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Ben Eisen

International climate policy shouldn’t punish growth

The United Nations Climate Change Conference is convening this week in Durban, South Africa. A major objective is to extend the Kyoto Protocol, currently set to expire next year, by establishing new targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Canadian negotiators should consider the reasons for Canada’s inability to meet the last set of targets to which our government committed us. The Kyoto treaty failed in this country largely because it was structurally flawed, unfairly disadvantaging fast-growing countries. Canada should refuse to participate in any future pact that similarly punishes growth.Environment Minister Peter Kent has already stated that Canada will not accept new binding targets unless all major emitters, including developing nations, participate. This is entirely sensible. China is the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. Any treaty that doesn’t address Chinese emissions wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s printed on, and would leave Canada at a disadvantage in a competitive world. However, Canadian negotiators should demand further changes to the Kyoto structure beyond including developing countries. Kyoto featured additional design flaws that should be rectified as a precondition for Canada’s participation.For starters, Kyoto unfairly punished population growth. Kyoto committed Canada and the European Union to similar sized cuts in overall emissions, despite the fact Canada’s population is growing more than twice as fast as Europe’s.  Between 1990 and 2009, Canada’s population grew by 22 per cent. By comparison, total population grew by only 9 per cent in the 15 original European Union countries. A growing population means more people driving cars and heating homes, which in turn makes it harder for fast-growing countries to cut total emissions.The United States - another fast growing country - declined to ratify Kyoto.  The wisdom of this decision is demonstrated by the fact that although the United States has cut emissions per person… Read More

Quebec’s tuition increases are nothing to protest over

Recently, thousands of students took to the streets of Montreal to protest the Quebec government’s decision to increase university tuition fees. Protestors described the tuition hike as an injustice, and complained higher tuition will restrict access to higher education for less affluent members of society.  The truth is that the tuition increase will have a negligible impact on access, and Quebec’s students have no legitimate grievance concerning tuition.Quebec’s tuition levels are currently the lowest in the country, and will still be among the lowest even after the planned increases.  For the 2010 academic year, the average tuition for full-time undergraduates in Canadian universities was $5,100. In Quebec, the average undergraduate tuition was only $2, 400 per year. The planned tuition increases are modest. Fees will increase by $325 per year for the next five years. This means that in 2017, Quebec’s average tuition will still be only two thirds of the present Canadian average. The province’s students will not be hard done by.Quebec’s student organizations have argued a tuition freeze is necessary to ensure access to higher education for young adults from low-income families. However, the best available evidence provides no support for such claims. Some of the provinces that have the very highest tuition levels also have the highest rates of university participation for young adults from low-income families. Ontario and Nova Scotia, for example, have high tuition by Canadian standards, but boast low-income university participation rates well above the national average. There is no compelling evidence that rock-bottom tuition levels such as Quebec’s lead to higher rates of university participation for youth from less affluent families, or that a modest tuition increase will have any measurable impact on access.When people decide whether to pursue higher education, they weigh a variety of costs and benefits. Most importantly, they consider… Read More