The great Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan coined an expression that was not only prophetic, but probably truer than he could have imagined. The medium is the message, McLuhan said.

Put another way, the medium—and these days, everything goes through social media whether or not it started there—embeds itself into the message, in how people read it, in how they might respond to it.

If you’ve ever been on Facebook or Twitter, and odds are you have, you get this. In an era of unfiltered information—information once culled and corrected by journalistic gatekeepers before it met the eyes of the masses—Canadians can no longer believe much of what they read online. And who has time for fact-checking?

Well, the Washington Post does, at least with regards to one person. As of last month, President Donald Trump had made nearly 10,000 false or misleading claims since assuming office (one of his most recent: that wind turbines cause cancer).

In short, the degree to which we’ve grown desensitized to bad information cannot be overstated.

Climate change has always had a communications problem, write @MerranSmith & @TrevorMelanson. That's changing."Canadians are not only feeling climate change, they now recognize they’re feeling it." 1st in a series about #Canada's #climate strength

So, what does any of this have to do with climate leadership? In a word, everything.

For this is the context into which putting a price on carbon pollution enters the Canadian consciousness. Ask yourself how many articles you’ve read about the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate change (the name of Canada’s climate plan). Ask yourself if you know what else the federal government is doing on climate, or where other parties stand on the issue. Ask yourself what makes a good climate plan.

But have you seen the pictures of Conservative politicians posing at gas stations the night before the carbon tax took effect? Did you hear Ontario Premier Doug Ford claim—citing research that said no such thing—that the carbon tax would cause a recession?

And therein lies the problem. Even if you don’t believe Mr. Ford (and, as many Canadian economists made clear, you shouldn’t), there’s a good chance you still heard him.

A truth with few retweets can’t compete with a viral lie. Even when that lie is being repeated by those who disagree with it. It keeps the lie rolling, building, a snowball growing bigger. Such is the way of the medium.

Canadians don’t have time to be experts on everything. Many only see the rolling snowballs. And they remain largely oblivious to actual climate change solutions, of which there are many.

Climate change has, of course, always had a communications problem. While we’ve known of its existence for decades—as temperatures built in the background—it was too abstract, too scientific, not the sort of day-in, day-out problem that commands the attention of most Canadians.

But that, too, has changed. Canadians are feeling climate change like never before, literally. The last five years have each ranked among the five hottest ever recorded. According to recent polling from Abacus Data, 83 per cent of Canadians now say they are worried about climate change, most of them “very” or extremely" worried.

Canadians are not only feeling climate change, they now recognize they’re feeling it. We spoke to many of them this year at Clean Energy Canada, and over and over again they responded with personal stories, unusual things that shouldn’t happen so often, things like riding a motorcycle in Toronto in December, things, they said, that were different when they were kids.

And it’s not just in their heads. As the recent Canada's Changing Climate Report revealed, Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world. Canadians are feeling climate change because our climate has changed, more than most places.

Now, here’s the part where we tell you this article was a bait and switch.

We’ve talked politics and carbon pricing because it gets clicks, and the truth is nothing without clicks.

But what we’re really here to say is this: despite our increasing concern over climate change, Canada’s federal climate plan remains largely unknown, while most other federal parties have yet to make clear what they would do instead.

The other week, Clean Energy Canada did a quick search to see how many times the phrase “climate plan” had been mentioned in the Canadian news. We then ran the same test for “carbon tax.”

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that, so far in 2019, the contentious “carbon tax” wins by a factor of eight. Let’s be clear about what a carbon tax is: a single policy that most Canadians will barely feel—and will likely even profit from thanks to income tax rebates.

A climate plan, on the other hand, is what we’re doing as a nation to combat global warming.

Canada, we need to change the channel.

For it’s only when we know what’s on the menu that we can fairly compare it to the alternatives. It’s only when we know what should be in an effective climate plan that we can ask political leaders to offer it.

So let’s start there. With the solutions (beyond just putting a price on carbon pollution) that are currently being implemented or considered. As such, this is the first in a series of articles that will dive into these rarely reported on efforts and what they mean for Canada.

From our clean fuel standard (which will help accelerate the transition from gas and diesel to electricity and biofuels) to our phase out of coal power, Canada’s recent climate efforts have elevated the country from global pariah to international leader—one that’s developing policies other nations are looking to copy. That was the interpretation of Canadian professor Mark Jaccard when he attended the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In other words, how his global peers viewed Canada didn’t line up with how Canadians view themselves.

“Few climate-concerned Canadians know much about the slate of new federal climate policies, except for the contentious carbon tax,” Jaccard recently wrote for the Globe and Mail. “And while global experts agree that the national carbon tax is impressive, they are equally impressed with several other climate policies.”

These are policies we need to have a national conversation about—policies that are significant, world-leading even, and that are being drowned out by, well, politics.

The real question is, will you be retweeting them?

Merran Smith is the executive director and Trevor Melanson is the communications manager at Clean Energy Canada, a think tank at Simon Fraser University.

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Whether through Tweets, print, radio, television, or a concerted multi-media communication blitz, I hope that the Liberal Government tells Canadians what we need to know about climate change. What has the government already done to respond to the realities on the ground. What BOLD new policies will be introduced (assuming that boldness is a virtue) to combat and adapt to climate change? What is holding the Liberals back from seizing the climate issue as a key (the key?) election issue and communicating it as such? Beats me why the message has been so muted. . . .

So please tell us! I am struggling with where to put my vote in October. Top priority is to keep the Conservatives out of government. Their policies on climate, individual rights, and immigration scare me for Canad's future ubder Andrew Scheer. I don't see him as a strong leader. I would love to see several Greens in parliament but still think, if I can get over my extreme disappointment in Justin Trudeau, the Liberals are the best choice for fighting climate change. They should not have bought the pipeline and they need to do much more, but they know it's important.

I have been voting for more years than I like to remember. I can never remember having voted for any candidate who won......... In the last few years, I have been voting Green where applicable. But it seems that people who profess to care, still cannot find their way to vote outside the conventional political boxes -- even in the face of so much evidence that the conventional players are unwilling to change.

For me the assumption is it will be a minority government so I will be voting Green Party and hope they are part of the ruling group. The Liberals need to replace Justin before I will consider voting Liberal again.

I wonder why there has been so little coverage of the May 6th launch of The Pact for a Green New Deal. This is surely the most positive recent thing that has happened with regard to climate action in Canada.

Speaking of communication, I really think "solutions" is a word that should be retired. Climate change (or, to be more precise, anthropogenic climate disruption) is not a "problem" to which there is a "solution" (or even solutions) which, once they've been correctly applied, we can then say "problem solved." No matter what "solutions" we apply from here on in, climate change is the new condition of our planet we are going to have to live with. Yes, we can mitigate the effects, hopefully dial them down from catastrophic to disastrous, if every greenhouse-gas emitting nation on the planet takes drastic steps to reduce emissions starting today. And we can, and will have to, adapt to the changing conditions of increased droughts, wildfires, rising seas, etc. etc. But the one thing we cannot do with respoect to climate change is solve it.

"Merran Smith is the executive director and Trevor Melanson is the communications manager at Clean Energy Canada, a think tank at Simon Fraser University."
My question is: Is the Clean Energy think tank at SFU financed by the same major financial supporters of the FRASER INSTITUTE think tank? i.e. the major oil and gas conglomerates? and if so, will this series of articles have the same overtones as these cited below which are excerpts from the Fraser Institute website:
"Canada’s energy sector loses $20.6 billion in 2018 due to pipeline shortage
Elmira Aliakbari, Ashley Stedman
Appeared in the National Post, April 30, 2019
In November 2018, Canadian heavy oil was sold at 30 per cent of the value of U.S. oil."
"The Cost of Pipeline Constraints in Canada, 2019 finds that a lack of pipeline capacity in Canada is driving down the price of Canadian oil and cost the country’s energy sector C$20.6 billion in foregone revenues last year, even after adjusting for quality differences and transportation costs. In fact, the revenue loss in 2018 nearly eclipsed the amount for the previous five years combined (2013 to 2017) when Canada’s pipeline shortage cost our energy sector $20.7 billion"
I most sincerely hope someone can appease my suspiscions here. I do subscribe to the Observer and have always had full confidence in the veracity of what I read in it. I've also shared many articles with friends and family and hope to be able to continue doing so knowing that the information is not biased but factual.

Hi Lorraine,

I can assure you that at Clean Energy Canada we are dedicated to accelerating Canada’s clean energy transition by sharing the story of the global shift to renewable energy sources and clean technology. Please check out our work at and I am sure that you will be pleasantly surprised.

Good article. But now you need to follow up with what really is Canada's climate change plan. And compare this with what our plan is, with some of the other leading countries in the world-- probably these will be Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and then I don't know. But it does no good to say we have a good plan without then following and saying what our 'good plan' is.

Some serious rose colored glasses action here on biofuels. "our clean fuel standard (which will help accelerate the transition from gas and diesel to electricity and biofuels). . . Canada’s recent climate efforts have elevated the country from global pariah to international leader." Climate leaders don't spread misinformation about the climate footprint of biofuels.

I wrote this in the National Observer a while back, and perhaps should have been more blunt (links to sources in article): "the naïve acceptance of manufacturers’ claims for liquid biofuels (primarily biodiesel and ethanol). The climate benefits of liquid biofuels are often grossly overstated; the European Commission has committed to phase out food-based biofuels. Environment and Climate Change Canada has also committed to review the GHG footprint of biofuels, which should result in a more honest appraisal. Europe’s experience shows that extreme caution is needed with biofuels; renewable electricity is the best form of energy to replace fossil fuels in most transportation applications."

Hi Eric,

The Clean Fuel Standard (CFS) is a flexible measure that allows for a variety of solutions to lowering the overall carbon intensity of conventional liquid, gaseous, and solid fuels, these solutions include electrification, hydrogen, and yes bio-fuels. Not all of these solutions are perfect, and it is incredibly important that we understand the full lifecycle carbon footprint of every fuel, but we cannot let perfect be the enemy of the good.

The CFS will help reduce emissions in the hard to reach sectors of the economy like commercial jets and industrial processes, sectors where electrification isn't fully feasible yet. In other areas, it will encourage electrification or the adoption of other low or no technologies like hydrogen.

Climate change is an all of the above problem, and it is going to need all of the solutions we can muster.

eco-Options Energy Cooperative has worked 10 solid years within BC's excellent energy and sustainability ground rules and structures and has now reached the point where it is ready to launch. Between Friday and Monday, we advised 6 communities in BC with whom we have been working for up to 2 years, that we are now ready to begin the selection process, by which we will determine the installation sequence.

In order to get started quickly, what we are planning to do is to augment our import of low-carbon renewable diesel fuel from our US colleagues and their long-established refineries, with the manufacture of our own ultra-low carbon "Renewable Diesel Fuel from Trees" at these, and more sites in BC and along the west coast.

Our game plan to achieve at least BC's target of transport sector emissions reductions of 10 million tonnes per year by 2030, is a) switch fuels, b) focus on heavy-duty commercial trucks and c) that are primarily travelling along major corridors, such as the I5.

We expect to have very strong sustainability and economic messages!

The switch from fossil to plant-derived energy is now underway! eco-Options Energy, as a for-profit Cooperative, invites all commercial truckers and foresters, and all other interested parties, in joining with us in what is shaping up as a worthwhile and useful initiative, to scale. 604.531.7219 works!

Well, I'm reposting this article .. so .. not sure. It's true though, that finding anything in the media discussing "Climate Plan" is akin to finding a ... particular piece of straw in a bail of hay.