Five current and past members of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) today spoke out against the Bill C-38 repeal of the act mandating this long-standing advisory body. They also presented a letter to Stephen Harper, signed by them and numerous past members voicing their concerns.
“The NRTEE has become an international model for bringing diverse, even competing, interests together in an unbiased atmosphere to develop ideas and generate valuable and viable policy advice,” the letter states. “It has produced sound, well-researched reports on priority issues with realistic, innovative solutions based on high-quality research and analyses. Over the years, these reports have provoked discussion – and much-needed change.”
Press conference participants included:
- Jim MacNeill, Secretary General, Brundtland Commission; Chief Architect and Lead Author of Our Common Future;
- Bob Mills, former MP for Red Deer (1993-2008); Senior Environment Critic for the Conservatives (and the Canadian Alliance) 2001 – 2006; Chair of the Environment Committee 2006 – 2008;
- Angus Ross, Chairman, L & A Concepts (Insurance Industry);
- Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands; Vice-Chair NRTEE1994 – 2001
Inspired by the famous Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, the NRTEE was established in 1988 by former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. It was later mandated by Parliament in 1993. The repeal of this mandate was introduced in the Budget and implemented in Bill C-38, thus destroying what many considered the only neutral meeting place in Ottawa.
NRTEE members have included industry leaders, academics, environmentalists, First Nations, labour, and policy makers. They have reached out to expert organizations, industries, and individuals to assist in conducting their insightful and timely work.
Countering the Harper Conservatives’ claim that the NRTEE can be easily replaced, the letter argues: “This unique collaborative process cannot be replaced by Internet research and/or individual consultation, as has been suggested.”
It points out that the NRTEE has: “… contributed expert advice on a wide range of subjects: energy, water, fisheries, air quality, climate change, ecological fiscal reform, and more. These are all issues that have a direct impact on the lives of all Canadians.”
The letter gives examples of the NRTEE’s contributions to Canadian policy, environmental sustainability, and the economy:
- Ground-breaking National Strategy for Canada on Brownfield Redevelopment, used to remediate urban contaminated sites in several provinces, generating tax revenue from the redevelopments.
- Work dealing with the challenges of small woodlot management and inter-generational transfer. This led to changes on the ground in New Brunswick and other provinces;
- Findings on ecological fiscal reform which led to improvements in capital gains treatment for the donation of ecologically sensitive lands.
In spite of this diversity of research topics and useful accomplishments, a few weeks ago, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird explained that the NRTEE was eliminated because taxpayers had to “pay for more than 10 reports promoting a carbon tax.” In fact, the NRTEE has issued 20 advisory reports over the past five years and only three have spoken to the issue of taxing carbon and/or cap and trade.