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Sustainable Development and Canada at the G7 Summit

Pierre Marc Johnson and John Kirton

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Public and Expert Attitudes

Outside of government, in Canada and other G7 countries, there is strong support for a Summit priority on sustainable development issues and for Canadian leadership in this endeavour. Perhaps most importantly, given that the 1995 Summit will be hosted in Canada, there is very broad, deep and durable Canadian mass public support for Summit emphasis on sustainable development. Canadians believe in the overall Summit process. Indeed, as Annex 1 details, preSummit polls in both 1993 and 1994 show that threequarters of Canadians view the Summit as a valuable forum for international action. Moreover, by a substantial and increasing margin, they select global environmental problems as the issue they most want the Summit to address. Canadian concern with the developing countries, while less pronounced, also remains substantial. In these judgements, Canadians are expressing their deep convictions about the centrality of the environment and development in Canadian foreign policy as a whole.[20]

Among Canada's G7 partners there is support as well. [21] Informed experts in G7 countries have come to recognize and applaud Canada for its international environmental activism. A survey conducted between September and December 1994 with 66 sustainable development experts across mainly G7 countries found that Canada was given a "mildly positive assessment" as a leader on sustainable development, with 60% of respondents citing Canada, and twice as many offering positive rather than negative comments. Canada's forestry and energy practices were the subject of the negative comments. These experts saw poor progress to date on sustainable development, expected modest progress in the near future, and felt progress would come primarily from followup to the UNCED conventions (as opposed to industry initiatives and environmental nongovernmental organization or policy institute activities). The leading international institutions in advancing sustainability were felt to be the World Bank and the European Union, with the OECD coming last of the seven listed.

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