Mills speaks out to save environmental round table

Former Red Deer MP Bob Mills was in Ottawa on Thursday to go to bat for the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which is being killed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.

Former Red Deer MP Bob Mills was in Ottawa on Thursday to go to bat for the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which is being killed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.

“Basically, I think they made a huge mistake getting rid of it,” said Mills, reached by phone shortly after landing in Calgary that afternoon.

Mills, who was a Conservative MP for 15 years and sits on the round table, said he has always been impressed by the work done by the group’s cross-section of experts and Canadians from all walks of life.

“I’ve been part of the national round table and super impressed by the work they’ve done and the impartiality of it. There’s no politics involved. It’s all about science.

“ And I just think it’s really important for the government to have that background.”

Mills was invited to Ottawa by Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who organized a news conference of five current and past round table members to speak out against Bill C-38, which repeals the act that mandates the advisory body.

A former chairman of the environment committee from 2006 to 2008, Mills said his enthusiasm for the round table has grown during his time as a member.

“I have found it just so totally non-partisan that it was refreshing, really,” he said.

The round table was created by the Brian Mulroney government in 1988 to provide policy advice on growing the economy in an economically sustainable way.

It has produced numerous reports over the years on energy, fisheries, water, air quality, climate change and ecological fiscal reform among other topics.

Environment Minister Peter Kent previously has said the round table had “served its purpose” and its advice could be obtained from the Internet and other sources.

Critics of the government charge it is being dismantled because the Conservatives don’t like what it has to say.

Mills gives the government the benefit of the doubt for the decision, which he suggests may have been caught up in a larger legislative overhaul. “I would like to think that it is an accident sort of, that they just did this broad brush.

“I would hope that they do have an interest in the environment and the economy.

“If we don’t start doing some things it’s going to have huge effects on us internationally,” he said. “I think you have to tie environment to the economy. It’s just critical to do that.”

There are major advantages to becoming leaders in developing environmental technologies that can be sold to the world, he added.

It would not take a lot of rewriting to take the round table out of Bill-38, and he hopes the government reconsiders.

Mills said he was in and out of Ottawa so quickly he hasn’t had any feedback yet on his public defence of the round table or how it went over with government members. He still had 50 emails to go through though, he said.

“I certainly didn’t do it to be anti-government in any way,” he said.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com