2019 Federal Election – Week 3: Changing Climate

Thanks to global climate strikes around the world and here in Canada, week three of the federal election campaign was all about the environment and solving climate change. At least for voters.

Thousands joined together to form what might be the largest protest rallies we’ve seen in Canadian streets in decades. All week, it really felt like we’ve finally hit the tipping point where older generations are finally accepting that something is happening and young people are tiring of inaction from government and business when it comes to their future.

Most of the party leaders joined in and made promises throughout the week about how they were going to respond to this moment in a serious way. The Liberals said they’d work to get to net-zero emissions by 2050. The NDP said they’d cut emissions 37% between now and 2030. And the Greens went even further by saying they’d cut emissions by 60% by 2030.

The Conservatives, like their leader at the climate strikes, are missing in action. Their plan ignores Canada’s existing commitments to the rest of the world and sets no new targets in their place.

It’s hard for the voters who stormed Canadian streets in protest to feel much hope in any of these plans.

The Greens have the loftiest goals but failed in every category of responsible fiscal management set by the former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page. Their plans simply aren’t worth the recycled paper they’re written on.

The NDP plan for a 37% reduction in emissions by 2030 begins from a 2017 baseline, even though the commitments Canada made under the recent Paris Agreement require us to reduce emissions by 30% from 1990-levels by 2030Giving ourselves a 27-year handicap in our own grading just isn’t good enough.

The Liberals have a great track record on committing to environmental agreements but a mixed record on delivering. Kyoto was signed and ignored (then cancelled by Stephen Harper) while Copenhagen was signed by Stephen Harper (and ignored by the Liberals). The Liberals then signed on to the Paris Agreement and a commitment to reduce emissions to 80% below 2005-levels by 2050. Now they want to get to net-zero by the same year. But commitments are easier made than delivered on.

Andrew Scheer has spent much of the campaign recycling old ideas from Harper’s losing 2015 election platform but has somehow failed to latch on to the words his mentor once used to describe climate change when he called it “perhaps the biggest threat to confront the future of humanity today.” Scheer’s plan would see big corporations offset their pollution addiction by investing in green technology rather than, say, actually reducing pollution. Don’t be fooled, this is no longer the party of Brian Mulroney.

Canadians will end up paying for this lack of ambition one way or another: either through our wallets or with our lives. Either way, we all lose.

Turning in Harper’s Homework

Beyond climate change, the other big trend this week was Andrew’s Scheer’s continued inability to present any new ideas in this campaign. The parties and the media love to suggest that we see more or less the same platforms each election year. But this is rarely actually the case. Sure, progressives will endlessly promise childcare but the specifics usually change from one four-year cycle to the next. And sure, the conservatives will always promise tax cuts that have a tendency to skew to the already well-off, but the specifics often differ here, too.

Not so with Andrew Scheer. So far he has campaigned to bring back the following Harper policies:

  • A tax credit for transit pass users
  • A tax credit for parents with kids enrolled in sports
  • A tax credit for parents with kids enrolled in arts programming
  • Removing the GST (this time on heating instead of percentage points)
  • Re-opening an Office of Religious Freedom
  • Removing stress tests on mortgages
  • Increasing insured mortgages to 30 years

And those are just the ones that have been in the news. It’s clear from the last week that Scheer’s conservatives are only willing to offer a return to the Harper years that Canadians soundly rejected four years ago. The only difference might be that Scheer wants to do even less to address the climate crisis.