The 150th Year of Canadian Environmental Politics (V. Nader)



Canada’s 150th year is a great year for environmental policy. Source

July 01st, 2017 marked Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary since Confederation and our 150th year is significant in terms of environmental policy. Over the last several weeks alone, it is evident that Canada has made great strides towards becoming a global environmental leader. The Canadian government has proved that they are serious about combating climate change by reaffirming their participation in the Paris Accord, providing substantial funds for environmental friendly projects in cities across Canada, introducing the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, and much more! Although the government’s efforts are not fool proof, as they approved the construction of pipelines, however they are making an conscious effort to ensure these pipelines do not cause considerable damage to the environment.

All of the environmental actions the Canadian government has taken this past year gives me the impression that Canada is experiencing its fourth wave of environmentalism. This wave of environmentalism is addressing sustainable development and climate change. Before I get into why I believe this to be so, I will give a brief background on Canada’s waves of environmentalism.

Canada’s waves of environmentalism began after the formation of the federal government in 1867 when, as mentioned in The Canadian Environment in Political Context, “North Americans saw the continent as a destructible place and realized that resources, especially wildlife and forests, were not limitless” (Olive 2016, 81). The first wave involved the creation of national parks, which served a dual purpose of conserving forests and driving tourism, and it was solidified with the enactment of The Rocky Mountains Park Act of 1887. Much later in the 1960s, the second wave of environmentalism occurred when people became aware of environmental issues, especially concerning pollution and energy. This wave can be said to be spearheaded by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau because of his ambitious environmental agenda which led to the establishment of the Department of the Environment in 1971 and the enactment of various policies that addressed pollution. Finally, the third wave of environmentalism in the late 1980s and early 1990s dealt with problems surrounding acid rain, wildlife, and ozone layer of which Prime Minister Brian Mulroney took great care. It is said that “Mulroney is arguable Canada’s ‘greenest’ prime minister given the number of environmental treaties and laws made during his time in office” (Olive 2016, 86). Given Canada’s environmental history, it is clear that we are currently experiencing a fourth wave of environmentalism.

I believe all of the necessary components are aligned to make way for Canada’s fourth wave of environmentalism. Under the previous Harper administration, voters, federalism, and an economy based on natural resources were considered constraints to Canada’s domestic national policy concerning climate change. However, in 2017, all of the components for a wave are in place which are: the current administration is run by Justin Trudeau, who is pro-environment just like his father in the second wave of environmentalism; the establishment of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which requires all provinces to adopt environmental policy set forth by the federal government (for example the national price on carbon); and Canada’s goal of phasing out the use of coal energy by 2030 in favour of alternative energy, such as nuclear plants.

Further evidence that supports that Canada is experiencing a wave is the country’s economic prosperity.


Canada’s economy expanded at an annual pace of nearly four per cent in the first quarter, more than three times the growth seen in the U.S. in the same period.

The only difference I noticed between this wave and previous waves is that it is not in accordance with the current US administration’s stance on environmental policy. Typically, Canada follows suit on the US’ waves of environmentalism and mimics their actions, but with Trump’s anti-environment beliefs, Canada, for once, is taking the lead. It is refreshing to see Canada standing strong and having a mind of its own as opposed to adhering to the whims of the US’, especially with the US federal administration’s decision to prioritize profits over their environment. As previously discussed, President Trump’s stance towards environmental policy has several negative implications for their country and the global environment, however we can have comfort in knowing that Canada is taking great care of our environment, and, as a result, has become an extraordinary model that other countries can emulate.


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