Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Climate Agreement Pits Canada's East against Its West ; Prime Minister Chretien Will Ratify the Kyoto Protocol by Year's End, but Critics Say His Plan Lacks Details

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Climate Agreement Pits Canada's East against Its West ; Prime Minister Chretien Will Ratify the Kyoto Protocol by Year's End, but Critics Say His Plan Lacks Details

Article excerpt

It was no surprise that the Kyoto accord sailed easily through Canada's Parliament on Tuesday.

Despite a vocal opposition - and some dissent within his own party - Prime Minister Jean Chretien's Liberal Party used its parliamentary majority to pass a resolution endorsing the climate- control treaty.

But as it heads toward ratification by Mr. Chretien by year's end, the treaty has revived a two-decades-old rift between Canada's oil-producing western provinces and the politically dominant east.

Kyoto would make huge demands on Canada. By 2012, Canada - one of the world's largest per capita producers of greenhouse gases - would have to cut emissions 30 percent. Critics say that as the only North American country to follow the accord, Canada may be put at an economic disadvantage compared with its free-trade partners, the US and Mexico. (Mexico is exempted from the treaty and the US says it will not ratify it).

The Fraser Institute, a conservative think tank in Vancouver, says the accord would economically weaken Canada and Canadians because its costs will inevitably be passed on to consumers. "Do you have to get a smaller house? Do you have to get a smaller car?... Do you have to buy cheaper food?" asks Fraser's Ken Green, an environmental scientist. "Basically, [Canadians] will be made poorer by the situation.... Poor is sicker, both at the national level and at the individual level."

To western Canadians, Kyoto is a bitter replay of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's national energy plan in 1980. It sought to redistribute the west's oil wealth during a time of gas shortages, but the west saw it as a cash-grab by the Ottawa government. Relations between Canada's regions have never completely recovered.

In the current debate, all players insist they want a cleaner world, but disagree on how to achieve it. The oil-rich province of Alberta and an energy-industry lobby - echoing President George W. Bush's position for the US - demand a "Made in Canada" solution that allows the country flexibility to achieve emissions goals.

Alberta predicts Kyoto will cost 450,000 jobs, investment would flee, and taxes and gas prices would soar. …

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