Vital Signs

The Politics of Acid Rain in Canada

Until this year, acid rain was rarely front-page material in Canada, though a Parliamentary Special Committee on Acid Rain did solid work both on identifying the sources and proposing remedies. As a newsmaker, however, it was overshadowed by such Canadian staples as the whopping national debt, constitutional wrangles between Ottawa and the provinces, and Quebec's status within—or edging out of—the federation.

Because America's industries account for up to 70 percent of the acid rain falling in some regions of Canada, it was assumed to be a matter for Ottawa to tackle with Washington, and Canada's ambassadors—first Allan Gotlieb and now Derek Burney—spent a lot of their time doing exactly that. (Somewhat less publicized is that Canada's sulphur dioxide emissions, per capita, are about double those of the U.S.) At home, although significant progress was made in emission reduction and energy conservation, the culpable industries are basic to the national economy; forcing them into uneconomical measures would affect the national standard of living.

All the while, environmentalists were plugging away at their theme: acid rain was killing the fish and eventually it would kill us, too. In the fourth edition of its Acid Rain Primer, the Pollution Probe Foundation reprinted from 11 years ago its report on the death of Nellie Lake, the subject decades before of a work by Canada's...

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