Banking heavily on a belief that you and I are preoccupied with fighting climate change, the front-runners in the federal election have anchored their environmental platforms to the way in which they’ll tackle greenhouse gases: cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, vague promises of low-carbon economies. While New Democrats and Liberals attempt to out-progressive one another, Conservatives are hoping that, as in the 2008 election, economics trump environmental matters in determining where you’ll mark your ‘X’.
Few leaders have been as committed to GHG reduction as Thomas Mulcair and the New Democrats. Mulcair has admitted the government must create clearer environmental regulations and a more forceful project review process for the oil and gas sector, which he believes the industry supports. New Democrats have thrown their GHG-reduction weight behind cap-and-trade à la the Quebec model. In la belle province, companies emitting 25,000 metric tonnes or more of CO2 annually must purchase carbon offsets from others emitting less than their total allowance.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have stated the government should put “a price on carbon pollution.” But a national plan this is not. Rather, Trudeau is suggesting Ottawa follow each Canadian province’s lead by “coordinating” and “overseeing” existing provincial initiatives. Trudeau recently outlined several climate-related environmental measures aimed at shoring up green votes. Strengthening the National Energy Board’s pipeline review process by allowing analysis of climate impacts and further consultation with First Nations are two crucial steps in making Canadians believe the NEB is more than industry’s rubber stamp.
The Conservatives, unsurprisingly, have vowed little on the climate-fighting front. Stephen Harper has long called carbon taxes a “job killer” and is disinclined to change his tune now. Harper has suggested Canada will participate in a continental carbon reduction plan with the United States and Mexico. But while the US signed a historic GHG reduction scheme with China in November 2014, Canada/US climate relations tanked with Keystone XL’s rejection. Other Conservative climate plans are vague: put Canada on a “low-carbon footing” by 2050, a halt in fossil fuel use by 2100, buying international offset credits. All highlight what’s long been clear: Tackling climate change will never be a priority for Stephen Harper.
Elizabeth May’s Green Party proposed in June 2015 a Carbon Fee and Dividend System applicable only to fossil-fuel-producing sectors like coal or oil and gas. Fifty dollars per ton of CO2 in 2015 was floated as a starting price, rising by $10 a year to $200/t CO2 in 2030. The Green scheme also advocates for “fiscal recycling” of whatever revenue is collected from polluters, issuing an annual payment to all Canadians.
Ultimately, how greenhouse gases are reduced matters less than whether they’re reduced at all. Canada, now is the time to act. Figure out what fighting climate change means to you and how Canada should do it: with a national or provincial focus? Cap-and-trade or carbon tax? Or should we maintain the status quo? No matter how you feel, make sure you vote.
See more election-related content at ajmag.ca/elections
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