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For Pierre Poilievre and his provincial allies, it’s all carbon tax, all the time. Never mind that his latest attempt at filibustering the April 1 increase in the tax and rebate fell flat, just like all his previous legislative efforts. Now, he’s tabled a motion calling for an “emergency meeting” between Canada’s premiers and the prime minister to address the “ongoing carbon tax crisis and the financial burden it places on Canadians.” Justin Trudeau should eagerly call this bluff.

So far, at least, he’s dismissed the idea on the basis that he already met with provincial leaders back in 2016 on his government’s pan-Canadian climate change plan. But this is a transparently thin gruel given how much has changed in our political universe since 2016 — from the occupants of every premier’s office in the country to the popularity of his signature climate policy. It’s time for Trudeau to serve up something much more substantial: a televised national climate conference.

That’s right: climate, not carbon tax. This wouldn’t just be a political festivus where the premiers could air their various grievances about the carbon tax and its supposed impacts. Instead, it would be a broader examination of the economic and environmental imperatives behind climate policy and the need to find the most effective version of it for Canada’s national interests. As Mark Carney said recently, "Given the events over the past year, we need to re-establish the consensus for this imperative. And so I very much welcome Premier [Danielle] Smith's suggestion of a first ministers meeting on climate. She was a little more narrowly focused, but I think it could be broadened out."

The prime minister should convene this conference over the summer when MPs aren’t distracted by the federal budget or any other legislative priorities — and when the impacts of climate change are most visible and obvious to Canadians. He should summon a roster of experts, from economics to environmental scientists, to explain precisely how the federal carbon tax works. And he should invite the premiers to make their own submissions about how they would reduce emissions without one.

That would be the price of admission for the provinces, and it would cost far more than they seem to think. Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe, for example, would have to explain his recent comments about how his province had looked at alternatives to the carbon tax and rejected them on the basis they were more expensive. Smith would have to walk back her 2021 comments about the rebate, which she said was more than adequate to cover the cost of the carbon tax for her household. And Doug Ford would have to try explaining how the carbon tax worked, which would be punishment in and of itself.

The Conservative premiers would also have to present some sort of viable alternative that would almost certainly expose their fealty to the fossil fuel industry. That’s because after more than five years of carping about the carbon tax, Canada’s Conservative premiers still haven’t devised a viable alternative that doesn’t somehow involve exporting more oil and gas. Case in point: New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs’ suggestion that exporting LNG from the Maritimes is somehow a viable way to reduce our national emissions. “In Canada, we’re thinking in a bubble,” he said. “I propose to make a difference worldwide.”

This idea has been debunked more times than I care to count, and I’ve done plenty of that work myself. We don’t get credit for emissions reductions that happen elsewhere and if we did, then so would China given the massive volume of electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines it exports around the world. We’d also have to account for the higher carbon intensity of the millions of barrels of oil we export, which would almost certainly zero out any credit we’d get for exporting LNG. This poorly constructed fig leaf is an unserious argument being made by unserious people, and it should be exposed as such for the public’s consumption.

Yes, this would involve a lot of work and hassle for the prime minister and his staff, and at a time of the year when they’d rather be with their families and friends than sparring with Poilievre and Smith. But if they want to actually defend the policy that now defines them, they have to start firing some rounds instead of just fielding them. A televised national conference would force the premiers to show their weak hands, give the Liberals an opportunity to call out their lies and half-truths about the carbon tax and its supposed costs, and help reframe the conversation around climate change and the economic risks and opportunities it creates.

It would also advance the Trudeau team’s emerging (and, frankly, overdue) narrative about how it’s actually the premiers who are actively undermining the country’s prosperity and stability to advance their own political interests with Poilievre determined to serve as their head waiter. If that’s not a fight Trudeau is interested in, maybe it’s time for him to step aside for someone who will take it on.

Pierre Poilievre and the provincial premiers are spoiling for yet another fight over the carbon tax — this time in a nationally televised meeting. Here's why Justin Trudeau should give it to them, and how he can beat them at their own game.

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This is a great idea.

The only suggestion I would make is have it in September after the country has experienced our worst wildfire season ever.

Must clearly state that doing nothing is not an alternative. Carbon Tax, Cap & Trade, regulation or a combo of all three.

Expose how O&G have bought the Premiers of Alberta, Sask, NFLD, & N.B. (Irving Land)

"Smith would have to walk back her 2021 comments about the rebate"

Check out the one-minute video of Danielle Smith speaking in 2021 about the benefits of carbon pricing with rebate. Highly revealing.
The Observer should publish the video or post a link to it for readers.


By all means. Let Trudeau pin the Premiers down. Show Canadians on national TV that their Premiers are full of hot air. At the height of wildfire season. When people are stuck inside with their air conditioners and air filters running full tilt.

"Why do you oppose climate policy that leaves 80% of households ahead after rebate?"
"Why not price in the full environmental, climate, and health costs of fossil fuels?"
"What would you do instead?"
"Whose interests are you really serving? Who are you really working for?"

Unfortunately, Trudeau would have to admit the incoherence of his own policy logic: building pipelines (TMX) and boosting oil exports to fund the energy shift and climate action. A pipeline that stands to be a royal loser for government and taxpayers.

Fawcett: "Canada’s Conservative premiers still haven’t devised a viable alternative that doesn’t somehow involve exporting more oil and gas. Case in point: New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs’ suggestion that exporting LNG from the Maritimes is somehow a viable way to reduce our national emissions."

The preposterous notion that Canada can reduce global emissions by exporting LNG to Asia to replace coal — and that therefore Canada need not reduce its own emissions and thereby "cripple" its economy — is also industry's favorite talking point. Repeated 1000x a day by industry (Shell, Enbridge, FortisBC), fossil-fuel lobbyists, energy pundits, and industry boosters in Postmedia newspapers and comment sections.
This push for expanding LNG follows on the campaign to boost LNG exports to Europe following Putin's 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

"As Canada unveiled climate policies, Shell made the case for second phase of LNG project" (National Observer, 2023)
"For years, the federal government has tried to walk a line between supporting the oil and gas sector and responding to climate change by cutting domestic emissions while simultaneously increasing fossil fuel exports. Both the federal government and industry have promised an unmatched economic opportunity that could also curb emissions by supplying gas to Asian countries as they phase out coal. But that business case now appears to be coming off the rails.
"… [Shell Canada] claimed that exporting natural gas will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, even though natural gas is a fossil fuel that drives global warming. While true gas creates fewer CO2 emissions than coal, extracting and transporting natural gas results in leaked methane …
"The federal government has given LNG Canada $275 million in support while also developing policies like an oil and gas emissions cap. In recent years, Ottawa has also adopted a carbon tax, clean electricity regulations and more, while simultaneously building the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project and approving Bay du Nord, Canada’s first deepwater oil project, which is currently on hold. Taken together, it’s why environment commissioner Jerry DeMarco has repeatedly described what he sees as policy incoherence."

While I have not heard Trudeau or his ministers embrace this notion explicitly, federal support for LNG expansion on the West Coast speaks volumes. Aligning perfectly with the Liberals' explicit if Orwellian push for selling more oil via a new oilsands export pipeline (TMX) — supposedly, to fund the energy shift away from fossil fuels.

Trudeau: "Buying the Trans Mountain pipeline wasn't about hoping to turn a profit for the government. It was about making sure that Alberta crude was not landlocked and was not prisoner to one single customer in the United States.
"I took a lot of grief across the country for buying a pipeline. But I knew that if we want to be able to pay for the innovation, the transformation of our economy to be greener, to be cleaner, we need to get the best possible price for our oil products now, and that means getting out across the Pacific. That meant twinning the Trans Mountain pipeline.
"That's why we bought the pipeline, because it was good for Alberta and it's good for the country."
"Braid: Trudeau doesn't look like a Prime Minister who's ready to quit" (Calgary Herald, 21-Feb-24)

Like selling cigarettes to fund lung cancer research.

"He knew." Like the Trumpers "know" Trump is innocent.
He bought us a pig in a poke, with no notice, with no due diligence, not because of any reasons he's given, but because he was swinoozled. The pipeline was never viable, even at the $4.7 bn he had us pay for it. Much less the $34 bn it'll cost us now.

Meanwhile, the old pipeline never operated to capacity. Never in well over a decade. Because there wasn't demand.

Canada is a climate leader in the same way it's been a leader in many things in the last few decades: a leader straight to the back end: a leader to planetary destruction.

Words fail me in trying to express the disgust I feel at the continual lying he's done about it all.

Yes, a conference of diverse serious-minded people, all of whom understand that we must address climate change, where climate solutions are carefully thought through to their unintended consequences, and where solutions must actually be real solutions and not ultimately make things worse.

Electrifying everything? So many of us were beguiled by this as a solution to climate change, and many still are. But the mining will simply and catastrophically compound the ecological and existential crises we have already made - for water, for biodiversity, and for climate change. Shiny new red electric cars as a boon for a growth growth growth economy? Surely the absolute last thing this beleaguered world needs.

The carbon tax? Does it really do what it is purported to do? Does it really change behaviour when for so many there are no real alternatives? Rural and northern people, for instance, people who need to drive longer distances, people who need a car that works in any temperature, people who need a heat source that doesn't cut out at minus 27, the list goes on...and it is presumably no coincidence that Poilievre's support for axing the tax is rooted where the carbon tax is simply a tax.

I do have a heat pump, adjustable LED lighting, an induction stove, and I have driven a hybrid car for years, but the choice to do so is one of relative privilege, and perhaps a vain hope of doing what I can about climate change. But does a roaring business in the manufacture and sale of these "solutions" actually change anything or are we deluding ourselves? And none of this was done as a result of the carbon tax.

The carbon tax just looks - quite rationally to many Canadians - like government making the cost of life even higher, without much actual proof that it does anything more than make busy work for whichever department sends back rebates, rebates which may work for urban people who can take transit or drive a Prius or Leaf, but not for so many others.

And we are going to end up with a Trump-tinged Poilievre government, at least in part because of misplaced faith in the carbon tax.

Yes, we need solutions, but real solutions will surely mean we need to live smaller, with less, not more.

Well, there are two issues here--"climate change" and "general environmental collapse". Going electric with renewables will mostly solve the first thing, which is the one there is currently anything resembling the political will to solve. It won't entirely, there are other issues, notably agriculture, but it's about 2/3rds of the puzzle at least.

It will not solve the second thing, and nobody ever really claimed it would. Although contrary to the claims of some purists, it will help some--so for instance, the overall amount of stuff you mine for an electric/renewables economy will be significantly less than the overall amount of stuff we mine for the fossil fuel economy; extracting oil, with all the attendant spills and giant tar sands tailings ponds and fracking injection of evil stuff into groundwater and so on and so forth, counts as mining in my book, and we wouldn't have to do it any more, and we extract hundreds of times as much of that as we would need to extract minerals for batteries. Not to mention getting rid of coal is a pretty pure win on the mining front. But on top of that, when it comes to environmental damage, air pollution is actually quite important and we'll be getting rid of the majority of that. And, electricity is fundamentally more efficient, both in energy use and in how much material you need to use to make infrastructure. No more pipelines cutting up habitat, no more gas stations with huge underground tanks of stuff leaking toxins into the ground, tanker trucks shipping fuel around, trains full of bitumen, yadda yadda yadda. Instead you have some big-ass electrical wires and some battery farms. It's not as bad. The mining worries are real, but even aside from climate change they pale in comparison to the advantages. They've been hyped mostly by the fossil fuel sector.

But it's certainly true that it's not going to solve the general problem. No technology can. I don't think any social attitude can, like some kind of pleasant granola-ish movement to make do with less. As long as our economic system is capitalism, which is fundamentally rooted in forever growth, we're going to be killing the planet in various accelerating ways. We change the system or the problem keeps getting worse. Going electric just buys us a bit more time to fundamentally change our civilization, by making it so the planet isn't frying while we try to figure it out.

Well said.

I completely agree that the major challenge we face in trying to address the Climate Crisis is untrammelled capitalism. All we hear is consume, consume, consume, and grow , grow, grow —- that we can have everything we want (not need) without paying anything for it.
Well, we are paying for it right now, with the highest temperatures ever recorded and the resulting droughts and food insecurity and even famine. We are paying for it now with the increasing frequency of extreme weather events and the wild fires that destroy our homes and our health as well, and with the rising sea levels that are already destroying coastal communities.
The costs of climate change/ global warming are enormous, while by our continuing addiction to burning fossil fuels and endless growth we are also destroying the existential future of our young people.
When will people ever learn that our planet does not have infinite resources for us to exploit so that we can consume and grow as much as we want, without paying the price?

JLL: "Electrifying everything? So many of us were beguiled by this as a solution to climate change, and many still are."

The alternative is to keep burning fossil fuels. We have to get our energy from somewhere.
True, no such thing as "green" energy. All energy systems have environmental costs. We need to choose those energy systems with the least impact.
Only one energy system is baking the planet. Not wind.
Only one energy system chokes cities with deadly smog. Not solar.
Most renewables issues are local, manageable, and solvable.

For solar and wind, environmental and health impacts are local. Fossil fuel impacts are local, regional, and global.
Fossil-fuel systems require continuous mining, drilling, extraction, processing, and transportation of fuels on top of infrastructure impacts.
No such issue for wind and solar. Once you build and install the infrastructure, operational emissions are zero. Free "fuel" courtesy of the sun. Nearly all wind and solar impacts are tied to the manufacture, installation, and disposal of infrastructure.
As opposed to fossil fuels, which besides baking the planet and endangering the global ecosystem, also produce a wide spectrum of pollutants.

JLL: "The carbon tax? … Does it really change behaviour when for so many there are no real alternatives?"
The claim that many Canadians "have no real alternatives" to their energy-intensive lifestyles and wasteful habits is dubious.
First off, three out of four Canadians live in one of Canada's large urban centres (pop. 100,000+). (StatsCan)
Many more live in smaller cities and towns.
Just about everybody in my small town drives everywhere they go. Could they walk, bike, take a mini-bus, or car pool? Of course. But they don't. Car culture, not necessity.

"Canada is a large country with cold winters, so we can't possibly reduce our emissions."
This worn-out talking point repeated endlessly by climate change deniers and obstructionists is a big, fat lie.
Many Canadians drive everywhere they go in single-passenger vehicles in sprawled cities. Idle at drive-thrus. Live far from work and school. Long commutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Lights and computers are left on in office towers and homes. Live in big houses stuffed with things they don't need. Shop till they drop. Single-use disposables. Fly around the world for vacations. Holiday in huge RVs. Eat a heavy meat diet. Throw out 40% of their food.
Canada has the worst vehicle fuel economy in the world. Canada's vehicles have the highest average fuel consumption and CO2 emissions per km driven (IEA). Canada's vehicles are also the largest and the second heaviest in the world.
Canadians produce more garbage per capita than 16 other OECD nations.
Canada is one of the biggest food wasters on the planet.
The emissions intensity of Canada's buildings, transportation, and agriculture are all well above the G20 average.
"Canada produces more greenhouse gas emissions than any other G20 country, new report says" (Toronto Star)]

Canadians, urban and rural, have countless opportunities to reduce discretionary fossil-fuel use and waste.

That said, I agree that too many climate activists and politicians are banking on simple, superficial, and convenient technological fixes that feed the capitalist industrial profit machine. Instead of making real changes to how we live and do business.
Top examples: Simply replacing ICE cars with EVS and carrying on with car culture and sprawl as usual. Geo-engineering to address the symptoms of warming, not its causes.

Just as you say, indefinite growth is not possible in a finite world. We are heading towards the cliff on all fronts, not just climate. Our ecological footprint — not just our carbon footprint — is far too large. A concept that eludes techno-boosters and EV salesmen.

No silver bullet. Carbon pricing is one tool in the toolbox. An essential tool, but not the only one. To reduce emissions on time, we need to use all the best tools in the toolbox.
Until we price in the full environmental, climate, and health costs of fossil fuels, we subsidize our own destruction.
Carbon pricing with rebate boosts the financial incentive to use less fossil fuels and reduce emissions.

JLL: "we need to live smaller, with less, not more"
Amen. And we also need to pay the true, real, full cost of the goods and services we consume, including energy. Hence, carbon pricing.

@Jillian Lynn Lawson

Recycling -- extensive, deep, lifecycle, mandated recycling -- of components for EV batteries and electricity grid infrastructure will address mining head on, mainly by increasingly displacing the demand for new metals.

Most high voltage transmission lines use aluminum, not copper, and aluminum is perfectly recyclable, over and over and over. Green aluminum uses low emission electricity to both smelt new metal and remelt reclaimed aluminum.

Moreover, transit and better zoning has and will continue to put downward pressure on car dependency. First, though, EVs will immediately and directly lower our dependency on oil and instantly kill Scope 3 emissions proportionate to EV sales. But hopefully one day our cities will evolve into energy efficient and walkable communities with a fraction of today's number of cars.

I agree.
I would say, "Bring it on." (afterall, you have to push back on school-yard bullies, once in awhile.)
There is a pandemic of mis-information and dis-information still amongst us.
And this may sound counter-intuitive. The on-stage, live TV assembly should also include Karl Douville and Robert Dorion.
(See Mr. Fawcett's previous article regarding "Freedom Convoy".)
In such a live TV assembly, it may be problematic for them to proclaim "this Assembly is nothing more than another orchestrated conspiracy against us", whatever.
Afterall, it may even have been possible that during the Covid19 pandemic, if a similar on-stage, live TV assembly was organized the mis-information and dis-information oxygen that fed the Freedom Convoy fuel for the Parliament Hill assault may have been shut off, in that moment.

From a PR point of view, Trudeau could invite each premier individually to a televised live debate on climate change. One on one. No distracting political party cheerleaders screaming from an audience. Just two debaters and one moderator armed with a mute button for each microphone, as much to defeat distracting interruptions as to give each of the debaters fair and equal time allotments to make their points.

The format could include a panel of journalists, climate scientists and economists, limited to, say, five individuals to maintain managable control during Q&A sessions.

The PM could travel to each province for these debates, but the risk of right wing premiers stacking the TV studio with uninvited party hacks bent on disruption is greater. That's why hosting the debates in a locked TV studio in Ottawa individually would work better.

Extend the invitations to individual premiers (or their designates) at most three times. If a premier fobs it off or refuses to attend, then Trudeau could hold a news conference afterward while standing at the podium set up in the host studio with potted plants** standing in for the absent premiers and explain what it was all about, namely to define in detail what each province intends to do or has done to address climate change. The invitation should also be extended to Poilievre.

** Each plant should be a provincial emblem, for example Alberta's wild rose.

The comminications value of up to 13 individual debates on climate change would be very high, but it could go both ways. A love in with compatible premiers, a down and out cage match with some premiers, or a come back by one or two premiers on Trudeau's inadequate climate action.

However, it would also be an opportunity to dismantle Poilievre's tactics on not addressing climate at all, and in a format he has no control over.

The only question would be, what potted plant best represents Poilievre when he inevitably turns down the invitation?

I suggest skunk cabbage.

I don't think a premier's conference with the PM is the right format. To much ganging up has been evident in past conferences.

One-on-one seems increasingly feasible, with or without theatrically using potted plants. It would also give Trudeau multiple opportunities to announce new climate initiatives to counter the justified critiques on not doing enough already, kind of a precursor to the election campaign.

It offers some great counterpoint to anti-federal provincial policy, such as announcing major direct funding for transit lines in Alberta while outling how the premier will hold back
Alberta cities from receiving it while gladly accepting billions in subsidies for oil and gas.

"How many billions in investment in Alberta's cities will Premier Smith block? Why does the premier sacrifice improving the lives of residents of Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer and Lethbridge?" would be a good tack to take in a debate format.

If he has the cajones to attend he will not get off sidetracking any questions like he does in the HOUSE so my bet is he hasn't got the nerve to attend and his new partnership in the next election will be the BLOC as Singh qualifies for his pension and will lose support.

Great idea, after the fire and hurricane seasons are over. I would love to see an adult conversation on the issue. It would not move the conservative base at all but it cvould possibly move some fence sitters that are still reachable with logic and reason. But I'm afraid its a tough row to hoe, with, what appears to me, as more and more Canadians saying that Canada does not have to do its fair share to fight climate change.

There would need to be moderator control of the microphones.
Otherwise, it would be nothing but a grandstanding shouting match.

Perhaps the "debaters" should have to pass a short test about the rules of debate, as well. Over the past decade or so, I've seen no debates,in the house or in media, that were anything other than mudslinging, name-calling shouting fests. No manners. No civility. No debating skill. Worse than 4 year-olds.