February 10, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 72  

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NEWS

Martin sheds his old image (and Chrétien)

By Jonathan Yazer
Gazette Staff

While the national anthem asks God to “keep our land, glorious,” the burden of guarding the Canadian environment against pollution and decay falls upon humble, earthly actors.

In last Monday’s throne speech, Prime Minister Paul Martin committed his government to an ambitious and expensive environmental agenda, including a renewed determination to meet Canada’s emissions-reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol and a $4-billion promise to treat toxic waste sites.

“We’re really happy he kept up with the Kyoto Protocol,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, director of atmosphere and energy at the Sierra Club of Canada. “This is a good, significant step. It’s showing interest in environmental issues and it’s targeting effective measures.”

“This will really put Canada at the leading edge of developing, testing and applying new environmental technologies,” explained Ernest Yanful, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Western.

Yanful said “it’s about time” Canada improved its environmental standards and spending habits, adding European nations have outshone Canada in this regard for years.

The comprehensive speech from the throne addressed a host of social issues, including the environment, health care, education, aboriginal governance and the so-called democratic deficit.

Paul Nesbitt-Larking, professor of political science at Huron University College, said he agreed with the perception that Martin is trying to distinguish himself from his predecessor, Jean Chrétien, while softening the socially reckless, fiscally conservative image he earned during his tenure as finance minister.

“The word ‘new’ was used many times in the speech,” Nesbitt-Larking said, who described environmental issues as particularly sensitive in certain parts of the country such as Walkerton, Ont., the sight of a deadly tainted water scandal. “The image set out by the speech is good, especially post-Walkerton.”

Stensil said he believes the ecologically-friendly initiatives proposed by the speech sets the Martin government apart from the Chrétien years, when a complacent attitude was commonly directed at environmental issues. “Paul Martin is saying the right things. But we have to watch out for procrastination, we have to get to implementing.”

“The speech promises a budget, which promises a spending plan, which is contingent upon an election of a Martin majority,” Nesbitt-Larking said. “The bottom line is no deficit, which has implications for spending plans. Martin has also promised tax cuts to the business community. Taken all together, this takes some edge off the rhetoric.”

 

 

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