Does Public Opinion on Environment Match Government Action?

This is a guest blog written by Gun Koleoglu. The opinions expressed in this article are of the author’s, and are not necessarily reflective of the views of GreenPAC.

The vast Canadian wilderness is among our nation’s most iconic images. Our art, our flag, the symbols on our money, and even our commercials reflect the significance of nature for the Canadian identity. 85% of Canadians regularly participate in nature-related activities and 82% feel a deep personal connection to nature.[1] Not surprisingly, public concern for the environment has been a factor in our politics for over half a century.

Since the 1990s, over 40% of Canadians have been in favour of increased government spending on environmental issues.[2]

Despite this consistent public support, spending has decreased and Canadian environmental legislation has become stagnant.

The mid-1990s debt crisis and 2008 economic recession provided ample political justification for prioritizing the economy at the expense of the environment. The complex nature of environmental issues like climate change have also contributed to environmental lethargy.

The images of smokestacks and river fires that sparked straightforward and effective action on acid rain in the 1970s and 80s were replaced by highly technical analyses, 50-year projections, and solutions that required addressing multiple sources.[3] In addition, the current consensus among the scientific community on human-caused climate change wasn’t as strong 20 years ago. The level of uncertainty further reinforced the reluctance to invest in environmental protection and sustainability.