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Climate indulgences

27 Mar 2019 | News Roundup

Metro Vancouver has asked two federal Liberal ministers to let it off the hook for price-fixing because it was in the sacred name of climate. The federal Competition Bureau has been after the Greater Vancouver Sewage and Drainage District, a municipal corporation, for anticompetitive behaviour. And instead of denying it, the city apparently wrote to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna that it resents wasting “significant resources” on an investigation with “the potential to undermine the coordinated efforts of all orders of government to fight climate change, reduce greenhouse gases and pursue a clean environment.” So it’s OK if our hands are dirty provided our hearts are pristine.

The Vancouver sewage issue is rather an obscure business. But awkward given the SNC-Lavalin scandal over senior officials allegedly trying to interfere with an investigation in the name of larger considerations. In the SNC case it was jobs; here it’s climate. But what really stands out is the idea that normal rules don’t apply if the ends are sufficiently holy.

The Competition Bureau, the city wrote in a letter to the ministers last week, “appears to be focused narrowly on competition related to the provision of garbage disposal services without regard to social objectives (including the protection of the environment).” How incredibly petty of them. Almost as if they put the rule of law ahead of, you know, good stuff.

In the words of William Pitt the Younger to the British House of Commons on Nov. 18, 1783 (channeling Milton): “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.” Though the matter at hand is petty, allowing the government to ignore rules intended to protect those less powerful such as private waste management companies is in its own small, mean way undemocratic.

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