Photo credit: CLEAN AIR controversy New Democrat MLA Raj Pannu debates the Kyoto Accord with Tory MLA Tony Vandermeer. (Photo: Jake Edenloff)
EDMONTON (CUP) — In the final minutes of a Kyoto debate last Thursday, Tony Vandermeer, Conservative MLA for the Edmonton-Manning riding, cautioned Albertans that the accord could sink our economy to the depths that other provinces have seen in recent years.
“We should be thankful for what we have,” said Vandermeer.
“Look at Saskatchewan. They are envious of our population and our economy.”
At the moderated debate held by the University of Alberta Students’ Union and the Albertans for Ratifying Kyoto, Vandermeer was the only one of six panelists present who did not support the highly debated Kyoto Accord, although he offered his support for the implementation of some sort of environmental improvement plan.
Kyoto is an accord created by the United Nations in order to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Many Albertans are worried about the effects this agreement will have on its oil and gas dependent economy, as these industries are some of the worst greenhouse gas producers. Canada’s provinces have been strongly debating with the federal government whether or not to ratify this plan.
Speakers supporting the ratification of Kyoto included Mary Griffith, a policy analyst for the Pembina Institute, an environmental policy organization, and Ken Nicol, Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party.
Raj Pannu, another panelist and Leader of the Alberta New Democrat Party, explained his disappointment in the government for not being able to provide the specific answers the crowd was asking for.
“Sadly,” said Pannu, “the Alberta government does not aim to give citizens the facts beyond propaganda and misinformation.”
The speakers emphasized the importance of less talk and more action from the government in the ratification of the Kyoto pact. Although the debate was fairly one-sided, with the majority of the speakers supporting the accord, heated discussions arose.
“There are expected to be four times as many jobs created as jobs lost [if Kyoto is ratified],” said Dale Marshal, a researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a group dealing with ways to reduce greenhouse gases.
These jobs would be created with the development of new forms of electricity, such as wind and water power, according to Griffith.
Marshal emphasized the positive effect ratification would have on both Alberta’s economy and Canada in general.
Nicol promoted the idea that the federal government should encourage Canadian individuals to conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a series of personal incentives.
The speakers could only make educated guesses on exactly what the accord would mean for both corporations and the individual, as Kyoto has no concrete form as of yet.
The audience present at the debate was generally worried about the impact Kyoto might have on individual Albertans, especially the financial effects.
And one of the few times applause filled the room was after Brian Michelle, Interim Coordinator of the CO2RE Project for the City of Edmonton’s Office of the Environment, answered the question of why Albertans should care about Kyoto if the results won’t be seen for years.
“It is not about us,” said Michelle. “We are talking about our children’s future and their children’s future.”