Next week, the Conservative Party’s climate platform will finally be revealed.
But we already know plenty about the Conservative approach to climate change.
While the rest of the world is taking more action to battle this climate crisis, Canada’s Conservatives want to go in exactly the opposite direction.
'We can hope for the best from the upcoming Conservative climate policy reveal. But we should all prepare for the worst. This is a political party that has lost its way – and it’s Canadians who stand to lose the most,' @CathMcKenna writes.
The finest business minds in the world believe cutting carbon pollution is both necessary and possible to prevent profound harm to our economy and to our wellbeing. Major companies – from Coca Cola, to Ford, Apple, Maersk, and Shell – are re-imagining their business models. And the creativity and ambition we see from small businesses working to improve their environmental performance and adopt more sustainable solutions is beyond inspiring. Governments at all levels should encourage these entrepreneurial instincts – and watch the good things that will happen.
Yet Canada’s Conservatives seem dead-set in the belief that fighting climate change is bad for business. Does Andrew Scheer really know better than these leading global companies?
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who seems to call the shots for Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, says investors don’t really care about climate change – it’s nothing more than a “flavour of the month’’. Tell that to Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, who recently observed that the damages from climate change “decrease productivity and destroy wealth,” and stated that the financial sector has an essential role to play in addressing climate change, for “we cannot ignore the obvious physical risks before our eyes.”
Meantime, the world’s most sophisticated insurance companies say the spiraling costs of climate-related weather disasters will end up making it impossible to offer affordable insurance for many people. In Canada, insurance costs from extreme weather have grown 500 per cent in the last two decades. Yet Conservatives dismiss this expertise. Many – Andrew Scheer among them – appear unconvinced there’s any connection between fast-rising temperatures, human activity, and the fast-rising incidence of storms, floods, droughts and fires. They should educate themselves by reading Canada’s Changing Climate Report. Written by scientists, it explains that, not only is Canada warming at twice the global average, Canadians can expect climate change to intensify weather extremes in the future. You’d think with that prognosis, every major political party in this country would have a credible plan to manage the costly fallout.
Not the Conservatives. But that Party’s blind spot on climate-related risks and opportunities isn’t new.
In 2002, Stephen Harper said the Kyoto Accord was a “socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth producing nations” and an agreement “based on tentative and contradictory scientific evidence about climate trends.” That came two decades after the world’s leading scientists said increased concentrations of carbon dioxide were leading to rising temperatures that would cause extensive climate change if not mitigated.
Some Conservatives today are still trying to persuade Canadians that carbon pollution is simply “plant food”.
For Canadians who wonder why the Conservative Party stands so far adrift of leading economic authorities, as well as the overwhelming scientific consensus, the answer is clear – and disappointing.
The Conservatives have become captive to oil lobbyists. Mr. Scheer and his campaign director (a founder of right-wing Rebel Media) met this spring with a handful of oil lobbyists in a luxury resort in the Alberta foothills, to plan the federal party’s campaign together.
Not long after that, despite more floods and fires, Conservatives again postponed announcing their climate plan, and launched a platform promising unlimited pipelines and tankers instead. Mr. Scheer travelled to Calgary to pledge that, if he became prime minister, he would gut environmental laws just like Stephen Harper did, steamroll Indigenous Peoples’ constitutional rights, and block Canadians from having a say in resource development.
We all know where that road leads: more paralysis and polarization.
A Conservative victory this fall would see Canada join the ranks of other climate free-riders – too blindly self-interested to carry our share of the load, while too blindly ideological to recognize the trillion-dollar opportunity the clean energy transition represents.
That’s not how I, and many other Canadians, see our place in the world.
There is clearly a better path. Investment in Canada from around the world is up a massive 60 per cent. A million new jobs have been created and unemployment is at an all-time low. Our government is using revenues from this healthy economy to make historic investments in public transit, help Canadians make the switch to electric vehicles, replacing polluting coal power with cleaner sources like solar and wind, and make it more affordable for small and larger businesses to reduce pollution. These investments give Canadian companies and workers a more secure future – because the most competitive economies in the world will also be the cleanest.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney have foreshadowed what to expect if Andrew Scheer wins the election this fall. Mr. Ford wanted to privatize Toronto’s Greenbelt, and cancelled all kinds of environmentally important initiatives, from putting a price on carbon pollution to planting trees. He cut forest, fire and flood management programs, too – at the exact moment when Ontarians are suffering from forest fires and floods. Mr. Kenney is spending $30 million in Albertans’ tax dollars on a pro-oil war room (you’d think oil lobbyists could spend their own money) and a dubious campaign to discredit and silence Albertans who care about the environment. More moves straight out of Stephen Harper’s playbook.
For the planet’s sake, we can hope for the best from the upcoming Conservative climate policy reveal. But we should all prepare for the worst. This is a political party that has lost its way – and it’s Canadians who stand to lose the most.
1:52 PM PT Correction: This article stated earlier that 'insurance costs from extreme weather have grown 500 per cent in the last decade.' In fact, costs grew over 'two decades.'
Catherine McKenna is Canada's environment and climate change minister and the Liberal MP for the riding of Ottawa Centre.