Climate Change Strategies

The Liberals may have believed that their carbon tax was going to be an easy sell when it was introduced last fall. After all, taxpayers were told that most of them would more than get their money back from money gathered by the tax. The only losers would be rich people with twin SUVs and a hot tub in the backyard.

Taxpayers did not warm to this message for a variety of reasons.

Some may think the whole climate change thing is overblown. Others are reluctant to make sacrifices when the big emitters like the US and China are doing little. Still, others might agree with the idea but are distrustful of the Liberals based on their tax increases so far, and poor track record of keeping promises.

Discerning observers would notice that the impacts of the tax on schools, hospitals, municipalities, universities, local suppliers of goods and services, and others would all increase their taxes and costs for services. Climate change activists would be upset that the measure was not nearly enough to meet Canada’s commitments under the Paris accord.

The Conservatives must have picked up on this strong disaffection in their polling because they have made killing the carbon tax a central part of their platform.

The Parliamentary Budget Office weighed in with an estimate that the Liberals’ target of $50 per tonne was not nearly enough. Not only would it have to rise to $102 per tonne, but the increase would have to apply to all provinces, not just the five for whom the carbon tax initially applies. In other words, it needs to collect almost three times as much as what the Liberals have so far proposed.

The Liberals have been in power for almost four years. The meek progress so far does not entitle them to claim the mantle of climate change champions. But their polls must be telling the same stories as the Tories’. How else to explain their announcement that they would not go above the inadequate $50 per tonne, without providing an alternative to further increases?

Just in case there was any doubt, the CBC published its own poll showing that Canadians thought climate change was important, but half were unwilling to spend more than $100 per year on the topic. A larger number were prepared to adjust their own lifestyles to reduce their carbon footprint.

On June 17th, Liberal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna urged parliament to declare a climate emergency. Never mind that this is the wrong word. A non-life-threatening injury in a car accident is an emergency. A diagnosis of colon cancer is more dire, but you don’t go to the hospital in an ambulance.

Trudeau skipped the vote to watch the Raptors game. So did Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

Her motion was made just after her announcement that the Liberal carbon tax would be capped at $50 per tonne and just before her flanking the Prime Minister as he announced that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was being re-approved. It is amazing that she can keep a straight face.

Next up was the release of Scheer’s plan. He begins by acknowledging global warming and Canada’s commitment under the Paris Accords which he says were created under the Harper government.

He has strategies for dealing with big polluters and facilitating green technologies. He touches many bases that are only peripherally related to climate change: better protection from shipping for marine animals, increased resources for waterfowl conservation, and updated strategies for managing alien species.

The one useful theme in Scheer’s plan was the opportunity for interprovincial transmission of green energy, and for Canada to have greater impact by operating outside our borders.

There are no numbers to suggest what the cumulative impact of his ideas would be. In specific policies, he has managed to underbid Trudeau’s meagre offering.

Both Trudeau and Scheer are, by their positioning, conveying an ambivalent message about fighting climate change. In doing so, they are reflecting what they believe to be the opinion of most Canadians.

Share

Related Articles

Power Plays + Show all articles

Reference Material