global tax that would invariably increase and either stall production, drastically alter it, and/or spin off a number of unintended consequences. Indeed, what better socialist innovation than to directly link a method of state revenue generation to something so basic to life and activity?

Today, it was reported that Kent explained that the Alberta oil sands represent “ethical oil” compared to the alternatives and is fighting the same battle against the anti-progressives (small subjective p) as his predecessors. Environment as a portfolio, has risen in prominence from an activist one in previous decades to a top job in a Prime Minister’s cabinet; the recent rise correlated to the increase in pitch and fever of climate change as an issue.

However, we already have a Natural Resources minister. The significant environmental debate and the one that receives the most coverage is that of Canada’s contribution to climate change and halting our progress and development of the natural resource that is the oil sands. Indeed, at international climate change conferences Canada is seen by green activists to be stalling on curbing emissions with the excuse that developing nations such as China and India aren’t acting likewise to curb emissions.

If Canada is to halt its progress, curb emissions, deliver aid to others and subsidize foreign industry, it is essentially delivering green foreign aid.

International development is the role of Canada’s CIDA minister. Natural resources such as the oil sands are the role of the Minister of Natural Resources. Environment, as it stands, has become more politically driven and obnoxiously lobbied than policy driven and with real-world effect.

If we are to help other countries adapt to changing climates, there’s a government department for that. We should move the climate change element of the environment portfolio under CIDA. If CIDA has a fixed budget in aiding the developing world, Canadians will place higher value on providing tangible help to suffering people rather than trying to succeed at the seemingly impossible and futile task of keep the climate in a fixed state.

About one million children die of malaria in Africa each year. Perhaps the greatest affliction to the human condition is malnutrition. Both can be linked to climate, but this is about as revealing to say that we are all affected by our environment. If all of government has a fixed budget, when we look at all aid through the proper lens, perhaps we will provide more direct benefit to those in other countries than huffing and puffing about slight variations in global temperatures.

Calling foreign aid by its true name will actually bring more Canadians onside to the issue. Telling us that the sky is falling only distracts and creates cynicism. At worse, it de-emphasizes a real problem. Bringing environment under CIDA would focus our attention on doing the most with our development budget.

Most importantly, pairing CIDA’s efforts with the much more effective global poverty alleviation activities of the international trade minister by opening markets, liberalizing trade and increasing the size of the global middle class, we can do much better than thinking that wearing green ties, and pushing money, paper, and fossil awards around can change the weather.