Editor's note: More from David Suzuki,
Canadians should be disgusted with their federal government this week, but not just because of what has come out at the Gomery inquiry.
No, Canadians should be outraged because, once again, their government has ignored the best interests of its citizens and refused to stand up to a corporate dinosaur. That dinosaur is the automotive industry, and the recently announced deal to reduce emissions amounts to nothing more than another government subsidy to prop up an industry that feeds off the health and pocketbooks of Canadians.
The new agreement, wrapped in obfuscating language about megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and navel-gazing preamble after preamble, doesn't guarantee any improvements in gas mileage at all. In fact, it amounts to little more than a PR exercise for automakers and the feds.
On top of everything, it actually lies. Just look at the many preambles:
"And whereas the Canadian Automotive Industry has shown good faith in meeting their commitments in other Memoranda of Understanding and are currently parties to numerous successful active agreements;"
A lie. Way back in 1982, the industry fought like mad to derail fuel efficiency regulations that had already been passed by Parliament. Government caved in to the industry, which promised to meet the targets "voluntarily." On paper, they met those targets. But in reality, they avoided them by exploiting a loophole that allowed them to build and promote more and more gas-guzzling light trucks, which were exempt from the standard. The industry also has also argued, threatened and whined about the "impossibility" of everything from smog-reducing catalytic converters to safety innovations like seatbelts and air bags.
Here's another good one:
"And whereas the Government of Canada acknowledges that the Canadian Automotive Industry has made significant progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving fuel efficiency since 1990;"
Another lie. Fuel efficiency has decreased in recent years because the industry is hell-bent on selling bigger, heavier and - more expensive - vehicles that cost less to make, like SUVs. But you don't have to take my word for it. Just look at a comprehensive analysis by economists Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling published in the current edition of American Scientist.
Bezdek and Wendling point out that average fuel economy for all new vehicles has declined from 26.2 mpg (8.9l/100km) in 1987 to 24.7 mpg (9.5l/100km) in 2004. They then point to more than two dozen technologies identified by the U.S. National Research Council as technically feasible ways to make cars more fuel efficient today. They then examine the costs of using these technologies and what it would mean for the industry and the economy. Their input-output analysis concludes that making cars burn less gas would actually create more jobs, save money for consumers, and improve the economy - in addition to reducing smog and climate change.
Good for consumers, good for jobs, good for health - this win should have been relatively easy for the federal government. Polls show that 90 per cent of Canadians want more efficient cars and the vast majority don't believe the industry's lies that making them would be either too hard or too expensive. California already set the precedent in North America by enacting laws that require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from new cars, thus forcing them to improve gas mileage.
Instead, we've got a voluntary agreement that guarantees nothing and again leaves enough loopholes to drive a Hummer through. Canadians are being played for dupes by the industry and the feds are letting them get away with it. This industry lies. It lies and it lies and it lies. And our government doesn't have the guts to stand up to them.