$1.3 Billion to Conservation (by A. Olive)

In the Liberal 2018 federal budget, the government announced $1.3 billion in funding for conservation (over the next 5 years). You can read about it here on CTV. This is the single largest contribution to conservation in Canada’s history.

I was invited to speak about it The Agenda with Steve Paikin. You can watch the 30 minute video clip here.

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Looking Back and Signing Off (N. Esak)

While writing as a guest blogger, I’ve gained new perspectives in the evolving issues of Canadian environmental policy and law.  Writing weekly for this blog has not only required me to consistently keep up with Canadian political and environmental news, but has shown me how many avenues and different stakeholders are involved in environmental issues. Environmental concerns do not only pertain to ecological issues, but social, cultural, political and economic factors as well. This was shown first hand in my blog topics, writing on issues of pipelines and carbon tax’s, to indigenous rights, to climate change policy, and even environmental sustainability education. This taught me the significance of how holistic environmental sustainability issues are and how they have the ability to impact all sectors of society.

Since September 2017 when I began writing for the blog, I’ve gained a lot of perspective on the contributing factors which heavily influence Canadian environmental policy. For instance, the impact provincial politics plays in the environmental agenda of the federal government is worth much more than I or many others would have thought. Cases such as Manitoba and Saskatchewan deciding not to join the federal climate change framework or Alberta’s push towards the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline has demonstrated that there is definitely a divide in Canada on those who are for or against prioritizing climate change policy over economic incentives. However, Trudeau government has at least had all governments discussing climate change policy. Coming from a Harper government this is definitely progress we should be happy about.

Moreover, from blogging these past months it has also been clear that Canada has been held back from its full potential due to the implications of Trump’s presidency. This was made clear in many ways, but specifically concerning the NAFTA negotiation process and Canada’s push for clean technology and trade. With this agreement being criticized by Trump since before he was even elected, it has made it very difficult for Canada to not only push for environmental issues, but social issues as well.

Speaking of social issues, it was enlightening to write about the social sustainability issues which are not always publically associated with environmental policy. Writing on indigenous movements, gender equality, and education has really made me acknowledge the need of placing importance on recognition in Canadian environmental policy. Understanding how women, racial minorities, and indigenous groups are forced to bear the burdens of environmental consequences due to systematic barriers is necessary for the implementation of efficient environmental policy.

As I end my last post as a guest blogger I hope some of you were able to take away how crucial environmental policy is, not only in Canada but globally. Even when watching or reading about current events, try to think about the environmental implications that could be associated with the news you are consuming. And finally, always keep in mind that environmental problems manifest to economic harms, racialized harms, gender inequality harm, and indigenous harms. They all influence each other, so when combating one of these issues, we need to be combatting them all.

Good-bye and all the best,

Nasra Esak

Al Gore Praises Premier Wynne on her work combating Climate Change in Ryerson Conference (N. Esak)

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Photo 1: Former Vice President Al Gore alongside Premier Wynne

The former U.S vice president, Al Gore, attended a climate change conference hosted by Ryerson University alongside Premier Kathleen Wynne. Known for his work against climate change, including his winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore gave a speech this Thursday as he praised Ontario’s and Wynne’s fight against climate change issues in the province (Gignac & Benzie, 2018).

Using this opportunity to push Wynne’s election bid, he specifically praised her government on their implementation of cap and trade. “I travel all over the world and I cite Ontario as an example of a provincial government that is doing it right: creating jobs, building the base for economic progress, while also staving off the severe danger that the climate crisis poses to all of us,” he said during his speech (Gignac & Benzie, 2018). The province’s cap and trade system was implemented in Ontario last year, aiming to reduce GHG emissions through creating restrictions, in this case ‘caps’, on industry emissions and forcing these industries to purchase allowances during auctions or other companies if they want to release more than their caps (CBC News, 2018).

Gore expressed his concern for the Progressive Conservatives plans to remove the cap and trade system in Ontario if elected, saying the removal will most definitely push the province back from obtaining a sustainable future and that this system is an ideal way to create economic incentives for industries to reduce their GHG emissions (CBC News, 2018).

With the Tory leadership winning results going to Doug Ford, it’s clear that the PC’s won’t be prioritizing the cap and trade system if elected this provincial election. “Anyone in Ontario who imagines for a moment that elections don’t have consequences, think, for a moment, about my country and what is going on there right now,” Gore said during the presentation with Wynne, “I do know this: Ontario is moving forward; Ontario is making progress; Ontario is setting the standard for provincial and regional governments around the world,” (Gignac & Benzie, 2018).

So, for the cap and trade system to stay alive in Ontario, then here is to hope for a loss for Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives this provincial election.

Reference

CBC News. (2018, March 08). Climate Change Crusader Al Gore praises Ontario’s Cap and Trade System during Toronto Visit. Retrived March 11, 2018, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/gore-wynne-ryerson-1.4568055

Gignac, J., & Benzie, R. (2018, March 08). Al Gore Applauds Environmental Work of Premier Wynne at Ryerson Conference. Retrived March 11, 2018, from  https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/03/08/al-gore-applauds-environmental-work-of-premier-wynne-at-ryerson-conference.html

 

 

 

 

The Melting of Permafrost and their Carbon Releases in the Arctic May Lead to Harmful Consequences (N. Esak)

Evidence was announced on Tuesday by the journal Environmental Research Letters that ancient carbon has been released out into the atmosphere due to melting permafrost soils in the Northwest Territories (Mooney, 2018). These carbons were stored in plant bodies up to thousands of years ago and stored in arctic permafrost’s, and with the rapid increase in temperatures, these carbons are now expected to be released.

For thousands of years massive amounts of carbon have been stored in soils  as plants have died but were unable to decay fully due to the extreme cold temperatures in the Arctic (Mooney, 2018).  However, as temperatures in the arctic have been increasing, due to global climate change, these ancient carbons begin to become broken down to carbon dioxide and methane emissions (Mooney, 2018). Considering that carbon dioxide and methane contributes to even greater temperature increases, the melting of permafrost ends up becoming a positive feedback loop that keeps increasing the warming of the planet. Although, scientists are unsure of exactly how much of this carbon will be released and how fast the release is expected to occur.

“I would say if you’re looking at anything pushing several hundred years old to a thousand years old, then you have to start wondering whether that should be coming out of this kind of system” said Joshua Dean, this research’s lead author and professor at the University of Stirling in Britain and Vrije University in Amsterdam (Mooney, 2018).

However, other researchers have questioned if this increased release of ancient carbon is what is to be expected, such as Claudia Czmczik, professor at the University of California and conducted research for the Nature Climate Change study. She said, “It is currently unclear what constitutes a ‘steady state scenario’ for various Arctic ecosystems, specifically what a deviation from the expected carbon cycling in an undisturbed environment would look like” (Mooney, 2018).

Despite these other interpretations, it is clear that the Arctic has been affected by these increases in the release of carbon from melted permafrost and this issue definitely needs further research in order to prevent further harms to the Arctic.

Reference

Mooney, C. (2018, March 01). Ancient carbon is coming from arctic soil. It might be fine but it might be terrible. Retrived March 04, 2018, from https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2018/03/01/ancient-carbon-is-coming-from-arctic-soil-it-might-be-fine-but-it-might-be-terrible.html

 

Alberta vs B.C in the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (by N. Esak)

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Photo: Alberta Premier Racheal Notley (Left) and B.C Premier John Horgan (Right)

 

The issue between British Columbia and Alberta pertaining to a pipeline expansion has evolved into a very heated conflict between the two provinces interests. These conflicting issues are over the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (Walkom, 2018). The expansion would drastically increase the amount of tar sand oil transports on the Pacific Coast. The British Columbia Premier, John Horgan expressed his sentiments of not wanting the pipeline to be built while the Alberta Premier, Racheal Notley would like the opposite and for the expansion to occur (Walkom, 2018). To Notley, the expansion will help in promoting a highly competitive oil industry (Walkom, 2018). Horgan, on the other hand, would like to stop this expansion due to the political dynamics of the province. Considering that the province’s minority NDP government, Horgan needs the Green party’s support to remain in power, which includes protecting their anti-pipeline demands (Walkom, 2018).

This pipeline conflict, however grew to become more complex when B.C announced the proposal of restrictions to be placed on bitumen shipments to pipelines from Alberta (Seskus, 2018). Announcement of these restrictions resulted in frustrated threats from Alberta for economic and import retaliations and lawsuits due to the province’s view that B.C has no constitutional authority to create such restrictions (Seskus, 2018).

The federal government, however has been in support of the pipelines expansion, with Trudeau even considering the expansion as both a great economic incentive and still a commitment to climate change as long as those constructing it have a commitment to reduce carbon emissions to combat climate change (Walkom, 2018). However, to those opposed to the project, the promised economic growths are not worth the potential environmental repercussions of oil spills, leaks, and dangerous emission releases. These extreme differentiating views is what is making policy compromises on this issue very difficult to create.

Compromises like these is what the federal government has been working towards to both ease the mind of those with both economic and environmental priority incentives. However, the problem with this is that both these concerns are not equally detrimental. Since the federal government’s role holds the most authority over this matter, it needs to take a hard stance and acknowledge that if they want their claims of combating climate change to be true, they must take the economic and even political consequences which might follow.

 

 

References

Walkom, T. (2018, February 02). B.C pipeline faceoff underscores Justin Trudeau’s climate-change contradictions. Retrieved February 11, 2018, from https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2018/02/02/bc-pipeline-faceoff-underscores-justin-trudeaus-climate-change-contradictions.html

Seskus, T. (2018, February 08). Oil, water and wine: Escalating Alberta-B.C. fued threatens future of Trans Mountain pipeline. Retrived February 11, 2018, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/pipeline-notley-horgan-1.4519530

 

 

Roll-Up to Pollution

It is that time of year again in Canada – not Valentine’s Day, not tax day, but Roll Up the Rim to Win time. This is a beloved Canadian season where the coffee-chain Tim Hortons runs a contest with their beverage containers.

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Photo credit: St. Thomas Times Journal 

The contest is straightforward. Every cup you purchase, you get a chance to roll up the rim of the cup to see if you won a prize – such as a car, a gift card, or another cup of coffee.

As an environmentalist, I hate this season.

Looking at 2017 data, we know that 294 million cups were produced for the contest. We know that 0 of these cups are recyclable. Yes, those cups are NOT recyclable. I know that there are recycling bins at Tim Hortons that lead you to believe the cups can be recycled, but those containers are for plastic bottles only.  Don’t be fooled.

Your odds of winning anything in this contest are pretty slim. For the car, you have a 1 in 7.5 million chance. Of course, your chance of winning another non-recyclable cup is about 1 in 6.

If you normally use a refillable coffee mug pat yourself on the back. But, during this season Tim Hortons’ fills your cup and then gives you a non-recyclable cup to roll-up and throw out.

This contest represents terrible consumerism and waste. At least 294 million cups are going to a landfill during this contest. Yes, Tim Hortons would be producing cups anyway during this time. But sales increase during the contest (people buy more cups more often) and people stop using reusable mugs – or people who do use them get a throw-away cup.

It needs to stop. Certainly, Tim Hortons can give scratch cards to people who use refillable cups. Or they can just give scratch cards to everyone who buys a cup to play the game. The contest has been running for almost 35 years – it is ingrained in every Canadian. We promise to still call-it “Roll up the Rim to Win” as we scratch our cards and talk about the company’s green conscience.

In the meantime, I suggest you skip the roll-up craze this year. I know it is tempting. We all love a contest. We all love Tim Horton’s. But this is one game where we all lose.

 

The Open Letter to Trudeau, from the More than 250 International Scientists on the Arctic (N. Esak)

This past week a signed open letter from more than 250 scientists from 22 countries was released and addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Nielsen, 2018). The issue addressed in the open letter was a warning on the international concern and importance of preserving the Canadian Climate Change and Atmospheric Research program (CCAR) (Nielsen, 2018). This program provides funding for many arctic focused projects from changes in land water to glacier movements, to sea ice. This $35 million-dollar project was to fund 7 projects for CCAR, however six of these projects are set to be defunded at the end of 2018 (Nielsen, 2018).

This is not the first time scientists voiced their fears on this issue, Canadian scientists already expressed their concerns last spring when it was released that the 2017 Federal Budget was not including funding for the CCAR program (Kassam, 2018). One of the researchers, Dan Weaver of Evidence For Democracy, the research group who sent the letter last week, stated his concerns ““The government has taken great effort to engage with policies around climate and climate education, green energy and a lot of these great things,” he said. “But somehow along the way, the support for the atmospheric science – the underlying science of the issue – has been overlooked.” (Kassam, 2018).  Moreover, scientists internationally have also stated that Canada plays a critical role in climate change monitoring and research based on its close proximity to the arctic circle (Kassam, 2018). The loss of these programs will also lead to the loss of significant research opportunities to determine the pace in which the climate is changing. The director of research for the Centre National de La Researche Scientifique in France, Dr Sophie Godin-Beekmann, also expressed this issue when she said, “Due to its location, Canada’s leadership in the study and monitoring of Arctic atmosphere has become even more important to our understanding of the rapidly evolving Arctic climate and environment’ (Kassam, 2018).

Kristy Duncan, the Minister of Science, defended Prime Minister Trudeau and saying that Canada is now doing more to improve climate change than any other government has before in the country (Nielsen, 2018). She addressed this by stating “As the Arctic matters now more than ever because of climate change, we are working to move forward on an Arctic Policy Framework in which science will play a key role. This will be a whole of government approach to the Arctic, one that includes Indigenous voices and the role of traditional knowledge” (Nielsen, 2018). So even though it looks like they may not be reinstating the six programs which the government ended funding for in the CCAR, this statement looks like they are looking into developing a new policy framework to address arctic concerns, however when this will be implemented is unknown for now.

References

Nielsen, K. (2018, January 22). 250 International Scientists Sign Warning Letter to Justin Trudeau on Climate Change. Retrived January 28, 2018, from https://globalnews.ca/news/3981188/scientists-sign-warning-letter-justin-trudeau/

Kassam, A. (2018, January 22). Canadian Climate Science Faces Crisis That May Be Felt Globally, Scientists Warn. Retrived January 28, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/22/canada-climate-science-faces-looming-crisis

 

2017 Considered one of the Hottest Year’s Ever Recorded (N. Esak)

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Photo: Chart by World Meteorologist Organization

With all of the other milestones 2017 had brought, one of the standouts was that 2017 had been confirmed one of the hottest years on record. As announced by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), temperatures these last three years have resulted in extraordinary weather conditions from temperatures rising to 50 degrees Celsius, everlasting droughts in East Africa, to continuous hurricanes (Harvey, 2017).

As ranked by NASA, 2017 was considered the 2nd highest temperature year since 2016. However, 2015 and 2016 were years where there were strong El Nino weather systems which assisted in warmer seasons (Patel et al., 2018). These El Nino weather systems create warmer temperatures due to trade winds reversing and weakening, leading to colder regions of the ocean becoming much warmer (Patel et al., 2018). This is why during El Nino years, colder regions of the world tend to rise above average in temperature. 2017 on the other hand was not as influenced by the Pacific El Nino weather system yet still had the similar record-breaking weather patterns. Since the late 19th century temperatures had increased to more than 1C due to the extensive carbon dioxide fuel emission and greenhouse gases in the last 50 years (Harvey, 2017).

The reactions scientists had also expressed their deep concern with weather increases in 2017. The co-director of the Grantham Institute of Imperial College, Martin Siegert, addressed human influences in the increases in temperature in the statement “The state of our climate is being reset by humans. What were once one-in-a-hundred-year events are now turning into regular events. We see this in terms of extreme weather impacts, with examples from the south of the US this year. For the future, we can expect more of the same.” (Harvey, 2017).

Unfortunately, despite the fact that the Global North regions are the major contributors of the influx of carbon gas emissions, it is the Global South who are hit the hardest. Not only are these regions more prone to global climate change, but they also are not equipped with the political or economic capital to combat these issues. Professor of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre, Richard Betts, addressed this when he said “We expect developing countries to be hit the hardest in terms of human impact. Flooding will be a particular threat in south Asia, particularly due to increased rainfall and rising sea levels, and partly because of the large and growing numbers of people who have little choice about being in harm’s way.” (Harvey, 2017).

Despite the Global North’s gradual shift towards global climate change awareness through global conferences such as the COP23 Talks last year, it seems based on research that 2018 will be following the same pattern as the year prior with above average warmer temperatures.

 

References

Patel, H.F., & Popovich, N. (2018, January 18). 2017 was the second hottest year on record, NASA Says. And it wasn’t even an El-Nino year. Retrieved January 21st, 2018, from https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2018/01/18/2017-was-the-second-hottest-year-on-record-nasa-says-and-it-wasnt-even-an-el-nino-year.html

 

Harvey, F. (2017, November 06). 2017 set to be one of the top three hottest years on record. Retrieved January 21, 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/06/2017-set-to-be-one-of-top-three-hottest-years-on-record

 

 

Province launches Investigations against Imperial Oil Chemical Plant in Sarnia (N. Esak).

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Photo 1: Clouds of Fire from Imperial Oil Sarnia Plant

 

This past week, it was announced that investigations were on-going towards a petroleum company in the area of Sarnia. The Ministry of Environment in Ontario is leading in the investigation after clouds of fire and flames vented out from the Imperial Oil industrial plant last year on February 24th. The large flames were caused, as stated by Imperial Oil representatives, equipment malfunctions (McIntosh, 2018).

The investigation was sparked by a resident of a nearby the Aamjiwnaang First Nations reserve, Vanessa Grey, filing an application alongside a scientist from Ecojustice Elaine MacDonald, to have the province investigate in Sarnia plant (Craig, 2017). Their application was based on their claims that Sarnia residence and the Aamjiwnaang were not properly warned of the potential toxins which were released. The Ontario Environmental Commissioner, Dianne Saxe also criticized the provincial government for ignoring the serious pollution issues in many of the Indigenous communities in Ontario, let alone Aamjiwnaag (McIntosh, 2018).

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Photo 2: Vanessa Grey at Ontario Parliament

 

Representatives of Imperial Oil defended their actions, stating that “The sight of a small flame atop a flare, generally used to burn off materials from the plant, is common in the Chemical Valley. Though flares can result in emissions” (McIntosh, 2018). However Gray and MacDonald believed otherwise, alleging that Imperial Oil violated environmental and provincial policies through emitting the contaminants and causing hostile effects to those residents in the vicinity (McIntosh, 2018).

Moreover, a joint investigation by Global News, the Star, the National Observer, and researchers in Ryerson University was also launched. Their investigation disclosed patterns of leaks and lack of transparency with Imperial and in Sarnia. In fact, since January 2013 there have already been four instances of industries in Sarnia having already been received ministry charges (McIntosh, 2018). Also, Imperial Oil have already plead to similar offences and were fined for releasing contaminants for about $650,000 as well as a 2014 charge of 812,000 for a leak which was criticized for not enough warning to the public (Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, 2016)

It is clear from these investigations that there has already been precedent of Imperial Oil’s irresponsibility with their toxin discharges and lack of transparency towards their residents. However, this can also exhibit a pattern of the provincial government’s lack of awareness of the reckless practices their industries display as well. Though it may be impossible for the provincial government to be 100% aware of these industries actions, increased rigorous environmental inspections and public consultations with residence and First Nations may help minimize instances such as these.

The Environmental Bill of Rights investigation is set to be completed sometime in late February where the results of this case will be shared to Gary and MacDonald as well as the public (McIntosh, 2018).

 

References

Craig, S et al. (2017, October 16). ‘We expected cancer’: Are industrial spills in Canada’s ‘Chemical Valley’ making people sick? Retrieved January 14, 2018, from https://globalnews.ca/news/3796720/sarnia-oil-industry-spills-human-impact-investigation/

McIntosh, E. (2018, January 10). Province Launches Investigation into Flames at Sarnia Chemical Plant. Retrieved January 14th, 2018, from  https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2018/01/10/province-launches-investigation-into-flames-at-sarnia-chemical-plant.html

Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (2016, September 21). Sarnia Refinery and Chemical Plant fined $650,000 for Environmental Protection Act Violations. Retrived January 14, 2018, from https://news.ontario.ca/ene/en/2016/09/sarnia-refinery-and-chemical-plant-fined-650000-for-environmental-protection-act-violations.html

Here’s to a New Year for Climate Change Policy and NAFTA Negotiations (N. Esak)

As 2018 finally rings in, so do new opportunities for the federal government to begin implementing influential changes in climate change policy and the North American Free Trade Agreement. These topics have been a major talking point both in Canada and internationally this past year, and with 2018 rolling in now is the time for these topics to switch from just discussions to action.Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 8.18.55 PM

Photo 1: Carbon pollution in an industrial factory

 

Climate change policy has been a huge topic discussed for 2018, especially with the release of the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. One of the major legislations part of the framework include the federal government imposing a carbon price as part of their zero-emission strategy to phase out coal-fueled energy by 2030 (Rabson, 2017).  The federal government plans on imposing this tax on the provinces not able to fulfil their standards on their own. The plan looks to price carbon at $10/tonne this year and then phase to rise $10 each year after until 2022 where it will be $50/tonne (Rabson, 2017).

Manitoba and Saskatchewan decided to not join the climate change framework, however they did release their own climate change plans this past fall. Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, publically stated that it was a good sign that these provinces were at least recognizing climate change issues, but their current plans will not be able to meet the federal governments goals and standards if not improved (Rabson, 2017). With climate change expected to be the main topic in the G7 leader’s summit in Quebec, the federal government needs to start implementing the legislations found in the Pan Canadian Framework, including carbon tax, across all provinces as quickly as possible in order for Canada to be seen as a top international leader in climate change and sustainability among its other G7 peers (Rabson, 2017).

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Photo 2: U.S President Donald Trump speaking with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

This year is also an important year for determining the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, with Trump and his government being very vocal towards their attitudes of its current state. Despite the fact that Trump’s issues of the NAFTA Agreement may stem from his views of Mexico, Canada is at risk of dangerous consequences with this agreement being changed for the worst. The benefits of this agreement has allowed for the free trade of goods between the US, Canada, and Mexico since its implementation in the 90’s, providing economic benefits for all three countries (Simpson, 2018).

This past week cabinet ministers headed to the United States in efforts to promote NAFTA negotiations. In the previous year there have been minimum movements towards NAFTA from past negotiations, so Canadian trade negotiators are under pressure to make sure that this new round of talks start to go towards Canada’s favor (Simpson, 2018). It is important that Canada not only makes sure that the NAFTA agreement stays implemented, but also reiterate their goals of increased environmental and sustainability provisions and regulations to combat climate change issues. Although this will most likely be a difficult task considering the current US government’s stance on environmental issues at this point, it will be necessary that Canadian representatives focus on the economic advantages long-term of implementing environmental and climate change policies (Simpson, 2018).

I think it’s safe to say that the federal government has a lot of work ahead of them this year. While 2017 was the year of discussion on the issues of climate change and NAFTA, 2018 needs to be the year of the implementation of their targets. However, with the Trump era not making it easy, Canada needs to push now more than ever to make their environmental goals become a reality.

 

 

References

Rabson, M. (2017, December 08). Ottawa is Dragging its Feet on Climate Change Plan, Critics Say. Retrieved January 07, 2018, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/federal-climate-framework-1.4439184

Simpson, K. (2018, January 05). Canada’s NAFTA Charm Offensive Kicks into High Gear. Retrived January 07, 2018, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/cabinet-ministers-visit-us-to-promote-trade-1.4472822