Week Six: Bill Nye visits the oil sands and other long weekend-ish news

Bill Nye, who taught a generation (my generation) about science via a series of VHS tapes played in schoolrooms across the land, was in northern Alberta last week working on a show that will feature the oil sands. As APTN reports, the scale of bitumen development had an impact on Nye, who also noted the upcoming federal election could bring about helpful change. Drawing on their own archives and the APTN interview, Vice notes Nye has previously called Conservative leader and prime minister Stephen Harper a “controversial” figure when it comes to climate change:

Nye, who is also CEO of the Planetary Society, has been speaking out about climate change for years. Last year in an interview with VICE, he was already talking about Harper’s focus on fossil fuels and how it’s hurting Canada.

“The government in Canada is currently being influenced by the fossil-fuel industry,” Nye told VICE. “Stephen Harper is a controversial guy in the science community because [of] the policies, especially in Western Canada.”

Nye’s visit carries little weight in a sea of election news, but is relevant for its ability to draw attention to oil sands development, the communities of First Peoples in and around the region, and to remind Canadians that people outside the country are watching and wondering what will happen as a result of this election, particularly on Canada’s climate change response agenda.

Following the leaders

This Huffington Post story about new NDP ads featuring leader Thomas Mulcair highlights the absence of environmental issues from the party’s English-language push. Both the party’s French and English videos feature windmills, but whereas protecting the environment is explicitly part of Mulcair’s agenda as presented to Quebec, in the English video (below), Mulcair is identified as having been Quebec’s environment minister in a visual clip. In his voiceover, he simply says, “As a cabinet minister, I brought people together to get things done and make a difference in people’s lives. We need to give our kids a better start in life, ensure our young people get the opportunities they need and our seniors get the benefits they deserve…”

It would be interesting to know what the NDP knows about voters’ interests in Quebec versus the rest of Canada; why does one audience get passing reference to the environment and social justice (and many references to Stephen Harper), while the other primarily receives coded references to the economy?

This said, the NDP made clear last week it plans to put legislation to work that would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions if elected. There is more news to come before Oct. 19, according to the party’s environment critic, but this story offers an outline of the party’s plans should it have the opportunity to define Canada’s contributions to international climate change discussions in Paris later this year. Compare this to incumbent Conservative minister Lisa Raitt, who, according to a story in the National Observer, left future discussions about how the Tories would handle the Paris conference to the prime minister. To date, and as recently as in the past week, Canada’s response to climate change has been characterized as “inadequate.”

In an interview in Quebec last week, Green Party leader Elizabeth May is recorded as having spoken very little about her party’s environmental agenda, but the Montreal Gazette Q&A does take up May’s explicit opposition to the Energy East pipeline.

Despite so many reports of how tightly controlled Stephen Harper‘s campaign events are, a Nipissing Township, Ont. man managed to get up close and personal, and get his photograph taken beside Harper while wearing an anti-Energy East T-shirt.

An Abacus poll Maclean’s reported on last week highlights how warmly respondents felt about Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, while carving a hard line between perceptions of abilities to care for young people or be good company versus abilities to persuade or negotiate.

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