Checking-in on Trudeau

Justin Trudeau has been our Prime Minister for 767 days, including today.  According to the TrudeauMeter, he has achieved 58 of his 226 campaign promises and has a subsequent 72 in progress. His “broken promises” entail 38 thus far. So, he appears to be doing fairly well. He has kept twice as many promises as he has broken.

If we look at the environment section of the Meter, he made 29 promises grouped by TrudeauMeter into clean tech, climate change, national parks, and water. Overall, he has kept only 6 promises:

  1. He attended the Paris climate summit and came home to establish the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change and Sustainable Growth
  2. canceled the Northern Gateway Pipeline
  3. expanded the Learn to Camp program
  4. Provided free admission to all National Parks in Canada for 2017 (you still have a few weeks to take advantage of this!)
  5. restored 1.5 million in annual funding for freshwater research
  6. restored 40 million for funding federal ocean and science monitoring programs

He has broken 4 pledges:

  1. he did not rapidly expand the federal fleet of electric vehicles
  2. he did not phrase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry
  3. he did not re-do the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion review
  4. he did review the elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act by the Harper gov’t

Of the remaining 19 pledges, 14 are in progress and 5 have yet to be started at all.

So, his environmental track record isn’t great. That said, the federal government does not have a lot of constitutional jurisdiction when it comes to the environment. The provinces have most of the power in this domain.

Of course, he can expand electric vehicles for the federal fleet. And he has been working on this – Catherine McKenna is often tweeting about her electric car. The key part is he did not accomplish this “rapidly.”

Phasing out subsidies. That is federal. He should have done that by now.

Re-examine the Kinder Morgan review. Yes, should have been done.

In terms of the Navigable Water Protections Act… I believe his government is doing this. You can see the federal review here. The government accepted all 11 recommendations that came through Parliament’s Standing Committee on Transport, and you can see that document here. So the TrudeauMeter might be judging the government too harshly here – or they at least need a category for “kinda-kept the promise.”

My sense of Trudeau’s first 2 years in office is that he made more progress on climate change than Harper did in his 10 years in office. The Pan-Canadian Framework is weak, but so is the federal government when it comes to climate change. The federal government is only as strong as the provinces on the climate file. Trudeau does have all provinces talking about climate change and seriously mulling over a price on carbon. This is progress.

Trudeau was also thrown a major curveball with the election of Trump. Trudeau thought he and Clinton would champion environmental issues – and indeed, I believe, they would have.

On all transboundary environmental issues, which are most issues, the Trudeau government is only as strong as the Trump government. And Donald Trump pretty much took his globe shaped soccer ball and went home.



Mistake not including Carbon Tax in Saskatchewan’s New Climate Change Strategy Plan? (N. Eska)

The province of Saskatchewan made an announcement on Monday December 4th – their new climate change strategy plan titled ‘Prairie Resilience: a Man-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy.” However, the main news buzzing about this new climate strategy plan is its lack of a carbon price. Minister of Environment in Saskatchewan, Dustin Duncun, discussed this strategy, addressing how through this new plan, “The province will give large emitting facilities in oil, gas and mining “flexible compliance options” (Hunter, 2017).

Duncan defends the fact that carbon taxation is missing from the plan, stating that the goal of the province is both to allow their industries to grow and to stay competitive with the rest of the global industrial world, while also being mindful of environmental factors. He argued this idea by stating “We want to see the economy continue to grow and, for some industries, that means that their emissions will grow. It’s not a cap-and-trade program where we’re capping absolutely the amount of emissions” (Hunter, 2017).

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna addressed her views on the new climate change strategy plan in a Facebook post soon after the announcement, addressing her concerns on the direction the province is taking towards climate change. She stated how “Based on what’s in today’s plan, Saskatchewan’s price likely wouldn’t hit our standard, because it applies only to heavy industry instead of being economy-wide”. Moreover, this plan is also going against this Liberal federal government’s aims towards $10 per tonne of carbon emissions in the start of 2018 before prices rise to about $50 per tonne (Hunter, 2017).

The main issues of this plan are the fact that there are no targets or aims the province tries to achieve regarding how many greenhouse emissions they plan on reducing, says University of Alberta energy economist Andrew Leach (The Canadian Press, 2017). “The biggest hole in Saskatchewan’s plan is its limited scope” said Leach, “They’re not touching their transportation, home heating, commercial and industrial energy use at all with this policy” (The Canadian Press, 2017).

It is no surprise that Saskatchewan did not include a carbon tax to their policy as they had opposed to this federal government’s carbon tax plans since its announcement (Fraser, 2017). It doesn’t look good, however that the province is prioritizing industrial and economic growth over environmental and climate change progress with this new plan. Time will only tell whether this plan proves to be successful as Minister of Environment in Saskatchewan wishes, or if this will continue to push Saskatchewan back from reducing their carbon emissions.





D.C. Fraser (2017, December 04). No Carbon Tax in Saskatchewan Govermemt Climate Change Plan. Retrived December 04, 2017 from

Hunter, A. (2017, December 04). No Carbon Tax in Sask. Government Climate Change Plan. Retrived December 04, 2017, from

The Canadian Press. (2017, December 04). Saskatwean Climate Change Plan Includes Buying Carbon Offsets, No Carbon Tax. Retrived December 04, 2017, from



COP23 and Gender Equality in Global Climate Change Policy (N. Esak)

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Photo: Panel discussion during Bonn 2017 COP23 conference


Last week the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) commenced for its 23rd session for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany (IISD, 2017). Running from November 6th-17th, the conference’s main aim was to define international goals and actions which would “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” as well as ways to maintain a global temperature risen of below 2C (Heine, 2017). One of these goals introduced was the increased inclusion of the role of women in global climate action.

The Fiji Presidency addressed the importance of introducing a Gender Action Plan which all governments a part of the conference would agree to follow. This plan would involve recognizing the role of woman in global climate change issues and integrating them in the decision-making process for global climate policy (United Nations, 2017).

When thinking about systematic solutions for climate change, I would have to admit, gender inclusivity wasn’t a topic I would quickly think of as a high priority in climate change issues. However, after readings an article on the Guardian which was retweeted by Canadian environmental minister Catherine McKenna my views have shifted. The unfortunate reality is that woman globally have been receiving the major consequences of climate change (Heine, 2017). They have been disproportionally affected by climate change as they have obtained the blunt of negative affects while also been deprived of the resources or voice to deal with and address these issues (Heine, 2017).


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Photo: COP23 Negotiator Nazhat Shameen Khan addressing the Gender Action Plan


Studies have shown that woman and children globally are more than 14x more likely to be killed or wounded from natural disasters, which are increased due to climate change (UN Women, 2017). Moreover, due to the losses associated with climate change induced natural disasters, especially in the global south, girls are more likely than boys to leave school to help pay the bills and increased domestic chores (UN Women, 2017). These increased responsibilities and traumas placed upon woman coupled with gendered systematic barriers have kept woman from having any political voice or decision-making power.

Allowing woman and local communities to be major decision makers in global climate change will allow for a more democratic and inclusive decision-making system (Heine, 2017). Inclusive community based systems which involve the voices all stakeholders, marginalized or not, is what is needed to occur in order for global climate policy to be the most effective. However, it is not enough to just have female policymakers in the discourse on climate change, but woman directly impacted by horrible climate change costs, especially indigenous communities and those in the Global South.

Addressing this issue on a large global stage as the COP23 conference was a great push in the right direction for the future of global climate policy and it is essential that all governments involved in the conference agree on this Gender Action Plan. Hopefully in the following two years this plan will lead to increases in female policymakers, especially from indigenous communities and the Global South, in order to bring gender equity to global climate change policy.


Heine, H. (2017, November 15). Global Climate Change Action Must be Gender Equal. Retrived November 26, 2017, from

IISD. (2017). UNFCCC COP23. Retrived November 26 2017, from

United Nations. (2017, November 13). COP23 recognizes the role of women in climate action. Retrived November 26, 2017, from

UN Women. (2017). Why is Climate a Gender Issue? Retrieved November 26, 2017, from

New report revels Ontario Gov’t knew about Continued Mercury Contamination in Grassy Narrows (N. Esak)

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Photo: Sign contaminants in Wabigoon River System


The Toronto Star had recently reported this week that the provincial government had received a report back in 2016 stating that in 1990, the environment ministry at the time was aware of mercury contaminants in a mill by Grassy Narrows (Bruser, 2017). However, what is even more shocking is that this news was a surprise to the Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, who said she had never heard of any such report. This was confirmed by the Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister, David Zimmer, when he stated this week that the report was received in September of 2016, however was never sent to the premier (CBC News, 2017).

Grassy Narrows was a community which has been suffering from mercury poisoning since the early 1970s when it was first revealed that the communities’ fish supply had extremely dangerous levels of mercury (Free Grassy Narrows, 2016). This was due to the dumping of contaminants from a nearby paper mill owned by Reed Paper which resulted in devastating effects in the community from employment rates dropping from 90% to 10%, as well as lifetime mental issues and increases in criminal activity (Free Grassy Narrows, 2016). A larger tragedy was that years later, government officials continued to reiterate that mercury was located in the river and that the river would “clean itself naturally” (Bruser, 2017). However, based on these new reports, this was not true.

“We are not sure exactly how that information hadn’t made it to my desk, but we’re asking that question”, Wynne stated last week (Bruser, 2017). When Zimmer was asked, he stated that the environment ministry was not able to, at the time, publically release the information pertaining to the report due to the fact that it was, “derived from a third-party report that is owned by Domtar and was prepared by their consultant” (Bruser, 2017)  Moreover, the environment minister during the period where the report was sent to the government, Glen Murray, told the Star that he had no recollection of being told by his staff about the information in the report (CBC News, 2017).

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Photo: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne

Personally, I am reluctant to believe that the Premier of Ontario can be completely unaware about a report pertaining to a significant health issue that had occurred in the province, especially since just weeks ago, Wynne had publically stated her commitment to the rehabilitation of Grassy Narrows. Nevertheless, whether she was aware or not, top advisors and officials must have been aware of this report and decided to turn a blind eye to the issue. Ignorance is not a good enough answer as to why Wynne was not aware of this report and it is extremely irresponsible on the part of the provincial government that this report was not publically addressed as soon as it was handed in, back in 2016.

I think it was put perfectly when the environmental coordinator of Grassy Narrows stated, “I think this latest report points to the need for additional activity apart from what we’re doing in terms of cleaning up the river, but there needs to be the federal government, the First Nation, the provincial government and Health Canada sitting at the table to determine what the next steps should be” (Bruser, 2017).  This report reveals just another instance of the provincial government not putting enough effort when it comes to their commitments on indigenous issues.

COP23: Canadian Perspective (J.Q. Stanley)

The year 2017 has shown us in horrific detail the immediate and devastating results of anthropogenic climate change. The symptoms of a planet in the throes of environmental sickness have manifested themselves this year with a turbulent Atlantic hurricane season, hellish Californian wildfires, and at home, ravaging spring floods in Quebec. These events, and others like them, provided ammunition to the ever growing list of environmental issues which were tackled at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany this November.

In 1992 the global conversation surrounding climate change began in earnest following the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With the subsequent adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a conference of parties (COP) have formally met in various parts of the world since 1995 in order to have an open dialogue concerning environmental issues on a global scale.

This year from November 6-17 the 23rd conference of parties met in Bonn, Germany along with those additionally involved in the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Climate Agreement. (1) Along with indigenous leaders, opposition party members, NGO representatives, and citizen experts, the Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna represented Canada on the world stage this year at COP23. McKenna used her platform to express Canada’s plans to implement a national carbon pricing policy, the further reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions, and made some serious strides in working to phase out Canada’s usage of fossil fuels; a stark deviation from current U.S. goals. (2)

In a bizarre turn of events, the U.S. delegation in Bonn presented an event on the role of “clean fossil fuels” and faced denouncing jeers from an unofficial counter U.S. delegation led by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Canada rose to the top and declared an international alliance with Britain’s Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry, Claire Perry to disband with coal entirely as a viable power source.

In explaining the new coalition dubbed, “Powering Past Coal”, McKenna said “Canada is committed to phasing out coal. We’ve created an alliance with the U.K., we’re going to get other countries around the world to help support moving forward on a coal phase-out. Coal is not only the most polluting fossil fuel but it’s also terrible for health.” (2) The two ministers will work in union together to push for the elimination of unbated coal powered plants across the globe. While at the conference, McKenna tweeted “Burning coal [is] responsible for 41% of our global emissions. The largest single source world wide. Phasing out coal represents a massive opportunity and #ClimateAction” (4) Back at home Canada has committed itself to becoming completely free of coal produced energy by 2030.

Canada’s participation in the conference of parties this year also saw an unprecedented shift towards welcoming an indigenous perspective on climate change action.  This came as a result of wording contained within the Paris Treaty which calls for a UN platform for indigenous and local community climate action. (5) In honoring this, and holding true to the Trudeau government’s call for more indigenous representation, the Assembly of First Nations participated as an envoy at COP23. The delegation, led by indigenous leader Bill Erasmus, engaged in the International Indigenous People’s Forum on Climate Change, a meeting to promote an acknowledgement of native knowledge of environmental processes and solutions. Erasmus detailed the importance of a global ingenious voice, “The parties need to respect and take into account traditional knowledge when scientific measures are being used, recognize Indigenous Peoples’ authority in their own homelands and territories when it comes to climate change.” (5) In support of Canada’s federal government, Erasmus has affirmed his faith that Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna will continue to honour the Paris Treaty and the rights of indigenous peoples.

As part of the robust Canadian involvement this year, COP23 also saw the formation of a North American Climate Leadership Dialogue created with both Mexico as well as a somewhat rogue alliance of 15 U.S. governors working in opposition to the current Trump administration’s views on climate change. The alliance aims to continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as aligned within the Paris Climate Agreement, and offers an optimistic representation of potential future agreements to further champion climate change action. (6)

Ultimately, Canada’s role in COP23 was a crucial one. As an influential industrialized nation, and both a neighbour and competitor to the U.S., a Canadian perspective and call to action against the devastation being done to our planet must be as loud as can be. However, in order to stay true as a world leader in this human endeavour, Canada must not forget its own part in contributing to global climate change. “The first thing you have to do is have a plan; you have to implement your plan, and then you have to ratchet up ambition.” Catherine McKenna said before leaving for the COP23 conference, “That’s part of the Paris agreement, and that’s what we’re absolutely committed to doing.” (7)

For the sake of the planet, let’s work together to make sure she’s right.

(J.Q. Stanley is an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto Mississauga. He is currently enrolled in Professor Olive’s environmental policy course).



Protests in Queens Park on the Discontinuation of Nuclear Power (N. Esak)

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Photo: Indigenous and environmental group demonstrations in Queens Park


Last Thursday, November 9th, a large protest occurred in Queens Park by a number of indigenous and environmental groups. The groups demonstrations centered on the discontinuing of nuclear power usage in Canada. They at first gathered during a panel in the University of Toronto, and then migrated to Queens Park as the demonstration grew larger, even starting a drum circle. (Gignac, 2017)

Nuclear power uses radioactive metals such as uranium and plutonium to release energy as heat through changes in the nucleolus (BBC, 2014). The main advantage to this method of power is that fossil fuels are not burned into the atmosphere and releasing CO2 emissions. It is because of this benefit that many countries look at nuclear power as a valuable option for an energy source (BBC, 2014).

However, the main disadvantage to this energy source, and the reason as to why many oppose to it, is that nuclear fuels are both non-renewable and unable to break down. Therefore, the toxic wastes associated to nuclear power are required to be stored either in containers or underground. This hazardous waste, if spilled, can create very dangerous hazards not only to its environment, but to the health of those surrounded by the toxic nuclear waste (BBC, 2014).

This is not the first instance of Indigenous groups protesting against nuclear power. In fact, members of the Algonquin tribe have been protesting the halting of uranium mining in Kingston, Ontario since 2007. Other groups in Saskatchewan and Alberta have also been publically opposing nuclear mining and power plants for more than a decade as well. (AAFNA, 2017)

The protesters in this demonstration stressed that the consequences of accidental release of these radioactive wastes were too dangerous for this method of power to be used. They also claimed that the current provincial and federal government do not have sufficient enough policies to moderate and adapt to nuclear waste management. The president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Dr. Gordon Edwards, for instance expressed during the demonstration the lack of consideration for nearby municipalities and First Nations groups as many nuclear power industries are near major rivers and lakes (Gignac, 2017).

A spokesperson for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, on the other hand, stated that radioactive waste disposal is “tightly regulated and safe for living” (Gignac, 2017). But, for indigenous communities, the earth isn’t just a space where you live, but is a spiritual being which has deep connection to them. “Would you poison your mother?” one protester stated, “that’s really what we’re doing when we poison mother earth” (Gignac, 2017). The only way to ensure the ‘purity’ of mother nature, is the priority towards renewable energy use and minimal waste through CO2 emissions and nuclear waste substances.


The Climate is Changing, but is Canada Really Prepared for the Consequences? (N. Esak)

170901090133-01-irma-harvey-0901-super-169.jpgPhoto: Satellite view of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane

With two devastating hurricanes hitting the United States consecutively, it is important to discuss what is impacting the severity of these storms. Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma resulted in devastating losses both in the southern United States and parts of South America. While climatologists do say that climate change may not be the direct cause of these natural disasters, they are certain that increases in warmer temperatures and rising sea levels are making these natural disasters more severe than they would originally be (Dangerfield, 2017). Therefore, the consequences of these hurricanes have made the issues of climate change clearer than ever. But, should Canada prepare to see the costs of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change as well?

According to Environment Canada’s senior climatologist, Dave Phillips, hurricanes higher than a category 3 are normally very unlikely in Canada due to the country’s cold water temperatures (Dangerfield, 2017). Although, due to increases in air and water temperature from global warming, there is a strong possibility that hurricanes in Canada can increase in their intensities, creating greater risks for Canadian cities near Atlantic waters.

It may not be all that surprising, however, that our neighbours in the United States are moving away from climate change and sustainable policies, whether it was with their withdrawal from the Paris Agreement to having a chief of the EPA not believe in the link between CO2 emissions and climate change. Even through tweets from the most powerful leader of the country, Donald Trump previously stated that he thinks that the concept of climate change was created by the Chinese in order to “make US manufacturing non-competitive”, demonstrating that issues on climate change are far from a priority for the US at the moment, despite their recent hurricanes.


As for Canada on the other hand, both Trudeau and his government have continuously stated their commitment to improving its climate change and sustainable policies, with Trudeau himself stating in the United Nations General Assembly in New York “And for our part, Canada will continue to fight for the global plan that has a realistic chance of countering it. We have a responsibility to future generations and we will uphold it.” (Gaouette, 2017).

However, a fall audit conducted by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Julie Gelfand, reveled discrepancies between what this current government has been publically stating and what has actually been implemented. In her report, Gelfand gave the government “a failing grade” to 14 out of 19 governmental departments, including Environment and Climate Change Canada and Infrastructure Canada. She stated that the failing grade of these agencies were because that they have yet to implement “successive emission-reduction plans” which can be adaptable to target the economic and environmental impacts of climate change (Harris, 2017).  The federal government has responded to these claims from the report, stating that the history of the Harper government has made the process of implementing climate change plans much slower, making it impossible to meet their 2020 targets (CBC Radio, 2017).


Photo: The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Julie Gelfand

As the consequences of climate change are being felt right now with the intensity of hurricanes and other extreme weather issues, it is clear that the Canadian government needs to be doing more than just speaking on its commitment to climate change, but acting on it. Based on the tragedies of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey, we cannot afford to wait any longer to implement lasting environmental policies. Hopefully this fall audit was a wake-up call for Canadian government to begin on acting rather than simply preaching on its commitments.


Indigenous and Environmental Movements in the Cancellation of the Energy East Pipeline (N. Esak)

Picture1Photo: Protesters in Ottawa against the Energy East Pipeline

TransCanada announced this month that they will not be proceeding with its Energy East pipeline proposal. This cancellation sparked a variety of opinions among opposing sides from critics such as Alberta’s Premier, Racheal Notley and representatives of Irving oil who had strong economic incentives to the pipelines, to those considering this cancellation as a victory such as Grand Chief Serge Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake and many environmental NGO’s.

The pipeline, if passed, would have brought more than 1 million barrels of crude oil every day from the Alberta tar sands to the eastern Canadian ports. This would have required the creation of a 1,400km pipeline across Quebec and New Brunswick as well as altering an existing pipeline already in the path (Greenpeace, 2017).

Picture2Photo: Map of potential Energy East pipeline route

The federal government announced that their reasoning for halting the pipeline was due to dropping oil prices (TransCanada, 2017). Initially when the pipeline was being proposed the cost of oil was at more than $80 a barrel. Although due to years of delay in the pipelines production, the price of oil then dropped to about $50 a barrel, which made the creation of the pipeline less of a necessity (Ballingall, 2017)

However, it could be said that that these delays were the leverage those opposed to the pipeline needed in order to stop its production. The pipeline was initially arranged be approved in 2014, but delays from environmental groups, NGO’s, as well as First Nations communities pushed the dates for approval back, giving time for the market price of oil to naturally drop. Once the price had enough time to drop on its own, there was less of an economic incentive for the federal government to approve the pipeline’s production.

One instance of these delays can be demonstrated in St Lawrence Port where environmental groups from the David Suzuki Foundation, Nature Quebec, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society were awarded a temporary injunction to stop exploratory work from TransCanada for the Energy East pipeline due to the projects risk of threatening beluga whales nursing in that area. It was found in this case that the Quebec minister of environment was incorrect in granting the permit for that project as they had not done enough research on the environmental impacts to do so, creating a delay in the pipelines approval (CBC News, 2014).

Another instance of delay was initiated by First Nations communities in December of 2013 when leaders from variety of First Nations communities assembled in Gatineau Quebec and demanded to not only be stakeholders but full partners when it came to the decisions made towards the pipeline’s construction. If made, the pipeline would have crossed by and affected 180 indigenous communities in its path. They stated that the company was violating their treaty rights by not consulting with these communities during every step of the process. This lead to their multi-million dollar suit towards TransCanada, creating more delays in the pipelines production (Tucker, 2017).

Although this is most definitely not the end for oil pipeline proposals in Canada, the cancellation of the Energy East pipeline is proof of the strong impact collective action and social movements can have in even the largest projects. As Grand Chief Serge Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake stated “Both the Northern Gateway fight and this Energy East one show that when First Nations stand together, supported by non-Indigenous allies, we win” (The Canadian Press, 2017).



Ballingall, A. (2017, October 05). TransCanada ends bid to build Energy East pipeline after ‘careful review of changed circumstances’. Retrived October 22 2017, from

CBC News. (2014, September 23). TransCanada work on St. Lawrence oil port suspended by court. Retrived October 22, 2017, from

The Canadian Press. (2017, October 05). What’s being said about the end of TransCanada’s Energy East. Retrieved October 22 2017, from

The Energy East Pipeline (n.d). Retrived October 22, 2017, from

TransCanada (2017, October 05). TransCanada Announces Termination of Energy East Pipeline and Eastern Mainline Projects. Retrived October 22, 2017, from

 Tucker, B. (2017, October 13). Social movements played a huge part in derailing Energy East: Opinion. Retrived October 22, 2017, from


New Student Blogger: Nasra Esak

Hello! My name is Nasra Esak and I am currently a 4th year student pursing an undergraduate double major in Political Science and Environmental Management at the University of Toronto Mississauga. My interests involve environmental and sustainable policy, social justice, and international affairs. I express these interests through volunteering at many equity campaigns on campus as well as acting as President of the Political Science and Pre-Law Association at UTM. For fun, I love to cook, practice photography, and spend time with friends and family.


NAFTA & Values

With all the storms ranging on, it is hard to focus on anything else. And it is always hard to focus on trade law – it is the kind of thing that makes most people’s eyes glaze over from boredom and/or confusion. I have to admit, I wish I knew more economics so I could better understand the complexities of creating sound trade policy.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a thorn in Trump’s side since he first decided to run for office. Throughout his campaign he loved referring to it as “the worst trade deal every made.” This trade deal – between Canada, the US, and Mexico – is intended to create a free flow of goods (and to a lesser extent workers) throughout the North American continent. It is an impressive trade deal and served North American people since the early 1990s.

Trump’s problem with NAFTA seems to stem from his attitudes toward Mexico. Indeed, he recently admitted that he never even thinks about Canada. In speaking with President Nieto of Mexico back in January, Trump said that trade with Canada and the US “has been much more balanced and much more fair. So we do not need to worry about Canada, we don’t even think about them.” Nice sentiment. I believe him.

Well, he is thinking about Canada now. NAFTA talks are in progress and Canada has three issues on the table: the environment, gender, and indigenous rights. The Globe and Mail editorial staff wrote about this approach and has come out against fighting for gender and indigenous rights to be part of NAFTA. I disagree. Human rights are often tied to trade and many countries use trade (or sanctions) as a way to encourage countries to adopt human rights. Gender and Indigenous rights are human rights. Canada is on the moral high ground to ask its neighbours for trade that is fair to women and Indigenous peoples.

In terms of the environment, the Globe asks “should Canada go to the wall on this issue?” In a word: yes. We have to. We simply have to. The North American continent needs more cooperation on environmental issues and a big-picture understanding of how the economy and the environment are one-in-the-same. If Trump wants to lower emission standards and pollution standards in the US, it should not be to the disadvantages of Canadian business who are required to step-in-line with Canada’s climate change commitments. Mexico is on the same page as Canada for the most part (keep in mind it is still a developing country and its commitments under the Paris Protocol are dramatically different).

It is difficult for me to resist linking the hurricanes, climate change, and NAFTA. It is impossible for me to resist saying that Canada has to stand firm on energy policy and emission standards in trade deals. I think the people of Texas and Florida might also agree.