By Stacey Askew
Jack Layton, leader of the federal New Democratic Party had something to applaud the federal government for last Thursday.
“There’s good news from the House of Commons, and that’s a shock in an of itself,” Layton told a group of about 90 people at Ryerson. He and two renowned scientists debated the topic of global warming on the same day as the federal government legislated its Clean Air Act.
Layton was joined by Danny Harvey, a professor of geography at the University of Toronto and researcher on climate change, and Quentin Chiotti, air programme director for Pollution Probe. They all agreed global warming was “undoubtedly existent” but disagreed on a few aspects of the modified Act.
The new act promised that Canada would uphold its Kyoto commitments, which aims to cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 6 per cent less than 1990 to the year 2012. It was the Kyoto protocol that raised the tension in the room. Harvey and Chiotti didn’t believe there was any way Canada could uphold that part of the act.
In a phone interview just minutes before the debate, Layton explained the importance of the Kyoto commitments. “Kyoto says if the government doesn’t make (the commitments) we have to pay” said Layton, “The view is to do everything we can”.
“You can get pretty depressed about all of this,” said Layton. He encouraged everyone to ensure they are environmentally friendly. “It’s going to be because everybody does their little something, I know practically no one out there who’s done nothing,” he said.
Students found Layton’s speech enlightening. “(It) was very motivating in terms of ways of practically applying solutions,” said Abi Brodie, a fourth year marketing management student.
Some were disappointed by the low turnout to the event. “I think it was interesting, it would be cool to get more people involved,” said Amelia Facchin, leader of the young NDP at Ryerson.
Layton, who taught at Ryerson for a few years in the 1970s, noticed even then that few students and faculty rode their bikes to work in the winter, but he kept it up. “I was a year-round cyclist for a long time.”