Thursday, July 29, 2010

Did Jack Layton Sabatoge Kyoto?

When Mike Harris was in government in Ontario, he tried to push through a deal on behalf of one of his most generous backers, The Cortellucci Group, who wanted to turn an abandoned mine into a dump site for Toronto's garbage.

Though the city of Toronto was initially interested, a group of concerned citizens around the Adams Mine, opposed the site, because the Harris government had curtailed any environmental assessments, which would have shown that this could have poisoned the ground water.

Harris fought tooth and nail. After all, groups like Cortellucci didn't come around often.

There is no doubt Cortellucci's Tory connections run deep, as do his pockets. Since 1995, the Cortellucci group of firms have donated almost $1 million to the party and played host to one of the marquee fundraising events on the Tory calendar a dinner every fall that brings in more than $300,000 in one evening. The $900,000 in donations to the party made up until 2001 represent the largest amount of money to come from any one company or group of companies with common ownership, outpacing even the firms owned by Peter Munk and the Barrick Gold fortune. Donations made since midway through 2001 are not yet publicly available. (1)

They would also contribute $47,000 to Jim Flaherty's leadership campaign and $ 40,000 to Tony Clement's, when they were running in 2002 to replace Harris, not to mention $100,000 to Stockwell Day when he was running for the leadership of the Alliance Party (1) (Clement was president).

At the Toronto meeting, two councillors who were concerned with the environment, presented a showing of the Simpsons "Trash of the Titans" that helped to sway the vote, and the dump was turned down. Those two councillors were Jack Layton and his wife Olivia Chow.

However, I have just started reading Elizabeth May's latest book: Losing Confidence, and was surprised to learn that Layton had apparently worked out a deal with Stephen Harper to sabotage Canada's role in Kyoto, and all for political gain. This is distressing to me because I voted for the NDP then.

What I didn't realize at the time was that Jack Layton had entered into a coalition with Harper to take Paul Martin down at the throne speech. He eventually backed out, but had I known I probably would not have had anything to do with the NDP after that. However:

By fall Of 2005, Jack Layton had decided he was not content with forcing changes to the minority government's budget. In a meeting with other opposition leaders, he struck a deal to bring down the Paul Martin government on November 28, 2005, unless Martin agreed to trigger an election and end his government early in the New Year ... What the news media missed, as they focused on whether Canadians would stand for an election over Christmas, was the most galling element of the Harper- Layton and Duceppe gambit; November 2 8 was the opening day of the most important global climate negotiations in history. The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change ... Worse yet, Canada was the host for those negotiations, set to take place in Montreal. With Canada's government falling on the opening day, the whole process could be derailed. The president of the COP was, under the UN terms of hosting, the environment minister from the host country, Stephane Dion. Environmentalists from around the world were horrified. (2)

I always liked Stephane Dion and he handled himself very well at that conference. In fact to make sure that it went forward as planned despite the election call, Dion announced that on December 8 he worked for the UN and would not resume as a Canadian politician until December 10. How many people would do that?

I remember phoning Jack Layton to beg him not to bring down the government on the opening day of the climate conference. I had known and liked Jack since he was on Toronto City Council. He had been enormously helpful, volunteering as an auctioneer in local Sierra Club events. He told me when he ran for leader of the NDP that he was only seeking a role in federal politics to deal with the climate crisis. I had believed him. As he threatened to sabotage the most important global climate negotiations in history, I recall leaving a message on his cellphone: "How will you look at yourself in the mirror if you do this?" We spoke a few times. He was angry that Sierra Club had issued a press release saying, "There's more at stake than Christmas" and highlighting the threat to the Montreal talks. I had begged him to wait for a money vote in the House already scheduled for December 8. It was to no avail.

... I may never have been as devastated as when Stephen Harper was elected, knowing he would do whatever he could to stop progress in reducing greenhouse gases. What we didn't see as a further disaster in bringing down the government on November 2 8 was that it effectively rendered the Montreal negotiations invisible to the Canadian public. The media was off on the typical brainless pursuit of Canadian election as horserace. Policy and science, particularly UN discussions of the climate crisis, were not going to be covered in an election campaign.

It is only with hindsight that I have come to believe that the climate negotiations were not merely collateral damage to the incidental timing of November 2 8. I now believe that Harper and Layton had a shared desire to pull the plug before the Martin government had a chance to look good on the world stage. I think it is extremely likely, given the way Layton downplayed the climate threat in 2oo6, that a conscious decision was made by NDP strategists. They had to make sure the key issue remained Liberal corruption for the NDP to avoid losing votes to the Liberals.

Even during the 2008 election campaign, the NDP opposed the carbon tax as aggressively as the Conservatives, only saying later that they thought it was a good idea. I was so mad, because it was a good idea.

I certainly have a different opinion of Jack Layton now. So what does he stand for? Two election campaigns and he worked against action on climate change.

As a result we've had more than four years of no action at all. The 2006 platform called for a Made in Canada solution, but what few people knew was that the draft was written by a supposed non-profit group called Canadian Renewable Fuels Strategy, headed up by none other than Kory Teneycke. The same Kory Teneycke who became Harper's communication's chief and the same Kory Teneycke who is now flogging Fox News North.

Look at the brochure they printed. Filled with pictures of Conservatives, yet they claim to be non-profit and non-partisan. And they are still being promoted on the government website.

They appear to be an extension of Guy Giorno's anti-environmental group: Canadian Coalition for Responsible Environmental Solutions. It was an astroturf front group for Giorno's employers, National Public Relations (NPR), who are the lobbyists for the oil patch. John Baird spoke at one of their conferences, before he entered federal politics, bashing Kyoto, and yet became one of our environmental ministers.

We've been royally had. And to think that Jack Layon could have done something but chose his own political career, makes me very disappointed. Because according to the Star today: Global warming 'undeniable,' it's getting hotter every year.

“A comprehensive review of key climate indicators confirms the world is warming and the past decade was the warmest on record,” the annual State of the Climate report declares. Compiled by more than 300 scientists from 48 countries, the report said its analysis of 10 indicators that are “clearly and directly related to surface temperatures, all tell the same story: Global warming is undeniable.”

So Stephen Harper may have been able to direct our attention away from climate change, believing he's won, but not even he can simply put it on hold.

And Jack Layton, I am very angry with you. What Simpsons episode are you going to show now? Roasting on an Open Fire?


1. Developer's Tory party ties run deep - Caught in controversy over land deal: Proposal involves Adams Mine, By Kate Harries and Caroline Mallan, The Toronto Star. May. 9, 2003

2. Losing Confidence: Power, Politics, and the Crisis in Canadian Democracy, By Elizabeth May, McClelland & Stewart, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-7710-5760-1, Pg. 2-7


  1. My son bought me Elizabeth May's book for Christmas and I was delighted by her simple logic and clear understanding of our system of government.

    I am really brginning to believe that the opposition parties Libs, NDP, Bloc aren't, really, in fact, opposition at all. Rather that they are complicit in dividing the vote. What do you think?

  2. I think that the Opposition has a difficult time doing their job against a governemnt that is not a concensus builder but instead constantly attack, and a media that helps them.

    Normally, the gov't will try and build support but the neocons connive and conspire.

    I love the book.