This article examines 11 ways in which, according to a federal watchdog, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has failed in its environmental obligations. It records a brief government response to that report.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Environmental studies, world issues, politics

Key Questions to Explore:

  1. What are this government’s failures in dealing with environmental issues?
  2. Why has this happened?
  3. What is the Harper government’s response?

New Terminology:

Sustainable development; any new terminology that may be discovered by the research teams as they do their work

Materials Needed:

Copies of the article and access to the Internet

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Many highly-respected experts argue that the environmental track record of the Harper government is atrocious. Among other things, this government has reneged on its Kyoto Accord commitments (the only country to do so), weakened environmental legislation, failed to take national leadership on the issue, leaving it to the provinces to fill the void, and stifled scientific research that would provide important evidence on climate change. The list goes on and on.

On October 7, 2014, Julie Gelfand, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, issued a scathing report on this government’s environmental failings. Among other major criticisms, Gelfand says that Canada is certain to miss its Copenhagen Accord target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. More damning perhaps is her claim that, not only have they failed to introduce regulations to achieve the goal, but also they have no plan for meeting the target. Nevertheless, the Harper government claims to be quite active as the protector of the environment. This lesson will have the students use the article as a starting point for examining the current status of the Harper government’s actions to meet its commitments and actively address the challenges of climate change.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students if they would be surprised to hear that the Harper government will not be able to meet its Copenhagen Accord commitments of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020.
  • Get their responses and then indicate to them that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development on October 7, 2014 released a report highly critical of the government’s environmental failings.
  • Provide the students with a copy of the article and allow them time to read it.
  • Once this has been done, quickly debrief their reactions to it.
  • Indicate to them that the focus of this lesson will be to look at these criticisms in more depth.
  • Divide the class into 12 research teams and assign each group one of the numbered sections in the article.
  • Explain to them that they are to research their assigned section both to gather additional information about the issue and to explain why it is an important issue.
  • Allow the teams time to begin their tasks and, once they have completed their work, have each team report their findings back to the class.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • The teams will report their findings and discuss those findings with the class.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • The students will be able to identify the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
  • The students will be able to identify areas in which the government has failed to meet its environmental obligations
  • The students will be able to articulate the government’s response to these criticisms

Confirming Activity:

  • For homework, assign the following written assignment: “Based on the information presented by the research teams I believe the Harper government is not (is) meeting its role as a bona fide protector of the environment.”