Hypocrisy is far more often a sign of self-satisfaction than sinister plotting. If people were really conspiring, they’d be more careful about appearances. But it is a warning sign of fatuity in thought and deed. As for instance when the Trudeau cabinet, while claiming to believe reducing carbon emissions is as urgent as it is essential, are forever flying about to promote their own pet causes and political fortunes in petty ways. The Prime Minister himself apparently has far and away the largest personal carbon footprint of anyone in Canada; a veritable Bigfoot of GHGs, he thinks nothing of jetting half-way across the country and back on Earth Day. But a fish emits from the head, so his subordinates are doing it too. Indulge us as we survey less than one week’s superfluous air travel by Canadian cabinet ministers.
Starting with July 14: “The Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, is making an important announcement about new funding to improve rail safety and efficiency in Regina and southern Saskatchewan.” His riding? Mississauga.
The same day “Minister Bibeau to announce major support for on-farm solutions to combat climate change in agriculture” in Calgary. And she’s from Compton-Stanstead in Quebec’s “Estrie,” aka the “Eastern Townships” until somebody noticed the name was in English and changed it. So she didn’t get to Calgary by mule, or EV.
As for the PM, why, he was in Kingston on July 13 to “make an announcement and hold a media availability” which obviously you can’t do remotely by, say, putting out a press release and emailing a photo. And he was joined by François-Philippe Champagne, the “Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry” and also the Registrar General of Canada, whose riding is Saint-Maurice-Champlain and who lives in Shawinigan. The next day the PM was back in Ottawa.
Then there’s “Minister Wilkinson Announces $1.7 M in Funding for New Chargers in British Columbia”, also on July 13. His riding? North Vancouver. So maybe he was there anyway. (But if so he arrived from Regina on the 12th.) Still, what price such insights as “Reducing pollution from the transportation sector is critical to Canada achieving its climate targets. That’s why the Government of Canada is making it easier for Canadians to purchase, charge and drive electric vehicles (EVs) in British Columbia and across the country”?
As part of something you might have missed, “#EVWeek in Canada”, which was also what brought Trudeau to Kingston. Again not by EV. On the 12th, he was in the “Eastern Townships” then Ottawa. On the 11th, Montreal.
At least Wilkinson had Lawrence MacAulay stand in for him in Montague, PEI for “an announcement to support electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Prince Edward Island” and yes, MacAulay is from there. Whereas for some reason Alghabra felt that he had to go help “the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion… make an important funding announcement for the Essex Terminal Railway Company / Morterm Limited” in Windsor, which the Secretary is from anyway. But of course when you’re handing out vote-buying public cash, you should be there for the cameras. Otherwise why bother?
Back on the 13th, “The Honourable Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance and Adam van Koeverden, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, on behalf of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, will announce funding to help improve health and quality of life for priority populations in Saskatchewan and Alberta.” In Edmonton. Which is Boissonnault’s home (riding: Edmonton Centre) but van Koeverden is from Milton, Ontario. And not, we add, from Calgary, where he was handing out boodle two days earlier, on July 11, “that will help enable Calgarians of all ages and abilities to benefit from modern sport and recreation amenities.”
The day in between, the 12th, deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland zoomed off to Bali for “the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in Bali, Indonesia.” (Three days after her colleague the Foreign Affairs minister jetted back from, of all places, Bali, Indonesia, where the boilerplate hammered out that “Minister Joly concludes successful participation in G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Indonesia”.) And that same July 12, “The Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr., Minister of Labour, will be in Hamilton to tour a housing construction project. They will discuss the need to train more skilled workers…” which you obviously cannot do by telephone. And no, he’s not from around there; his riding is St. John's South-Mount Pearl out Newfoundland and Labrador way.
Maybe the “Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario”, which is not the invention of an overwrought satirist but a real, highly paid cabinet post, did take an EV from Markham over to Peterborough on July 12 “to announce support for economic development and tourism in Peterborough, Northumberland and Kawartha Lakes”. Or might have if she hadn’t been in Cobourg the previous day. (For some reason this Peterborough press release, though sent to the Parliamentary Press Gallery list, wasn’t posted online. Perhaps because it was a paltry $12.2 million and really, how many Canadians work full time to pay the pittance in taxes involved?)
Even the uber-green Steven Guilbeault flew down to Washington and back, delayed by the airport chaos his government can’t fix unlike the world’s weather, for a two day visit. And what crucial political time-wasting activities obliged him thus to compromise his principles? Why:
“In these meetings, Minister Guilbeault emphasized the strength and importance of the relationship between both countries to work collaboratively to address plastic pollution, fight climate change, including through cleaner transportation and electricity, as well as work together to support developing countries to combat climate change through international climate finance.”
Hasn’t he heard of Zoom? Or was he afraid when he started pontificating they’d all start checking Facebook? Did anyone in the meeting, or outside it, not know he cared about this stuff? If he had anything substantive to say, why not email a PDF? We hesitate to speculate what he has or hasn’t heard of since Guilbeault notoriously promised back when COP26 in Glasgow was going to save us all that “I look forward to travelling across the country early in the new year, by train, to meet and discuss (climate change) with Canadians in all parts of the country.” He apparently didn’t know that outside the Laurentian Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor there’s precious little train travel available in Canada. He really didn’t. Nor did he bother to check before saying something that sounded good but aged badly.
In any case, the typically self-congratulatory press release didn’t balk at praising two giant conferences in the next five months, the “UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt this November” and “the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montréal in December 2022.” Each of which will attract literally thousands of delegates and hangers-on who will fly in.
Let us be clear that we are not criticizing the specific events being held. Well, we are for most of them. And it’s not just them; why “Saskatchewan’s finance minister spent nearly $8,000 on a private plane to attend a chamber of commerce lunch days after she tabled a provincial budget containing tax hikes.” But it’s especially galling when people who lecture you about their carbon footprint stomp around in this manner.
So our point is to emphasize by touring just half a week in the life of the cabinet the extent that they just can’t seem to stop flying everywhere to exchange platitudes. As when “The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, will visit Japan from July 4 to 9, 2022. He will meet with key Japanese stakeholders and business leaders in the automotive, manufacturing and technology sectors to promote Canada as a reliable, stable and attractive economic partner and green supplier of choice.” OK, enough.
Well, a bit more. Last month alone Trudeau, who the National Post reports “is now spending his summer showing up in random locations” from Gatineau to Scarborough to the Okanagan for no clearly defined purpose at all, contrailed it from Canada to Rwanda to Germany (where he apparently didn’t notice the devastating impact of its green agenda) to Spain, from the latter praising retiring B.C. premier John Horgan for “ambitious climate action” and much else. Reuters “Sustainable Switch,” newswire services no longer even pretending not to be in the opinion business, gushed about how “The Group of Seven of the world’s richest countries aims to create a ‘Climate Club’ and end direct public support for the international fossil fuel energy sector by the end of this year. These were some of the key climate takeaways from the group’s three-day annual summit at a luxury castle resort in the Bavarian Alps in southern Germany.”
We say if they had something of substance to discuss, it would have been better even on the substance to do it by exchanging technical documents and touching base digitally. But it’s as absurd to hector us about electric vehicles and carbon footprints through the haze of revving airplane engines as to fulminate against our gluttony while staggering from the banquet table to collapse groaning on the couch.