I am not very happy with Environment Canada in general, and Peter Kent in particular. I read this article this morning, and discovered that the Conservative Government has decided that they do not need to maintain expertise on toxic emmissions from smokestacks. In order to economise, they intend to eliminate the pollution monitoring team that: ” …consists of seven specialists who travel around Canada, measuring emissions and analyzing data either to help industry, or provide evidence for enforcement officers that want to lay charges.”
I cannot even begin to fathom why they would actually do this. Smokestacks are the source of numerous contaminants. Smokestacks are built for the explicit purpose of funnelling contaminants high into the atmosphere, so as to reduce the concentrations of substances toxic to humans. Smokestack contaminants include just about everything bad under the sun, ranging from Carbon emissions and conventional smog, to highly toxic heavy metals like mercury. Thousands of Canadians die every year as a direct result of what comes out of smokestacks, and smokestack emmissions are major contibutors to Asthma in children (and adults) and a plethora of respiratory illnesses affecting primarily the elderly. There are other less deadly, but very sigificant pollutants that impact every man woman and child in Canada, such as SO2 which combines with atmospheric water to produce acid rain. I cannot even begin to catalogue all the more esoteric pollutants and their health effects on Canadians. A tiny snapshot was illuminated by Yaffes report on health impact of smog in the city of Toronto alone, which concluded that 1,700 people died annually, and over 6,000 were hospitalised every year in Toronto from airborne pollutants. Extrapolate that number across the country, and you come up with a casualty list larger than any war Canada has ever fought in.
I believe that there are few policy areas where the Federal Governments’ responsibility to protect Canadians is as clear and neccessary as that of regulating toxic emmissions. This pollution monitoring team exists precisely because we cannot trust smokestack operators to protect the commons. Without the possibility of detection and prosecution, can we even hope that someone is protecting our collective interest in safe air to breathe? Why has this team been eliminated then? Does Peter Kent, and the Harper Government not believe that smokestacks emit poisonous substances? Do they believe that they are not responsible for enforcing emmissions standards? Do they geniunely believe that polluters will guard our air quality better if they are not monitored or prosecuted by an independant inspector? The most horrific possibility is that perhaps they think that it is more important to reduce costs for smokestack operators than it is to protect their fellow citizens from toxic emmissions. I am really confused as to what they are thinking here. The costs of maintaining 7 positions at Environemnt Canada are infintessimal, so it is doubtful that the putative reason of economising is false. This is simply one of the dumbest things I have ever seen coming from the Harper Government, because even the most lackwitted of their supporters will believe that polluters are being given a free hand with this measure, and nobody wants to breathe ever more toxic crap.