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Just a few months ago, it seemed like climate would struggle to make an appearance in this election, pushed aside by the pressing realities of the COVID-19 crisis. But then this summer of reckoning with the climate emergency intervened, and poll after poll revealed the climate crisis to be a top issue for Canadians. As I was door-knocking for climate champions in this campaign, when I asked, “What’s your top concern this election?” the most common reply was “the climate.” For all of us who listen to the dire warnings of scientists, we know this new Parliament has our fate in its hands.

In a positive turn of events this election, we saw parties competing with each other about which had the stronger and most convincing climate plan. Canadians want to see bold action on climate. But once again, support for that action has been split across numerous parties. Hence, this minority outcome. Now we need them to co-operate and get it done.

We need to make this minority Parliament do its job and meet this moment with us. These next few years must be all about speed and scale as we rally to confront this crisis. This shared emergency undertaking needs to look and sound and feel like a genuine cross-society emergency endeavour, and we need our new government to lead as one expects in a crisis.

I wrote at the start of the election that the narrow path to climate emergency victory in Canada would be greatly helped by two outcomes: first, another minority Parliament, and second, the election of a larger contingent of climate emergency champions.

The former has occurred, and that’s great. Minority governments are compelled to co-operate, rather than govern with impunity for four years. More importantly, a minority means the public is given ongoing openings to press for stronger and bolder policies.

As for the election of more climate champions, however, the outcome was mixed but mostly disappointing. The “squad” of incumbent climate champions in the NDP was entirely re-elected (along with two Greens), and they will be joined by a couple newly elected champs — Blake Desjarlais in Edmonton Griesbach, and pending final counts, possibly Anjali Appadurai in Vancouver Granville, and Alejandra Bravo in Toronto Davenport. But other first-time climate champs tragically failed to break through.

I’m biased of course, but the campaigns I was watching most closely and where I spent my volunteer hours were those of Appadurai (a friend and colleague) and Avi Lewis (yes, my brother-in-law, running in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky). Both were running on unabashedly Green New Deal-inspired ideas with a primary focus on the climate emergency. And in both cases, at the start of the election, the party brass viewed their campaigns as unwinnable. Yet, Appadurai’s riding ended up being one of the closest in the country (still TBD), while Lewis managed to win 26 per cent of the vote — eight percentage points higher than the NDP’s national average — in a riding that had never been seriously contested by the NDP and one that is anchored by one of the wealthiest cities in Canada.

As this new government takes shape, rather than lurching from one confidence motion to the next, as we witnessed over the last two years, how about we stabilize our political lives with a formal Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA), like we had in British Columbia from 2017-20, like the Yukon has now, and similar to what the Ontario Liberals and NDP had in the 1980s or at the federal level from 1972-74. After all, in these results, isn’t that what the electorate has asked for? Numerous parties tabled good ideas in this election — let’s see them each put their best ones forward. (Already, LeadNow has a petition up calling for cross-party co-operation on climate and inequality.)

And critically, let’s see the NDP really bargain hard this time, show themselves to be the climate champions they claimed in this election, and make bold climate emergency action a core condition of their co-operation in the House. The country is on fire. So now the NDP must hold the Liberals’ feet to the fire. The NDP needs to send a clear message to the Trudeau government — “no climate emergency plan, no deal.”

Opinion: For all of us who listen to the dire warnings of scientists, we know this new Parliament has our fate in its hands, writes columnist @SethDKlein for @NatObserver. #elxn44 #ClimateAction #ClimateCrisis

What should be in an exciting new CASA? What should form the basis of co-operation for a stable minority government? A majority of Canadians have clearly indicated a desire for a Green New Deal-esque program. So how about this:

  • Full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and a commitment to provide clean drinking water, equal education funding, and quality housing to every Indigenous community within two years.
  • An audacious and hopeful offer to those whose employment is currently tied to the fossil fuel industry — not only a Just Transition Act, but a massive investment in the jobs of the future. The Liberals promised $2 billion this election for a Future Fund for workers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Not enough. Let’s spend what it takes to get this job done and give confidence to workers everywhere that no one will be left behind. Let’s create new Crown corporations to mass-produce what we need to decarbonize our lives. Let’s establish a Civilian Climate Corps, so that any young person who wishes can find employment serving their society as they help us meet this moment.
  • We need to see brash near-term dates by which new vehicles and buildings can no longer use fossil fuels.
  • A bold housing plan that would see the construction of hundreds of thousands of non-market, zero-emission housing units — within the mandate of this new Parliament.
  • A full stop on all new fossil fuel infrastructure, and an end to fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Urgent national action on the poison drug supply that is killing thousands of our friends and family.
  • Public child care, pharmacare, dental care, mental health care, and elder care.
  • A wealth tax to pay for a good chunk of the above.
  • And proportional representation. Let’s have an electoral system that ensures the progressive majority in Canada that wants the above can continue to find political expression. Let’s make this kind of collaborative government the norm.

With respect to the climate, one welcome new development in this election was that the Liberals named the elephant in the room — the 26 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions that derive from the oil and gas industry. Finally, the Liberals appear ready to stop peddling the falsehood that Canada can be a climate leader while simultaneously expanding the extraction and production of fossil fuels. Instead, they rightly said we need to cap GHG emissions from oil and gas production and set a schedule to lower those emissions. Now we need to make that promise real. We need to adopt national and sectoral carbon budgets that decline each year. That’s a vital piece of how this new government can tell the truth to Canadians about the severity of the climate crisis.

And so, a message to this next government: Invite us to join in a grand societal undertaking as we confront this task of our lives. In the meantime, climate voters need to get out into the street and demand that — support the global student strikes this Friday, Sept. 24 (find your local protest here) and Friday, Oct. 22. See you there.

Keep reading

Klein: "A majority of Canadians have clearly indicated a desire for a Green New Deal-esque program."
Judging by the election results, one might conclude the opposite. Klein's climate agenda failed to win widespread support.

Klein: "Canadians want to see bold action on climate."

If the Canadians who actually set the agenda in this country wanted to see bold action on climate, presumably that is what we would see.
A good many Canadians do NOT want to see bold action on climate. Especially if it means constricting fossil fuel production and profits.
Not just the oil patch. Not just conservatives. But also the Big Banks and Corporate Canada. The oil patch's financial backers — and the Liberal Party's chief patrons and main constituency.

Best not to underestimate the opposition: Canada's political elites; industry-captured "progressive" politicians and parties (even worse for climate than "regressives"), including provincial NDP; CAPP and other industry lobby groups; finance (banks and insurance companies); the courts; the RCMP/CSIS; mainstream media; academe; school teachers; industry-captured regulators; extractionist think tanks; climate denial outfits (e.g.; Friends of Science); and First Nations promoting or at least on board with fossil fuel development (either willingly or after being bulldozed by govt and industry — for decades).
Apathy and ignorance still reign among a wide swath of citizens and consumers.

With such a broad array of forces opposed to real climate action, what hope do we have? In Canada, change will not come from within. Canada's climate and energy policy will be determined by outside forces. In other nations' capitals. Our major crude oil customer(s). Namely, the U.S.
Without a drop in foreign crude oil demand — in the absence of climate action abroad — there will be little change in Canadian policy. As revenues decline, more and more taxpayer dollars will be diverted to keep our leaky oil tanker afloat.

P.S. In the last Parliament, the NDP under Singh avoided rocking the boat on climate. No reason to expect different now.

"we need our new government to lead as one expects in a crisis"
On Jun. 17, 2019, the Liberal Govt declared a climate emergency. On Jun. 18, 2019 — the next day — the same Liberal Govt re-approved the TMX pipeline expansion project.
No reason to expect any change in the Liberals' contradictory climate/energy policies.
PM Trudeau (2016): "There is growth to be had in the oilsands. They will be developing more fossil fuels while there's a market for it, while we transition off fossil fuels."
Trudeau (2017): "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there."
No reason to believe that Trudeau has changed his mind.

If I remember correctly, Trudeau was faced with an either/or situation re the Alberta Tarsands and TMX forced by a Texas consortium pulling out. In order to save jobs, he bought the pipeline, we Canadians own our own pipeline. Shortly after that, Covid 19 began to hit the world and us. This election has given Trudeau his mandate to continue forward including on Climate Change policies.

No one and nothing forced Trudeau to buy Trans Mtn — or to approve (2016), purchase (2018), re-approve (2018), and complete the TMX pipeline expansion. (COVID did not hit Canada until early 2020.)
Jobs? The Trans Mtn expansion promises 50 permanent new jobs in BC and 40 in AB.
Why risk thousands of jobs in sustainable industries for 90 permanent pipeline jobs?
Meanwhile, the industry is shedding jobs by the thousands in AB. Even as oilsands production rises, the industry continues to shed jobs due to automation. Tens of thousands of Albertans lost their jobs in recent oil price crashes. Oil companies were happy to lay off Canadians and replace them with Temporary Foreign Workers.
Time to get off the oilsands rollercoaster.
"Canadian jobs in renewable energy had already surpassed jobs in the oil sands back in 2014. That's before the downturn in the oil sector, and before the continued growth in development and jobs in clean energy."
"Why do we listen to oil execs when they talk about jobs?" (National Observer, Sep 5th 2018)
"Making a less energy intensive Alberta can create many jobs. Out of 56 economic sectors, oil and natural gas extraction are dead last in job creation — a measly 3.5 jobs for every $1 million invested."
"Alberta needs a low-carbon plan" (Rabble, Feb 6, 2015)
Nearly 300,000 Canadians were directly employed in clean energy in 2017 — nearly 100,000 more than in mining, quarrying, and oil-and-gas extraction.
"Clean energy one of Canada's fastest-growing industries" (Canadian Press, May 23, 2019)
"Solar Employs More People In U.S. Electricity Generation Than Oil, Coal And Gas Combined" (Forbes)
Clean energy employment in the U.S. exceeds fossil fuel jobs nearly three-fold.
What are fossil fuel jobs costing us?
Around the world, people are losing their jobs, homes, and lives to climate change.

On the TMX purchase, Trudeau was played by Rich Kinder. Trudeau's purchase was a kneejerk reaction to the well-timed strategic "threat" of the private sector to cancel the project in the face of mounting Indigenous resistance. The project remains a financial boondoggle that looks like it will top $14B to build without the imaginary Asian customers lining up to pay premium prices for a low quality product. That is a great illustration of magical thinking.

The TMX website (when I last checked) says it's planning for 400 tankers a year. I don't think it will get even a third of that given the fact that its primary market -- North American gas tanks -- is on the path of demand destruction as battery electric and hybrid vehicles ramp up, only to hit a ceiling beyond the end of the decade, incidentally, as lithium and cobalt peak out. In a perfect world we'd be building car-free cities, but as it stands even the more enlightened cities on this continent have barely reached car-lite status in their cores, pandemic conditions excepted.

Another consideration is the tendency for oil prices to cause recessions in producing jurisdictions when the price is low, and in consuming jurisdictions when the price is high. The Alberta oil industry may rejoice as world prices increase, but consumers will react by purchasing more efficient or electric cars. Either way, Alberta (and Canada to an extent) needs to conduct some serious planning for a carbon-constrained future.

I truly believe that this election has given Trudeau the mandate to continue which includes being tough of climate change. With that mandate and with the support of the NDP, Trudeau can now begin to make those tough climate policies knowing he was given that mandate from the majority of Canadians. The NDP also had a mandate on this subject and between the two parties, we can now aggressively tackle Climate Change. This election was necessary for Canadians to have their say going forward- and they did. Majority of us voted to maintain the status quo minority government and to go forward with Progressive action.

Would proportional representation ensure a Green New Deal-inspired program the "progressive" majority in Canada supposedly wants? After all, the Conservatives once again had the highest percentage of the popular vote. And the Peoples' Party twice the votes of the Greens. What would a pro-rep parliament, I wonder, look like based on these election results?

Canada is not a conservative country. The majority of citizens consistently vote centrist and progressive. Party strategists hate proportionality and prefer majorities. Unfortunately, the current system allows for false majorities where a party can win over 50% of seats with under 40% of the vote. Splitting the progressive vote is a valid worry, and strategic voting amongst half a million progressives has become the most effective way to keep the right wing out of power until such time a proportional voting system is agreed on by the people in a referendum.

In another post I mentioned that Germany seems poised to elect a true coalition government (not a minority) between the Greens and Social Democrats, possibly with a third party joining in. How envious is that? The difference with Canadian politics is that two or more parties actually share positions in the ruling cabinet, which is made possible by two things: (i) German politicos are more capable than Canadian MPs of respectful, adult discussions and co-operation; and (ii) parties like the Greens have dropped pie-in-the-sky policies that utterly fail on accountability when it comes time to implement them.

Seth Klein should look at the practical accountability of his proposed ideas, some of which are particularly lofty. Germany's Green Party has accomplished a tremendous amount of good on the climate and energy front after it revamped its policies with practical day-to-day governance and financial planning.