Disclaimer: This is not meant to offend or attack people I worked with, some of whom might actually agree with this post. It is based solely on my experiences and views as a former policy analyst in the Sustainability and Information Integration Directorate at Environment Canada.
Don’t get me wrong, quitting my job at the time I did was the best decision I could have made. It’s been nine months and I haven’t even looked back or second guessed my decision. However, today I felt particularly proud about it.
I never really wrote why I quit my job. Yes, I told few friends about some of the conflicts I had working in a place that made me question the accuracy of my work more often than not. However, I rarely discussed those conflicts.
At first, my office was just like any other office with employees aware of some of the challenges yet believing with the best intentions that they are in the right place to make a difference. I was there trying to to test this theory too. I never really believed in it but I wanted to give this option a chance. It wasn’t long before I realized it doesn’t work. It’s possible that it might have worked at some point, but not now, not within the current political environment.
You see, at my job, I researched, read and analyzed many Canadian and international reports on Canada’s environmental performance and how it compares to other countries in the world. And let’s cut straight to the point, Canada ranks pretty badly. We know that, we’ve seen it, studied it and have evidence that Canada’s environmental performance is only getting worse.
However, I wasn’t allowed to admit to that. Fair enough. I mean it’s very rare that any person, company or state acknowledges their shortcomings. I did not expect a public announcement saying “sorry we messed up”, but I would have expected the government to responsibly address the issue. Instead, my job was taking part of justifying those shortfalls by using a weak sustainability strategy and the hopeless targets of reducing GHG emissions by 17% below 2005 levels that replaced the Kyoto protocol targets, while knowing that there are no real plans to reach those targets.
Today, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, who needless to say, is not Environment Canada’s best friend announced that EC’s weak GHG reduction target ” is not supported by an implementation plan”, signalling that Canada is even further away from reaching those targets than it was, especially with the expansion of the tar sands developments which are only expected to increase GHG emissions. This comes as no surprise to me. The sustainability strategy, including the weak GHG reduction targets have been, in previous years, criticized by the Commissioner as well as other reputable source such as the David Suzuki Foundation.
Environment Canada’s response: “Our government is committed to ensuring an environment that is clean, safe, and sustainable for all Canadians, while creating jobs and promoting economic growth. We welcome the report of the Commissioner, and we have taken note of his recommendations.”
Sounds familiar? Of course because it does not vary much for the 2011 response: “I want to assure Canadians that our Government will continue to work towards creating an environment that is clean, safe, and sustainable, while maintaining economic growth.”
A cookie cutter response that does not address the issues at hand and well emphasizes economic growth. Not to mention, the major cuts to Environment Canada’s budget and staff, muzzling with federal scientists among other things.
Today, I could have been in an office surrounded by a general feeling of dissatisfaction around this report and complaints on how nothing is ever good enough for the commissioner and environmental organizations, even though some individuals might have varying opinions on this issue. Instead, I am free writing what could be the most controversial blog I wrote so far. I am happy I am free to speak my mind and address this issue in a way that I find most effective. Because I’ve been there, I’ve read multiple reports and I know Canada could and should do better. What Environment Canada is currently doing is not all it can do. It certainly is not good enough for the Commissioner who happened to be as much part of this government as the employees of Environment Canada, and it certainly was not good enough for me.
I could have been guilty of encouraging the status quo and contributing to the severity of climate change. Instead, I feel a certain peace of mind knowing that I am doing the right thing by being part of a movement that is raising awareness and pushing for meaningful actions. It’s certainly challenging but I do know that I can comfortably look my niece and nephew in the eye and say I did what I can, and for that I am extremely grateful.