Ignoring the environmental damage of unrestricted commerce, Tom D'Aquino argues that business and money are are the only solutions to saving the current climatic crisis.
By Maggie Hughes
Published January 18, 2008
"What is more important - environmental policy or economic policy?" A recent debate at the Ashbury College Foundation in Ottawa asked just that question last month.
Jonathan Westeinde from Windmill Developments and Dale Marshall, a policy analyst from the Susuki foundation, were the debaters for the environmental argument.
Tom D'Aquino, Chair of the Canadian Council for Chief Executives (formerly the Business Council on International Issues), along with Deirdre McMurdy, a journalist with the Ottawa Citizen, argued that you can't have a healthy environment without a healthy economy.
D'Aquino would have us believe that only a strong economy could allow us to have a healthy environment.
In his words, "Only the best brains and technology will give us environmental improvement," while stating at the same time that "poor economies have poor environments" - as if it is the uneducated poor who cause poor environments.
Quoting D'Aquino: "In societies where people lack the necessities of life, environmental concerns are quickly forgotten. The result is toxic waste and air pollution. Environmental ills are often the norm in developing countries, but rare in the most advanced ones."
Ironically, he quoted an Aboriginal chief from 1855 at the beginning of his presentation:
This we know, the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of Earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand of it, whatever he does to the Earth, he does to himself.
Oddly, D'Aquino still failed to see that it has been global production that squanders natural resources, burns fossil fuels to obtain more than nature can replace, and causes the escalating release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that has altered the very planet he lives on.
When Westeinde asked why was it that the wealthiest nations were the greatest economic plunderers of other countries' resources, D'Aquino countered that it takes money to rectify the pollution that the poor countries live in.
D'Aquino admitted that he has been aware of the damage that has been done to the environment since 1989. If that is so, then how can he argue that business and money are are the only solutions to saving the current climatic crisis?
It is developed countries that have produced more pollution than at any other time in history. In fact, if you consider history, it is the industrial revolution with its dependence on fossil fuels that have caused climate change.
The Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA, which D'Aquino worked so hard to promote, let global commerce run out of control for nearly two decades. This would explain the discrepancy of our last ten years of unsurpassed wealth, in which 90 percent of Canadian citizens barely kept up with inflation.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recently released a report titled "The Growing Gap", authored by Hugh Mackenzie, which states that between 1992 and 2004, all the benefit of Canada's economic growth went to the top ten percent of income earners. The bottom 90 percent barely kept pace with inflation.
Within that top ten percent, 70 percent of the wealth went to the top one percent.
To use one of his visual analogies, the rich are floating on top of the water, the middle class are drowning, and the minimum wage earners have already sunk to the bottom.
It isn't just the top hundred executives (a group that includes Tom D'Aquino, who makes over $8 million a year). There are those executives working for American-owned corporations that are not reported on the Canadian stock exchange and they, too, earn millions.
Mackenzie states it is these same executives who are lobbying for tax cuts and arguing for less government spending on social benefits, hospitals and environmental policies.
Over 60 million dollars has been saved by tax cuts, but these savings have not "trickled down" to the very people that still pay for infrastructure, like roads, sidewalks, hospitals, and schools. Those are paid for by the rest of us.
You would think that since poverty disparities are so great in this country, politicians would be making some changes. What we have seen are politicians actually making things worse.
The capital gains inclusion cuts from the Provincial Mike Harris and Federal Paul Martin governments in 2000 allowed three quarters of the CEOs' income in stock options to be considered capital gains, which are taxed at half the rate that the ordinary income is taxed.
When you think about the $8.5 million that these top executives make, roughly $2.3 million is in salary, the rest is in stock options.
This would explain the reluctance by these same CEOs to take faster action on climate change, because many of these stocks are in oil and related industries.
It may also explain Tom D'Aquino's bizarre hypothesis that it is the poor who cause environmental damage, and why more money is needed to hire the best of the best to find a way to make sustainable environment become equal to sustainable development.
For those interested in saving the planet, sustainable development means environmentally sustainable. For D'Aquino, it means we must continue to increase our stock options.
Quoting Mackenzie: "Expecting corporate leadership on climate change is an oxymoron."
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