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As Parliament gears up for a new legislative session, a new poll from Abacus Data shows Ottawa lagging behind what a majority of Canadians want when it comes to climate action and implementing a just transition for fossil fuel workers.
The poll, released Thursday, shows two-thirds (66 per cent) of Canadians want the federal government to take bolder, faster action to respond to climate change, including phasing out taxpayer subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, investing in renewable energy, and introducing the just transition legislation promised years ago.
Specifically, it found more than 60 per cent of Canadians want to see a cap placed on oil and gas emissions, a plan to stop taxpayer subsidies to oil and gas companies, “swift” implementation of a just transition policy, and investment in renewables. Fifty-nine per cent said they don’t want a dollar more given to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project (TMX).
The poll makes clear a majority of Canadians understand the implications of climate change and the economics of a changing energy landscape and want to see a federal government align itself to this reality.
Moreover, the poll found about 60 per cent of Canadians are “frustrated” with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau specifically for not yet implementing a 2015 promise to stop taxpayer subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and a 2019 promise to introduce just transition legislation. As such, 65 per cent of Canadians want climate action to be a priority in the government’s first 100 days.
Recently, Ottawa launched a just transition consultation to inform the legislation and has said it will phase out subsidies to the fossil fuel sector, but despite the promises, billions have been handed over to the industry. A recent analysis found federal Crown corporation Export and Development Canada gives $13.3 billion per year in public finance for fossil fuels annually on average, and that is one of many avenues for the sector to get public dollars. A report from Environmental Defence earlier this year calculated at least $18 billion given to the fossil fuel sector in 2020 alone.
“Canadians voted for more climate ambition and action — now it’s time for Prime Minister Trudeau to listen to them, and there is no time to waste,” said Caroline Brouillette, domestic policy manager with the Climate Action Network, in a statement.
“Mandate letters, soon to be issued from the prime minister, and the throne speech must reflect climate as a key priority,” she added.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not return a request for comment.
Regionally, the poll found the most support for climate action in Quebec and British Columbia, while the Prairie provinces had somewhat less support. Still, even in Alberta, which had the least support out of any province for climate action, a majority want to see more done.
A new poll finds two-thirds of Canadians want Ottawa to take bolder and faster action to respond to #ClimateChange. #cdnpoli
Fifty-two per cent of Albertans polled wanted to see a cap on oil and gas emissions, compared to 31 per cent who were against, and 17 per cent who were unsure or neutral. Similarly, 52 per cent supported ending taxpayer subsidies to the fossil fuel sector, compared with 28 per cent who were against, and 20 per cent who did not know or were neutral.
When it comes to introducing just transition legislation, most Albertans can see the writing on the wall. Sixty-one per cent support just transition legislation, compared to 17 per cent who were against it, and 22 per cent who were unsure or neutral.
The poll also found broad cross-party support for these measures. For people who support the Liberal Party, 72 to 78 per cent want to cap emissions, phase out subsidies, and implement a just transition, compared to 71 to 75 per cent of people who support the NDP, 73 to 74 per cent of Bloc Québécois voters, and 67 to 77 per cent of Green Party supporters.
Nearly a majority of Conservative Party supporters wanted to see action, with 49 per cent wanting just transition legislation, 47 per cent wanting a cap on oil and gas emissions, and 44 per cent wanting to see a phase-out of public subsidies to the fossil fuel sector.
“Canadians have sent roughly the same MPs back to Ottawa to get the job done on climate. All parties in the House can and should contribute to moving the climate legislative agenda forward,” Équiterre director of government relations Marc-André Viau said in a statement.
“Hopefully, MPs got the message, and they will now put partisan politics aside and work together in the 44th Parliament.”
The online poll surveyed 1,500 Canadians from Oct. 1 to Oct. 4 and was commissioned by Stand.earth. It has a margin of error of 2.53 per cent 19 times out of 20.
John Woodside / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer