Even though Parliament won’t look much different, some experts say Justin Trudeau’s bruised minority government has given other parties leverage to push for more ambitious climate action.
That’s in large part because the threat of an election is off the table at a time when Canadians are demanding climate action.
“No one can use the threat of ‘support me or we'll launch an election,’ that's over, that card has been played,” said Isabelle Turcotte, director of federal policy at the Pembina Institute.
Turcotte pointed to every major party having a climate plan of some kind, and the fights over whether to have a carbon tax largely settled since 2019's election as evidence Canadians are taking the climate crisis more seriously.
“Canadians clearly want progressive policies on climate, and they need a government that's going to collaborate,” she said.
That’s certainly the case being made by a number of environmental advocacy organizations like Greenpeace Canada, Environmental Defence, Équiterre, and others who have banded together under the banner of No More Delays calling on Trudeau to work across party lines to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, introduce just transition legislation, and implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“Certainly, we need Justin Trudeau to step up and really work with other parties, but we need the other parties to step up and use their leverage,” said Julia Levin, senior program manager for climate and energy at the advocacy group Environmental Defence.
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“Especially the parties that put forward ambitious proposals, we need to use their leverage on the climate crisis,” she said.
One area of focus will be the Liberal promise to accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies, but strengthening the climate accountability bill that is supposed to guide Canada to net-zero is also expected to factor into the upcoming legislative climate battles.
Turcotte said she hopes the NDP will see its opportunity to hold Liberals accountable on the climate file.
“Sometimes the NDP has been hesitant to really differentiate themselves from the Liberal Party on climate and there's a big opportunity for them here,” she said.
Turcotte highlighted a plank in the NDP platform that called for national and sectoral carbon budgets to help guide a transition to a clean economy in every corner of the country, calling them “really fundamental tools” to create the transparency and certainty needed to ensure a successful transition.
“The Liberals have a similar, but much narrower, commitment with the targets for the oil and gas sector,” she said, referring to the promise to cap emissions and then ramp them down over time.
“Let's build on that, and let's actually apply that across the board,” she said.
Though a minority government will make it harder for the Liberals to push their agenda through Parliament, being forced to work collaboratively is more likely to lead to stronger policy, says Levin.
“We saw stronger climate accountability legislation because all of the parties with progressive views on climate change were involved,” she said.
“Canada has a great history of minority (governments) working together to pass really ambitious policies, and we need that now to be applied to climate action.”
Kathryn Harrison, a University of British Columbia professor and author of Passing the Buck: Federalism and Canadian Environmental Policy, said meeting the Liberal goal of 40 to 45 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels by 2030 will require a steep reduction given emissions have barely budged over that time.
With promises to reduce oil and gas emissions, decarbonize power generation, retrofit buildings on a massive scale, and other commitments, Harrison says the Liberals are likely to be busy on the bureaucratic side.
“Regulation is slow,” she said. “I would think the Liberals –– before they can face the voters again, at least with a credible story on climate –– they're going to have to show progress on some of these things that are going to require some real hustling,” she said.
Harrison said the backdrop to this election was “25 years” of heel-dragging, where parties promised emission reductions without explaining how they would be achieved. She said 2019 was the start of that shift with the carbon price proposal.
“Even then, the Liberals were giving the impression they could deliver a 30 per cent reduction at a $50 per tonne carbon price, which no academic experts would believe for a moment,” she said.
“What's new this time is in December 2020, the Liberals put a plan on the table with a carbon price going up to $170 per tonne that really credibly could reduce emissions by 30 per cent.”
One lesson for the NDP, which was criticized for being too vague on the climate file, is that to make inroads with voters, it will need to demonstrate how it could implement its plan, according to Clean Energy Canada’s executive director Merran Smith.
“While one party lacked ambition, others made the mistake of providing too little information, putting forward ideas that were vague, unmodelled, and potentially costly,” Smith said in a statement.
“A good climate plan is one that can be implemented efficiently and effectively.”
The Sierra Club Canada Foundation echoed the call for opposition parties to step up.
“If parties want to see improvements in their performance, they are going to have to speak and act unequivocally on behalf of those who want a safe and healthy environment,” the group said in a statement.
John Woodside / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer
If Opposition politicians
If Opposition politicians were taking the climate crisis seriously, (or Trudeau either) they wouldn't have been bopping around this huge countries on their 747s in the first place. We can't make progress without strong and enlightened laws and regulations, of course. But without fundamental, common sense, where you "walk the talk" on the ground, setting examples & educating our kids by doing common sense things, as well, we are never getting anywhere. At least Eliz May took the train when she was GP Leader. These bozos would not pass a Climate Change 101 test. They don't even have the brains to go after low-hanging fruit, like the TV car ads which carpet-bomb our airwaves, peddling their phoney message that you can drive cars/trucks anywhere with impunity (preferably in the back country, where there are no roads, so you can violate nature, disrupt solitude and fill the fresh air with stinking fumes and noise) & without consequence. Why not make car-makers place messages over those ads at least, reminding our kiddies that it is not "cool" to muck up the back country, speeding up global heating and sending us hurtling toward the culmination of our crisis. Why? Because internal combustion engines release climate-destroying fumes into the air. Does no one know this? Apparently not! The ads are still running! Drug companies advertise side effects on ads promoting their products. And it hasn't brought the pharmaceutical companies down, has it? Will this solve everything? Of course not! But at least it's something! Better than continuing fossil fuel subsidies, or approving another pipeline or (buying one)! Some Liberal shill actually stated that Trudeau had been"vindicated" by the election result. All it did was prove nothing and reveal Trudeau. once more as unable to connect the dots between a general election in the second-largest country in the world and the added burden it placed on our biosphere with no regard for anything but narrow, greedy, political advantage. www,PlanetInPeril.ca
On the election results, I
On the election results, I think they are quite acceptable. I'd have preferred to see Trudeau's seat count reduced a bit more with a corresponding seat increase with the NDP and Greens, but such is life under the current system.
On vehicles, a simple but effective policy would be to attach a surcharge to the sticker price based on vehicle weight, size and fuel type. Drive a gas-guzzling Hummer or Expedition and you'll pay thousands more on top of an increasing fuel cost driven up in part with increasing carbon tax rates. If you drive an electric Leaf you'll still pay a surcharge, but a lot less; it is, after all, still a car that has measurable impacts.
Wanna save the planet? Purchase some good walking shoes and live in a compact community that offers most of the necessities of life within a 15-minute walk or a short transit / bike ride away.
"Even though Parliament won’t
"Even though Parliament won’t look much different, some experts say Justin Trudeau’s bruised minority government has given other parties leverage to push for more ambitious climate action."
That is exactly true. A minority government is the best place to be on climate action at this time, given the Liberal history of lofty rhetoric and weak action that followed an angry Conservative decade of barbaric scientific and social practices. The few exceptions are the Lib's recent carbon tax with built-in price escalators, and some dribs and drabs for sporadic transit funding and such.
Germany is about to elect a full coalition likely comprised of the Greens and the Social Democrats, possibly with a third partner. How dynamic is that?
Media commentators have said this is likely Justin Trudeau's last gig as leader, his final legacy building term. That will likely work in favour of better action on climate and other worthy policies. He could even "let" the NDP push the cancellation of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion while quietly looking the other way, claiming his hands are tied. The problem with that is so far Jagmeet Singh hasn't indicated he's up to the task and has steadfastly deflected questions on the topic. Time for a little spine stiffening.
No one party has a record of climate policy married to genuine action and electoral success together. Today's supporting parties (primarily the NDP) hold the balance of power and lots of principled but not entirely accountable views on climate, but have never governed alone in the federal parliament. Great things were accomplished in previous minority governments, like public healthcare. Look to history to find a path forward.
Let's get on with it.
There is a possibility that
There is a possibility that Singh is not attacking the TMX hard in part because he realizes that he may then be interrogated as to why he does not by similar logic strongly criticize the Coastal Gas Link. He is no doubt loathe to do that, as it is a pet project of the NDP government in British Columbia.
So many of our leaders are more interested in the exercise of power and influence itself than in what it accomplishes. It seems they will rationalize about this until we are all dying of ecosystem feedback loop induced collapse. Similarly this applies for supposedly climate concerned backbenchers wanting to safely keep their party supported jobs rather than risk rebellion and lack of preferment, or even election funding or re-nomination.
Meanwhile, almost all of the rest of us will use any excuse to maintain our comfortable and convenient but destructive ways, which our representatives dare not seriously challenge either themselves or their constituents about.
By all means everyone, go
By all means everyone, go ahead and push Trudeau on climate, it'll be a nice change in direction from the so-called resistance Premiers doing everything they can to kill pollution pricing. But maybe just consider the possibility that Trudeau's actually way ahead of you. Canadian voters soundly rejected Stephane Dion's visionary climate plan back in 2008 in favour of Stephen Harper, who never saw any reason to inconvenience petro-business as usual with having to reduce pollution. Harper never addressed the merits of Dion's plan, just assassinated his character and competence, gleefully assisted by the media, particularly Mike Duffy.
It was quite a while before any Liberals had the guts to bring up pollution pricing again, and even after Trudeau implemented the carbon pricing he had campaigned on, Canadians cheerfully elected the so-called resistance Premiers Ford, Kenney et al, to do everything they could to kill his programs. Despite this massive and widespread opposition, Trudeau has succeeded in implementing the most effective pollution reduction programs in our country's history. And before people start shouting that our emissions have not yet decreased (as if that's all on Trudeau and that Ford, Kenney et al are all innocent bystanders), please remember that the latest complete emissions data we have are from 2019, the year that the program was first implemented. If emissions aren't lower yet in 2021, they will be soon as the price continues to rise, and so far, the economy has not cratered.