This article examines the debate that is developing between environmental protection issues spearheaded by the federal Liberals and economic concerns being championed by the Conservatives.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Environmental studies, world issues, economics, politics

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What environmental initiatives are being proposed?
  • What are the potential impacts of these initiatives on the economy?

New Terminology:


Materials Needed:

Copies of the article for the students

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

The debate over whether the environment or the economy should take priority – or indeed whether they are mutually exclusive —  is not new. However, with recent initiatives by the federal Liberals and American threats to reverse environmental restraints this debate has taken on new immediacy, especially with a renegotiated NAFTA agreement being discussed. Needless to say, all sides are playing to their political base but what is truly at stake has more far-reaching implications than political gains and losses. How this will play out remains to be seen. A Canadian national carbon tax, approval of new pipeline developments and other federal environmental initiatives add complexity to the discussions. NAFTA negotiations add another layer, especially when the United States position is being influenced by a president who calls climate change a hoax and wants to liberate energy development from restrictive environmental regulations. This lesson will have the students discuss their ideas about which should take priority or how there could be a positive movement forward that recognizes concerns on both sides of the debate.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Introduce the lesson by asking the students if they are aware of the ongoing NAFTA discussions and ask them to identify some of the concerns that are arising out of those meetings.
  • Ensure that the environmental vs. economic issue is one of the topics identified.
  • Indicate to the students that this is developing as a top issue in Canada and could very well determine the outcome of the next federal election.
  • With this as background, divide the class into groups of five or six and give the groups copies of the article to read.
  • Once they have read the article ask the groups to discuss it and to determine as a group which side of the issue they support.
  • Ask them to prepare a brief report for the class in which they will explain their position and give reasons for that stance.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Have each group, in turn, provide their report and respond to any questions or comments from the class.


Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will:

  • identify environmental issues being proposed and the economic concerns being raised about them.
  • explain how developments in the United States are complicating the issue.
  • explain the importance of the NAFTA discussions on environmental-economic developments and issues.

Confirming Activity:

  • Have the students monitor NAFTA developments and report back any information that they observe as the negotiations continue to their conclusion.