Canada's environment minister doesn't sound at all disturbed that three of the top six most-viewed climate policy proposals on the federal government's consultation web site are profoundly off-message.

Throwing the climate-change policy doors wide open to public comment has been an interesting experiment for the new Liberal government in Ottawa, and Catherine McKenna considers it a resounding success — notwithstanding some sour notes.

"The IPCC (UN-sponsored scientific panel) has no evidence to support CO2 as the cause of global warming," headlines one of the site's most-viewed postings.

"Climate change a hoax," asserts another.


Nearly 3,000 Canadians have registered to participate on the interactive website, where visitors can publicly post their ideas for all to see and comment on. There have been some 2,400 ideas submitted to date, generating almost 4,500 comments, according to analytics provided on the site.

The vast majority appear motivated by a desire to see the government succeed in creating a new pan-Canadian climate policy with the provinces and territories over the coming months.

But the naysayers are generating a lot of traffic.

"That's great. I encourage everyone to go on there," McKenna told The Canadian Press in an interview when the climate skeptics were pointed out.

"Maybe people that may not have accepted the science that climate change is man-made, maybe they'll get a better understanding of how it is."

The public comments, McKenna said, are being fed into four working groups created this spring by Ottawa and the provinces and territories. The groups are each looking at a different area of climate policy — from carbon pricing and clean-tech industry finance to mitigating the effects of a changing climate.

McKenna said she'll get an interim update report from the working groups this week. Final reports are due at the beginning of September, when environment ministers will meet to choose a set of policy options for a formal meeting of the premiers and prime minister later in the fall.

The website "allows people to engage and see what other people are saying," said McKenna.

"I'm very hopeful — and we're already seeing a bit of it — that unusual suspects are coming together. You have environmental NGOs finding common ground with industry, for example. That's the way we're going to come up with solutions that really make sense."

The minister diplomatically lauded the "huge diversity" of proposals on offer.

Those range from detailed policy submissions by industry associations and environmental think tanks to the weird, wacky and ideological.

Proposals include putting Zamboni scrapings on arena roofs for cooling, banning Tim Hortons drive-thrus and a bid to simply "end capitalism."

Conservative environment critic Ed Fast said the Liberals appear overly reliant on websites and social media for their policy input.

"There have to be comprehensive consultations with the industry organization groups and with NGOs across the country, all of whom have a vested interest — an oar in the water — on making sure the climate-change policy of this government is the appropriate one," Fast said in an interview.

The Canadian Clean Technology Innovation Network, a loose grouping of environmental NGOs and clean technology companies and investors, was still exhorting its members last week to make their views known on the government web portal.

"This singular opportunity may be the only one our industry gets," said an email blast from the group.

The coming low-carbon economy is going to require very complex policy thinking on global trade, investment and finance — and the government needs to get its head around how to build policy capacity, said Celine Bak of Analytica Advisors, a clean-tech industry data consultant.

Some 130 Liberal MPs have had or are planning town halls on the subject, and the government is considering a large youth event and ways to engage younger Canadians online, McKenna noted. She also mentioned a Twitter hashtag that generated a lot of social media comment.

Nor did she disagree with the suggestion it's as much a "movement" as it is an information-gathering exercise.

"It's about conversations about solutions," McKenna said. "Everyone I think understands this is an opportunity for Canada to move to a cleaner future and we need to do it in a thoughtful way."

And she firmly rejected the colourful critique of former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley, who warned of "consultation constipation" earlier this year.

"This isn't consultations ad nauseam forever," she said, noting the autumn deadlines. "This is our window."

Cross-section of ideas submitted to Canadian government climate policy portal

A cross-section of policy ideas proposed by Canadians for combating climate change from the federal government's "Lets talk climate action" website:

  • Changing the building code to set rules for green (vegetation) roofs on residential, commercial and institutional buildings.
  • Commercialize the Atmospheric Vortex Engine, which uses rising heat and turbines to create a self-sustaining vortex similar to a tornado.
  • Regulate 30-second idle shut-off rules for automobiles.
  • Create laws against planned obsolescence, such as constantly changing computer cord designs.
  • Use existing hydro and pipeline corridors as solar panel corridors.
  • Create a climate change prize awarded to the creators of innovative ideas.
  • Put motion sensors on streetlights so they only come on when someone passes by.
  • "End Capitalism."
  • Ban all drive-thrus, "particularly Tim Hortons."
  • Dump Zamboni scrapings on arena roofs to cool the facilities in warmer weather.
  • Build insulated skating rinks at all schools that would then pump cold air from the winter's natural ice buildup to classrooms in warmer months.
  • Institute "Meatless Mondays" to reduce consumption from carbon-intensive agriculture.


The Canadian Press

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