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Gary Doer

08 March 2005
Gary Doer

In June 2003, Gary Doer was re-elected to a second term as Manitoba Premier with an increased majority in the Provincial Legislature. He was first elected Premier in September 1999 after serving as Leader of the Official Opposition since 1988 and an elected Member of the Legislative Assembly since 1986.

Why is climate change important to you as an issue, and why is it important to limit its impacts?

There is some public perception in Canada that climate change, with our extremely cold winters, could be a positive development. But regrettably it is most definitely negative. When we talk to the public, we explain climate change in terms of the impacts it will have on our forests and lakes. Water levels, we believe, would be reduced, forest activity would also be reduced and some of the beautiful scenery that we enjoy would be reduced. I believe that stopping this happening in the next fifty years requires national will and international action.

Is climate change having an impact on peoples' livelihoods and culture in Manitoba?

We are already seeing an impact in Northern Manitoba, with the Port of Churchill. On the positive side the ice is melting earlier, but on the negative side we believe it will significantly impact on the polar bear population. People from the local community there tell us, and I believe them, that ice-melt and hunting patterns have changed considerably in the last ten years, and that the capacity to deal with this is limited. This is an early warning to all of us that the impact is real.

What are the key steps being taken in Manitoba to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Our starting point was that we should support a national strategy for the support of Kyoto, prior to the Canadian Federal Government actually ratifying the Protocol. We were one of only two provinces that took that particular view. Not withstanding the position taken by the US, our major trading partner, we pressed for, and are still driving forward, strong, positive action.

We also believe the Canadian national government should have a sincere and do-able implementation plan to deal with emissions here in Canada. In fact, we have offered to divert some of our sales of future hydroelectric power, which would normally go South to the United States, to the rest of Canada instead, helping to reduce the number of coal fired electricity plants, particularly in Ontario. The elimination of one coal plant in north-western Ontario would be the equivalent of eliminating five hundred and fifty thousand cars a day from the streets of Toronto.

In Manitoba we have eliminated coal plants and are moving to a mix of hydro-energy and wind power. We are also exploring the future potential of hydrogen fuel cells, and we have prototype vehicles and buses being driven on the streets of Winnipeg to demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology.

Do you see significant benefits in Manitoba from taking action to reduce emissions, beyond just the stopping climate change? For examples, are there economic benefits associated with renewable energy?

With new-generation hydro and wind power in Manitoba, Canada has the opportunity to invest in an east-west clean energy grid that will reduce greenhouse gases by replacing coal production in certain provinces with made-in-Canada clean energy. This will provide Canada with energy security and therefore increased economic stability, and provide economic development opportunities in our rural and northern regions. Rural regions are enthusiastically embracing wind as a rural diversification initiative, along with geo-thermal installations and ethanol production. And the north has opportunities for new-generation hydro production in partnership with First Nations communities.

How important you think leadership at a state or provincial level is in terms of influencing the wider international picture on climate change?

Well, we believe that in North America states and provinces play a huge role in influencing public policy. Because we are dealing with the dominant US media and the dominant political stakeholder being the US national government, I think it is important for Manitoba to work with American states and governors particularly. For us in North America, faced with the reality that the US President is not going to ratify Kyoto, it is really important for provinces and states to work together and to continue to celebrate the positive opportunities around climate change strategies.

Do you feel that you have buy in from the business sector in Manitoba on emissions reduction?

I think it is mixed, depending on the business. But the main advantage with our own business community is that we involve them up front. For example, three years ago we had a set of public hearings and the business community were engaged on ideas around how we would support the Kyoto protocol.

But I find, that with those who are adamantly opposed to Kyoto, the best strategy is to talk about the kids and the impacts of climate change on their future. Try a populist approach - with some people you are never going to win on the arguments.

Do you think that the communications battle on climate change is being won?

No, I do not think we have won the battle of communications. I think we have convinced those of us who are already convinced. In terms of reaching out to the broader public, especially in North America and Canada, I think we have a major job still to do.

In Canada, the words "climate change" really have to be stated in conjunction with fresh water lake loss and forest loss. It has to be communicated in broader terms in a colder place. Secondly, I think we have to communicate the opportunities surrounding energy and reduction of emissions in populist terms as well. These opportunities differ according to where you are. For example, in North America we can communicate around changing the way people drive and what they drive, but we cannot change the fact that they have to drive. Some places will talk about how we can improve public transportation, but a lot of places in Canada are remote, and not served by public transport.

Do you personally believe that we will win the battle on climate change?

I believe we will win the battle. I believe we engaged in it too late for comfort, but I believe we will win, although I also believe that we have a lot of work to do in terms of public understanding. As the generation changes I am hopeful that that particular battle will become easier.

The views presented in the Viewpoint Series are not necessarily representative of the views of The Climate Group.

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