After decades of mercilessly laying waste to the East Coast cod fisheries, the federal government is poised to shut them down. The government has no choice: There is nothing left to plunder. It didn’t have to end like this.
Logging a majestic stand of hemlock and balsam in British Columbia’s coastal rainforest costs logging companies $100 a cubic metre. Selling the hemlock gets them an average of $60 a cubic metre, the balsam gets them less. "We lose $40 on every cubic metre of hemlock that we bring to the sawmill," explains Steve Crombie of Interfor, one of B.C.’s large product exporters.
On July 2, 1992, Canada’s fisheries minister banned cod fishing off the northeast coast of Newfoundland and off the southern half of Labrador. The northern cod stock, once one of the richest in the world, had collapsed. The moratorium on northern cod marked an unprecedented disaster for virtually all of Canada’s Atlantic groundfisheries – the fisheries for species that feed near the ocean floor.
Back in 1989, Environment Probe campaigned to turn free trade to the environment’s advantage. Since then, the environmental impacts of free trade have been hotly debated. Critics have rightly pointed out that, in theory, governments may be hamstrung in imposing certain environmental standards. But other enterprising environmentalists have capitalized on free trade to reduce subsidies to—and raise standards in—our environmentally destructive resource sectors.
This paper, published in Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, was prepared for Property Rights and Environment, an international conference organised by Centre d’Analyse Economique in June 1996. In it, Elizabeth Brubaker reviews the ways in which Canadians have used common-law property rights to protect water quality and chronicles governments’ tendencies to replace the common law with regulations that make it more difficult for individuals to protect waters.
A chapter from Taking Ownership: Property Rights and Fishery Management on the Atlantic Coast, a collection of essays edited by Brian Lee Crowley explaining the theory behind rights-based fishing and reviewing practical experience with tradeable quota systems and community ownership in various jurisdictions. In this chapter, Elizabeth Brubaker examines the ways in which property rights provide individual and community fisheries owners with both the legal tools to fight pollution and the economic incentives to reduce fishing pressures, implement conservation measures, and enhance stocks and their habitats.
Earlier this year, the Quebec government, conceding that it was subsidizing Norsk Hydro, a multinational magnesium producer, agreed to stop subsidizing the company’s magnesium smelter, which is a major polluter. It did so following official trade protests by a U.S. industry group—the Non-Ferrous Producers Committee—over Norsk’s access to subsidized water and subsidized electricity. This industry lobby, for its part, decided to use trade remedy laws after being contacted by Environment Probe, who alerted it to the Free Trade Agreement and how it could be used to prevent the export of Canada’s resources at the expense of Canada’s environment.
Our panel of two executives and one environmentalist agrees that unsound practices can be corrected by an evolving price system. After pressure from industry and business, the federal government is now conducting cross-country hearings on the environment. Financial Times staff writer Jeb Blount spoke with three Canadians concerned about the relationship between business and the environment — Adam Zimmerman, chairman and CEO of Noranda Forest Inc., Peter Allen, president and CEO of Lac Minerals Ltd., and Larry Solomon, executive director of Environment Probe, a Toronto environmental think-tank — about environmental policy in Canada.
Let me share with you some comments made by Adam Zimmerman, Chairman of Noranda Inc., after the Australian government denied his firm the right to build a polluting pulp mill in the Tasmanian forest.
AT FIRST GLANCE Larry Solomon seems like the answer to a businessman’s prayers. An environmentalist who believes passionately in the free-market system, his call for the privatization of Crown land and public utilities has won him the praise of the conservative Fraser Institute — and the wrath of fellow environmentalists.
Question: In the one year since the free trade agreement took effect, has the deal done anything to harm – or help – the Canadian environment?
Whether you voted for or against the free trade deal, now that free trade is a reality it’s incumbent upon all of us who care about the environment to do everything we can to make the deal work for us. The next 60 months – during which our government will be back at the negotiating table to hammer out the meaning of subsidy – will be decisive in our environment’s future: These negotiations will determine whether or not our forests are spared, whether we can continue to subsidize environmentally destructive coal and nuclear plants, whether free trade means fair trade or whether it means an acceleration of the rape and pillage policies of the past.
Wherever trees grow on private land, forest owners seem to draw the ire of their governments. The government of Ontario has a problem with the way many of its small, private woodlot owners tend their forests: They won’t cut down their trees. The government’s surveys conclude that these smallholders – mostly farmers, professionals and retirees, who control more that 10 million acres of timberland – have what government experts call "a rather indifferent attitude" toward their land.
Robert Rivard of the Canadian Lumbermen’s Association would like to go back to “the old free trade deal.” He feels the previous arrangement reflected a more Canadian brand of free trade that better served his association’s members.
The environment has been one of the hottest election issues going but the Canadian Wildlife Federation – Canada’s largest conservation group – and Pollution Probe – Canada’s largest environmental advocacy organization – haven’t received much press during the campaign. The cameras, instead, have been focused on those prepared to make unequivocal predictions: tub-thumping free traders like federal negotiator Simon Reisman, who have insisted the deal won’t affect the environment in the least, and fervent anti-free traders like the Canadian Environmental Law Association, who have claimed the free trade deal will lead to our environment’s certain destruction.