If you want to become disillusioned with the state of Canadian politics, all you need to do is spend a few minutes watching a federal leaders’ debate. The format of the recent English language debate, which seemed needlessly chaotic and confrontational, didn’t help. At times, it felt like a mashup of a five-car collision, a badly-planned dinner party, and an infomercial for Jody Wilson-Raybould’s forthcoming book. But amid all the talking points, spin, and bluster, there was one subject that managed to rise above the fray: climate change.

This, at least in part, reflects the fact that this is the issue with the most visible distance between the major parties. But it’s also because climate change is the issue that will define this election when we look back on it in the future. Disagreements about benefits for seniors, foreign policy, and how best to balance the budget will fade into the noise of history. What will remain is the government we elected, and what they ultimately decided to do about climate change.

So how should climate-focused voters decide? As Thursday’s debate showed, they can’t do it by listening to the party leaders, who spent more time tearing each other’s plans and records down than building up their own. And few will have the time or expertise required to go through the respective platforms and assess them on their merits. That’s where the experts ought to come in — and where many already have.

Last week, SFU professor and economist Mark Jaccard published a scorecard assessing the “climate sincerity” of the competing plans. Jaccard, who is a lead author with the International Panel on Climate Change, rated the five plans on the basis of their stated ambitions and how they intend to get there. And while the Green Party and NDP have the most ambitious targets, with planned GHG reductions of 60 per cent and 50 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, Jaccard made it clear he wasn’t scoring them strictly on that basis. “We need to know if the party has policies that will achieve its target, and we need to know if it’s being honest about the cost.”

As Clean Energy Canada’s Merran Smith and Sarah Petevan wrote, “targets are only waypoints, and it is the plan to meet them that ultimately matters most.” In the end, Jaccard gave the Liberal plan a score of eight out of 10, noting its combination of a rising price on carbon and new regulations like a zero-emissions vehicle mandate of 50 per cent of new sales by 2030 and a declining cap on oil and gas emissions should help Canada reach its stated target of a 40 per cent reduction from 2005 levels. That would come at an expected cost of a 2.5 per cent reduction in Canada’s GDP by 2030.

The Conservatives, perhaps surprisingly, came second in Jaccard’s rankings. While their plan is less ambitious than any of the other major parties, its stated policies would help Canada reach them. Where the Conservatives fall down, in his view, is on their sincerity and trustworthiness on this file. “Past federal and provincial Conservative governments have not been sincere about reducing GHG emissions,” he wrote. “One hopes the 2021 federal Conservatives are different, but the Canadian voter should be wary.”

But it’s the scores received by the NDP and Green Party that have attracted the most attention — and the most anger. After all, despite having more ambitious emission reductions targets, Jaccard only gave the Greens a score of 4 out of 10, while the NDP came in dead last with a score of 2. Why? Because, in his view, their plans don’t stand up to the scrutiny of an economist’s analysis — or the real-world tradeoffs it necessarily incorporates. “Beware of politicians who promise that someone else – heavy industry, fossil fuel companies, foreign corporations, automobile companies – will pay to decarbonize our economy,” he writes. “We all have to pay.”

He’s not the only expert who has taken a dim view of the NDP and Green plans. In a piece for CBC, University of Calgary economist Jennifer Winter pointed out that Jagmeet Singh’s climate plan looks an awful lot like one he put out in 2019 — right down to the photo of him in a canoe on the cover. But it’s what isn’t in there that really catches her attention. Notably absent are any mention of the oil sands or how to tackle their emissions, and the plan is conspicuously vague on the supposed “loopholes” given to big polluters that it would roll back. If the NDP is referring to the Output Based Pricing System, that’s actually something that their colleagues in Alberta developed and introduced in 2017. And if they remove it, Winters asks, what would they replace it with? “To raise the level of debate and present a credible alternative on climate, the NDP needs to do better to describe how and why it'll engage in policy change.”

The Green Party isn’t much better on this front. University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach, who chaired the NDP government’s Climate Change Advisory Panel in 2016, tweeted that “this platform is just so fundamentally unserious it should be an affront to those with real concerns about climate. You'd just as soon assume a magic wand as assume that you can go 100% renewable in 8 years in some regions.” Jaccard, too, points out that the Green plan has some unrealistic expectations baked into it. “The 60 per cent target requires the price of gasoline to rise so quickly it not only convinces all new car buyers to get zero-emission vehicles, it also convinces people who recently bought gasoline cars to prematurely scrap these (having zero second-hand value).”

Canadians have a clear choice on September 20th. They can vote for a party that wants to aim lower on climate change than we already do, at a time when the rest of the world is trying to raise the bar. They can pick between two parties with aggressive emissions targets but no serious plan to actually meet them. Or they can support one that has the backing of economists, central bankers, and even the former leader of the Green Party of BC, who just happens to be a climate scientist himself. It may be tempting to throw this baby out with all the bathwater that has accumulated in the tub over the last six years. But this time, we might want to listen to the experts.

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Like many other observers, I hated the debate format, moderation, and participants' debating tactics. For practical reasons, assuming the parties actually want to make them work, future debates should be limited to the leaders of the three main national parties, plus the BQ in a French-language debate, and in a format that lets the leaders speak uninterrupted (by each other or by a *competent* moderator) and to explain - or fail to explain - their policies, platforms, and how they would address national problems. Then let them go at each other, but with a moderator who has the ability and the will to cut off mics as needed.

Fawcett: "They can pick between two parties with aggressive emissions targets but no serious plan to actually meet them. Or they can support one that has the backing of economists, central bankers, and even the former leader of the Green Party of BC, who just happens to be a climate scientist himself. It may be tempting to throw this baby out with all the bathwater that has accumulated in the tub over the last six years. But this time, we might want to listen to the experts."

Oh, please. Grossly under-reported oil & gas emissions do nothing but climb year after year. Oilsands expansion enabled by new pipelines is incompatible with Canada's climate targets.
The Liberals have no plans to end massive fossil fuel subsidies. Of which, buying old pipelines and building new ones is only the tip of the iceberg. The Liberals will continue to pour billions into clean-up of wells. Other subsidies include investing in carbon capture and small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) to reduce the fossil fuel industry's upstream emissions — and keep the industry on life support for decades.

In short, the Liberals have no hope or intention of meeting their targets.
The Liberals plan to "green" fossil fuels, not get off them. Trudeau & Co. are following Big Oil's playbook: delay, delay, delay.
The oil & gas industry, and their financial and political backers, are banking on global climate action failure. The only scenario in which oilsands expansion makes sense.
IEA's Net-Zero by 2050 report says no new investment in fossil fuels to contain global warming to 1.5 C. The Liberals reject the IEA's conclusions and every IPCC report likewise. So does the oil industry.

Trudeau's plan to fail:
- Increase fossil fuel production.
- Purchase of the existing Trans Mtn pipeline.
- Promotion and construction of the Trans Mtn Expansion Project.
- Expand markets.
- Greenlight new LNG projects.
- Ramp up fossil-fuel subsidies.
- Stick taxpayers with clean-up bills, even for multi-billion dollar oil companies (e.g., CNRL).
- Grossly under-report oil & gas emissions.
- Creative accounting to erase emissions from the balance sheet.
- Dubious carbon offsets.
- Aspirational net-zero targets decades out into the future (2050) with no roadmap to meet them.
- Planned billion dollar investments in costly, inefficient, unviable, unproven, or non-existent technologies like carbon capture and SMRs (for oilsands industry).
- Accountability legislation without real teeth.

Sounds like a climate plan? Then vote Liberal.

By all means, listen to the experts:
The OECD, the UN, and the federal Environment Commissioner all warn that Canada is NOT on track to meet its targets. The main stumbling block? Increasing oilsands emissions.

OECD: "Without a drastic decrease in the emissions intensity of the oilsands industry, the projected increase in oil production may seriously risk the achievement of Canada's climate mitigation targets."
Mark Jaccard, SFU: "National studies by independent researchers (including my university-based group) consistently show that Mr. Trudeau’s 2015 Paris promise of a 30% reduction by 2030 is unachievable with oilsands expansion.

The 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C warns that the world must nearly halve GHG emissions by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050 to keep warming below the danger limit of 1.5 C. IEA's Net-Zero by 2050 report says no new investment in fossil fuels after this year to contain global warming to 1.5 C. The Liberals reject the IEA's conclusions and every IPCC report likewise. So does the oil industry.

"Pembina Institute and Simon Fraser University’s School of Resource and Energy Management assessed every province, territory and the federal government on 24 indicators that are foundational to climate success. The findings are published in 'All Hands on Deck: An assessment of provincial, territorial and federal readiness to deliver a safe climate'. The analysis found that NOT A SINGLE GOVERNMENT is fully prepared to help deliver a safe climate…"
"Without a Team Canada approach on climate, we risk getting left behind" (National Observer, July 28th 2021)

The Greens and NDP would leapfrog over the Liberals simply by cancelling the Trans Mtn Expansion project.

GP, I'm with you all the way, until the very last line. The NDP Platform makes no mention of cancelling TMX. In fact, it mentions pipelines hardly at all. That leaves only the Greens as passing at least this one test.

Lost in the "debate" is that the Greens, like Seth Klein, call for a national mobilization because of the magnitude of the problem. I believe that a majority of Canadians, and especially of young people, are way ahead of any of these three parties' platforms. Calling for an emergency response seems to me a strategy to counter the eternal delay tactics of governments and industry. Canada needs a major turnaround -- its performance compared to its G7 peers as well as its raw amount of GHG emissions make that crystal clear.

If the Libs end up with a reduced minority, they may finally learn to work with other Parties and we may end up with something approaching the all-Party Cabinet the Greens call for. Dreaming on, JT may decide he's had enough and quit. (It's what several journalists asked him as he stood outside Rideau Hall on August 15. He didn't answer but, to my disappoinment, nor have journalists continued to ask this very good question.)

This is a silly article. It is trying to advocate for a strategic vote to keep the Liberals in power, but why would anyone trust that the Liberals are actually going to do what they say they are going to do over the next four years at all. It is much easier to summon a list of the promises they have blatantly not kept then kept.

And the idea that "we all have to pay" for climate change is stupid, because not all of us have been equally responsible for climate change period. It is oil companies and the heavy industries that have created the most pollution, along with various other sectors. To place this on the back of workers, which this article does, is stupid. Everyday people have not caused the climate crises: we both have.

Fawcett here is trying to convince you that the Liberals are somehow the best you can do, but they continually lead the country in a manner not incredibly different from the Conservatives themselves. As someone on the left, I proudly will be voting for the NDP this election, and anyone who actually wants to see change in this country should do so. And the nerve of saying that the Conservatives get a second place reward on the climate front when their party does not even officially acknowledge the climate crises are real is absurd. I am highly suspicious of any conclusions (and anyone arguing those conclusions) that favors the obviously less ambitious plans of the Liberal party and the relatively anemic plans of the Conservative party while offloading responsibility away from carbon emitting industries onto common people when all the data we have clearly shows whom is responsible for these problems and whom should be paying the most for these problems.

Canadian politics is not a zero sum game. I would rather see an emboldened and strengthened NDP party verses a razor thin minority of either Liberal or Conservatives then make worthless strategic compromises.

This is an incredibly disappointing article from the National Observer, a media organization that claims to be pro-climate justice and climate action.

When I write here that "Everyday people have not caused the climate crises: we both have." I mean to say that corporations largely have, not everyday Canadians, or citizens from any country. Not sure why I wrote that, should have looked it over.

Like most people, I just want progressives in charge at this critical time, period, and give Trudeau credit for calling an election because of that; he was right, so If the Liberals and NDP truly want to instill some genuine hope, they should at least start talking about uniting the left; the greens should have rolled in with the NDP a while ago. Then we could actually move ahead unfettered by the real danger from the crazies on the right, a danger that has sharpened even as they are starting to splinter again. In that stupid debate last night the thoroughly annoying overzealous women "moderators" weren't going to allow any "negativity" or some such typically milquetoast Canadian crap, and so allowed the conservatives the distance O'Toole wanted, if temporarily. No one has been more avid in dividing our politics than the Reform cons from Harper on; they started attack ads, are the ones who did robocalls and have dug into the manipulation of the digital like no one else. O'Toole hired Jeff Ballingall to be his digital campaign manager, and is currently employing Topham Guerin. They are much worse than the Liberals because of that, on top of refusing to even vote that climate change is real.

Mr. Fawcett ( and anyone else who hasn't) should read Seth Klein's article in yesterday's National Observer, in which Mr Klein painstakingly takes apart Marc Jaccard's analysis, pinpointing all its many flaws, and demonstrating why its rating of the parties' climate policies is almost completely upside down.

Just read it. Seems like they’re sort of both right. If you are measuring whether a plan looks like it will acheive what is claimed it will then Jaccard’s rankings make sense. Whether or not a plan is ambitious enough to save us is another question. It doesn’t seem like either of the two potential governments in waiting have a winning plan.

So the Liberals aren’t doing enough, but of the plans there’s is the most realistic to not do enough.

And according to both, the Conservatives plan to do even less, is also less realistic.

Will the NDP or Greens form government? Nope.

Will voting NDP or Green and splitting the progressive vote in tight races do anything but help Mr. O’Toole win? Nope.

Can the NDP or Greens work with Erin O’Toole? Also, nope. Mr. O’Toole is by no means the only voice in his party. A plurality at his party’s recent convention it seems, don’t believe that Climate change is (even) real.

So what to do? Press for electoral reform, and until that happens vote strategically against the party/plan you fear the most.


Voting is not a valentine. It's a chess move.

My riding is competitive to the extreme. The Liberals and Conservatives are stuck in a dead tie in the polls. The NDP and Greens are not even close to winning. Do I go with my heart and split the progressive vote and witness the Conservative candidate waltz up the aisle, or do I vote with my head for an unworthy candidate and a milquetoast PM and party and see a centre-left minority government reappear?

To answer to these questions one needs to look at the Conservative rat pack hiding in the background behind 'Toole's oh-so-innocent smile, and never forget the federal government of Alberta under Harper began a dark decade as a minority government. Until Harper, I mocked those who voted strategically. Today I see the glowing eyes of wolves peering out of the bushes, and learned to respect the power of math.

Ice cold electoral probability reigns over warm principles in swing ridings. That is a fact of life. This simple, harsh geometry will not change until we can vote in a proportional system.

Canada's most important programs (public healthcare, CPP ...) were born in courageous Liberal-NDP governments decades ago. I believe greater things can be done on climate, child care, gun control, pharmacare, proportional voting and a number of other files are possible with another Liberal-NDP government, but this time it must have more courage than the last one.

That's another way of saying that no one party has the combined spectrum of experience, policy framework and moral authority to earn a majority government.

I like this: 'Voting is not a valentine. It's a chess move.'

The debate was weak and I, for one, felt underserved by our national broadcaster. Most of the country has attended at least 1 zoom meeting by now, there should have been fact checking provided by the broadcasters and the duration was far to short for meaningful exploration of the issues.

I agree. The format in particular was, frankly, terrible. More like a gameshow than a debate. It made the first debate between Trump and Biden look professional - and the American networks were both chastised (that was an embarrassment), and self-critical (we're sorry). Hopefully we hear some kind of mea-culpa on this from CBC management as the single opportunity most Canadians had for scrutinizing the leaders over their policies, it was not okay.

It should have been better thought out.

Mark Jaccard's recent book, "The Citizen's Guide to Climate Success" looks at steps to uphold a resources-based economy while gradually reducing carbon emissions but what about our environment now? From an practical comment on the book, by Brian Cartwright:
"Even if fossil fuels were to disappear and emissions were to drop to zero we would have continued warming and climate crisis because of degraded landscapes and ecosystems. Yet these factors are generally ignored when we discuss climate crisis ... while reducing emissions is necessary, the quickest and most dramatic climate relief comes from revegetating, rehydrating and revitalizing our ecosystems."

It appears neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives pay heed to our deteriorating environment. We also need to significantly grow sustainable energy, manufacturing and services, and galvanize training and education. This is the future. The Green Party's Ms. Paul's wise debate recommendation was that there should be a cross-party task force and regardless of the election results, I do hope that that becomes a cross-party priority.

As do we all.

Why are all these people touting Jaccard's analysis, given his laughable (and, recognizing his expertise, blatantly dishonest) characterization of carbon budgets:

"They say their main policy is carbon budgets, which are difficult to conceptualize, let alone model. Only in a police state could they enforce a budget for every single person and firm, so these are presumably sectoral budgets, such as limits on emissions from buildings, light duty vehicles, the cement industry and so on."

How is it "difficult to conceptualize" a policy framework that's been in place in the UK since 2008? Did the author even read Jaccard's article?

This is a great thread. A really good conversation. Interesting, thoughtful, smart comments by everyone here. By the way, Mark Jaccard is writing a rebuttal to Seth's oped and we'll be publishing that on Monday. Stay tuned. Meanwhile- , let's keep the good conversations like this one- and real debates going.

I would like to see the "Debate Format" scrapped altogether. Each candidate should be given an hour of broadcast time to face four questioners in fifteen minute segments with nobody else present in the studio. They would have an opportunity to review their platform(s) observed by the interested voters and avoid all the useless and ridiculous insulting exchanges that provide no value to the contest. I care little in discovering who is the nastiest or which one dislikes the other the most. I care about our country and want a proper leader to vote for.

The former leader of the BC Greens, Andrew Weaver, is a disgrace. His out-sized ego got the best of him and not only did he resign as leader for whatever reason he had to do so, he threw the party under the bus in the process. Anybody who behaves with such callous and self-interest has no credibility in my books; I don't care if he is a climate scientist. Then to endorse the NDP who has an abysmal record on protecting the environment and addressing climate change is only more evidence of Weaver's delusional politics and clear self-interest.