I hate to be the bearer of bad news - scouts bringing back negative intelligence from their explorations are rarely welcome. But I cannot stand by and watch my clients and colleagues in Canadian tourism be ambushed - especially come February when they host the world for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver-Whistler. I have stated publicly that claims such as "the best place on earth"and "Canada's sustainable games" could and would invite intense scrutiny by the world's environmental media that could backfire unless every effort was made to tell compelling stories of the commitment by tourism enterprises to reducing their footprint.
Last week I wrote a piece called A Tale of Two Canada's indicating that Canada's international reputation was taking a beating in the very markets from which it derives visitors. I also posted similar thoughts on Up in the Air, the blog for The Icarus Foundation. While I writing that piece, a far more influential blogger in the UK - George Monbiot, author of Heat, an activist and well read journalist - was penning this flaming critique of the country.
I urge my Canadian colleagues to read Monbiot's piece carefully (especially paragraphs 6 & 7 repeated below) and not go immediately into defensive mode. Canada has the resources (energy and minerals) that the global economy needs and wants. They will be exploited regardless and it's in Canada's best interests - as a nation - to ensure these resource generate the best net return to its citizens. Surely, that means focusing on exploiting the resource at a pace, on a scale and using methods that minimize the costs and maximize the benefits to all sectors of the economy. One day, the resource larder will be bare - all the more important that Canada develops other vibrant sources of wealth creation; and more importantly, does not alienate its future customers, while grabbing what's on nature's shelves.
Most people in tourism detest confrontation - especially with politicians - and prefer to stay out of national, let alone international diplomatic affairs. But this is a time when marketing spin will sound really hollow. Now is the time to demonstrate, through action, that Canada is a place that cares about the whole and still has the capacity to lead by example. It's time for tourism to become the healing change agent it was always destined to be and get engaged in protecting not just its resources but its reputation.
Monbiot's account of Canada's actions in Preventing a Global Agreement
At the end of 2007 it single-handedly blocked a Commonwealth resolution to support binding targets for industrialised nations(3). After the climate talks in Poland in December 2008, it won the Fossil of the Year award, presented by environmental groups to the country which had done most to disrupt the talks(4). The climate change performance index, which assesses the efforts of the world’s 60 richest nations, was published in the same month. Saudi Arabia came 60th. Canada came 59th(5).
In June this year the media obtained Canadian briefing documents which showed that the government was scheming to divide the Europeans(6). During the meeting in Bangkok in October, almost the entire developing world bloc walked out when the Canadian delegate was speaking, as they were so revolted by his bullying(7). Last week the Commonwealth heads of government battled for hours (and eventually won) against Canada’s obstructions. A concerted campaign has now begun to expel Canada from the Commonwealth(8)
The numbers refer to references included in Monbiot's original article