Support journalism that lights the way through the climate crisis

Goal: $100k
$22,098

Beyond their sustained campaign against the federal carbon price, it is unclear exactly what, if anything, the Conservative Party of Canada would do to address climate change. However, some hints were dropped this week at a major conservative networking conference in Ottawa.

Some participants roamed the Westin Hotel in Ottawa wearing anti-net-zero buttons and mingled among sponsor booths stocked with “axe the tax” stickers.

Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre also took the opportunity in his Thursday keynote address to pan the carbon price. He uttered the words “climate change” just once in that speech and gave only the vaguest sketch of what his party’s climate plan might look like: fighting the issue with “technology, not taxes.”

But it was easy to gather clues based on some of the panels and speakers featured at the Canada Strong and Free Networking Conference, which every year draws together right-leaning federal and provincial politicians (including New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith) and attendees, industry insiders and conservative activists — though not all participants identify as conservatives.

Conference sponsors included large fossil fuel companies and industry lobby groups — like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Pathways Alliance — alongside right-wing media outlets and pro-life organizations. And there was a hospitality suite hosted by the pro-oil and gas lobby group Modern Miracle Network with a website that proclaims: “Life is better with Canadian hydrocarbons!”

There were two climate-related panels, both stocked with oil and gas advocates and climate skeptics. A discussion on Europe’s “net-zero rebellion” featured members of American Friends of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a U.K.-based think tank rife with climate skeptics that counters climate science and advocates against policies that fight climate change. Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott joined the Global Warming Policy Foundation board last year and has been clear that he does not believe human activity is driving climate change.

Another panel called “carbon tech, not taxes” was moderated by the president of a fossil fuel advocacy group called Canadians for Affordable Energy and another fossil fuel advocate Michael Binnion, founder of the Modern Miracle Network and a Canada Strong and Free board member. Binnion has deep ties to the oil and gas industry, having founded Questerre Energy and serving as chair for High Arctic Energy Services.

Poilievre did drop some hints about where the Conservatives may be going with their climate policy. His speech highlighted the importance of nuclear energy in Ontario and promised to expand nuclear generation by “safely approving” CANDU reactors and small modular reactors.

“We're going to unleash the power of our atoms for clean and low-cost energy for our people,” said Poilievre to cheers from the crowd, adding that “fanatical” environment minister and former climate activist Steven Guilbeault once opposed nuclear energy. However, the current Liberal government provides support for a range of nuclear projects, including direct funding for power plant refurbishment plans, SMR research and more.

Beyond their sustained campaign against the federal carbon price, it is unclear exactly what, if anything, the Conservative Party of Canada would do to address climate change. However, hints were dropped this week at a major networking conference.

Poilievre also indicated a Conservative government would change the approval process and “build more hydroelectric dams in Quebec and right across the country.”

Federal Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, who did not attend the conference, later told Canada’s National Observer these comments still do not constitute a plan. While it's “all well and good to say hydro and nuclear, how does it all fit together? What are the supports that you are actually going to provide?”

During the conference, Binnion argued that because Canada’s emissions only account for 1.5 per cent of the global total, we can have a bigger impact by exporting more natural resources compared to reducing emissions domestically. Instead, the country should focus on exporting low-emissions intensity products like aluminum to other countries to help them lower their emissions, thereby bringing down the global total.

This argument was echoed by other panellists and the leader of the official Opposition himself.

“If Canada were to liquefy and export its natural gas to allow India to replace half of its future coal-fired electricity with clean Canadian gas liquefied in Canada, we could reduce global emissions by 2.5 billion tonnes,” said Poilievre during his keynote speech. “That's three times more than the entire Canadian economy emits in a year.”

“Those arguments are the refuge of the climate denier who doesn't want to say they're a climate denier,” said Wilkinson in a phone interview with Canada’s National Observer. Anybody who says these things doesn’t understand how the global system or Paris Agreement works, the minister said.

The idea that Canada should get a pass but nobody else does is a “ridiculous argument and anybody who pays attention to that is foolish,” said Wilkinson.

Canada has the second highest per capita emissions in the world, only slightly behind the United States, and is in the top 10 in terms of highest total emissions. Yet, many conference attendees pointed to China’s high emissions to argue Canada shouldn’t race to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

On the first night of the conference, two international guests showcased different conservative takes on climate change, with one stance appearing more popular if applause is any indication.

Tony Abbott, former prime minister of Australia, and Boris Johnson, former U.K. prime minister, participated in a keynote address at the Canada Strong and Free Networking Conference on April 10 in Ottawa. The discussion was moderated by John O’Sullivan, president and founder of the Danube Institute in Budapest. Photo by Natasha Bulowski

Abbott’s climate skepticism drew more applause from the packed room than former U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson’s appeal for Conservatives to enter the upcoming election with a credible green agenda. While Johnson said he eventually came around to climate science after much discussion with experts, Abbott was clear he doesn’t believe in human-caused climate change and made quips about the ice age.

Johnson said the public cares about climate change, so it’s an important issue to address for any political party. A conservative plan can take advantage of opportunities for economic growth and good jobs in green industries, like electric vehicles, for example, he added.

During the “carbon tech, not taxes” panel, Binnion lauded a handwritten list from years ago with “12 different policy buckets that you can use to address climate” and briefly referenced them in his remarks.

“I'm just so frustrated with this constant refrain, 'Well, conservatives don't have an alternative to the carbon tax, so they must want to do nothing,'” said Binnion, complaining that the Liberals don't want to consider any alternatives that involve private market solutions.

Another panellist, Canadian cattle rancher Cherie Copithorne-Barnes, said there should be “incentivizations that really amplify the great things that we do, rather than tax the negative things,” pointing to tax credits as a good incentive. The Liberals have proposed a suite of clean investment tax credits worth tens of billions in the last few federal budgets to encourage investments in a variety of clean electricity projects, carbon capture utilization and storage, clean manufacturing and hydrogen projects.

Keep reading

Poilievre and the Conservative Party have no intention of whatsoever of addressing climate change. It is a non issue for them and most of their supporters don't believe that climate change is real.

"When you're explaining, you're losing", that's what everybody has been repeating for a month or two about housing and Liberal arm-waving; brought up again about their carbon tax messages.

If the other parties don't just attack attack attack the Conservatives on climate, forcing them to *explain* their tortured position, looking sillier as they squirm away from it and towards it at the same time, they deserve to lose.

"The Liberals have proposed a suite of clean investment tax credits worth tens of billions in the last few federal budgets to encourage investments in a variety of clean electricity projects, carbon capture utilization and storage, clean manufacturing and hydrogen projects."

I don't think I have to say this to a CNO audience, however... Carbon Capture and Blue Hydrogen, both supported by the Liberals and funded by Canadian taxpayers are NOT clean energy and simply continue to fund foreign owned O&G companies in Canada...

Until we elect a government that actually wants to fight climate change, we're left with Dumb and Dumber...