Saturday, February 17, 2007

Environmental Fear Mongering

It seems that fear mongering is the largest blockade to doing what’s right for the environment. At a mutual fund manager’s presentation today, I asked how any potential changes to environmental laws would impact his stock picks. He bluntly predicted that the government would likely be too afraid to cause a potential economic collapse. In other words, he really didn’t care about the environment and anyone who does is responsible for the downfall of the Canadian economy.

He then went on about how cheap labour in China impacts our trading model. Canadian companies find it cheaper to cut our trees, ship the logs to China, have the Chinese make chairs, ship them back to Canada, and sell the chairs here. Investors don’t care about the social and environmental cost of this production model, but Canadians should.

Currently, polluting costs corporations nothing because we subsidize it as taxpayers. We pay for landfills, so it costs nothing to dispose of the packaging used for shipping. We pay for health care, so corporations do not see the full cost if emissions cause their employees respiratory illnesses. If we force corporations to pay the true costs of doing business, would it still be cheaper to ship the logs and the jobs overseas? Instead, we might be able to do the environment and our labour force a favour by keeping the process domestic.

Changes to environmental laws will not cripple our economy as pundits will have you believe. It will merely change the way we do business. Canadians were up in arms when we lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs to China. Now, it seems we are up in arms again about the possibility of those jobs coming back.

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