Straight Talk
LORRIE GOLDSTEIN - Court backs Harper on Kyoto

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Credits: CHRIS ROUSSAKIS/QMI AGENCY

LORRIE GOLDSTEIN | QMI AGENCY

To no one's surprise who has been following the matter, the Federal Court of Canada Tuesday upheld the right of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government to withdraw from the Kyoto accord.

That had been challenged by former Bloc MP Daniel Turp, who claimed the government had acted improperly, supported by all the usual suspects in the environmental movement.

This despite the fact Section 27 of the Kyoto accord reads, in part:

(1) At any time after three years from the date on which this Protocol has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from this Protocol by giving written notification ...

(2) Any such withdrawal shall take effect upon expiry of one year from the date of receipt ... of the notification of withdrawal.

The Kyoto protocol came into effect Jan. 1, 2008.

So the government was obviously acting within its rights when Environment Minister Peter Kent announced Dec. 12, 2011, that Canada was giving one-year's notice it would withdraw from the accord on Dec. 12, 2012, shortly before the accord itself expires on Dec. 31, 2012.

Justice Simon Noel also rejected Turp's claims the federal government was bound to consult with the provinces and Parliament before withdrawing from the accord.

The judge noted (a) Turp was not in a position to speak for the provinces and (b) the federal government has the right to conduct foreign affairs and enter into or withdraw from international treaties without consulting Parliament, known, historically as the right of royal prerogative.

Undeterred, Turp now says he may appeal Judge Noel's ruling to the Federal Court of Appeal, yet another indication of an all-too-common phenomenon these days.

That is, of taking governments to court simply because one doesn't agree with their decisions, instead of working to defeat them in an election.

In other words, attempting to do through judges what should be done by voters.

If opposition politicians, ex-politicians, environmentalists and ordinary citizens are opposed to the decision of the Harper government to withdraw from the Kyoto accord on greenhouse gas emissions, then they have the democratic avenue open to them of defeating it in the next federal election.

If successful, whatever government succeeds the Conservatives can then rejoin whatever successor agreement to Kyoto has been worked out by the international community at that point, assuming there is one.

Alternatively, if the opposition parties were worried the Harper Tories were going to pull out of Kyoto if and when they won a majority government, they could have moved when the Tories headed a minority government to limit the power of royal prerogative.

Of course, they didn't do that because there was no way on Earth they wanted to limit the power of the government to conduct foreign affairs and sign treaties, given their working assumption that some day they would form the government.

What's been lost in these increasing attempts by critics of governments in Canada - of all political stripes - to achieve through the courts what they have not been able to achieve through elections, is the democratic principle that one can oppose a government's decisions, while acknowledging it has the right to make them.

And that the proper forum for objecting to and overturning such decisions is not a courtroom, but an election.

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