Editorial: This could be the ‘environment’ election

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With unprecedented heat waves in Western Europe and India, we ignore dire warnings about the worsening state of the world’s environment at our peril.

Will the various approaches proposed by our parties to slow global warming be the ballot questions when Canadians go to the polls October 21? Or will it be the usual issues, such as leadership, time for a change, a revolt against taxes, or a protest at the growth of income inequality? In the current climate, can the Green Party extend its two seats with gains in
central and eastern Canada? Will the New Democratic Party make gains with its platform? Or will Canadians continue to alternate between Liberals and Conservatives?

On the environment, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have staked out a position that seeks to combine efforts to save the environment even as it supports the fossil-fuel industry. That approach was underscored lasts month when they approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline that will carry bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands to the B.C. coast for trans-shipment to eventual markets in Asia. At the same time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to pump any profit from the eventual sale of Trans Mountain, which his government purchased for $4.6 billion, into transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources.

The Liberals continue their support for the carbon tax, which Andrew Scheer and his Conservatives plan to scrap, as a way to cap its production. Meanwhile the Liberals continue to promise support for the fossil fuel industry. We oppose the Trans Mountain expansion as does Quebec environmental activist Steven Guilbeault. But in announcing he will seek a Liberal nomination this fall, he said he supports other measures to fight climate change that the government has undertaken.

He added that if the Conservatives win the election, “everything we’ve worked for in those past four years will be gone, and we will be back to what was happening under the Harper years.”

Scheer says if elected he will slap an emissions cap on heavy emitters, which appears unlikely, since Ontario and Alberta are the provinces with the most large emitters and they already have a carbon price over a certain cap. Would the Tories override the provincial ones, both of which have Conservative governments? A significant boost in the levy would make the producers
uncompetitive in world markets. Scheer would reintroduce a home-tax credit of $900 million, to pay for energy-saving renovations up to $20,000. But in stating that “Canada wouldn’t make a global impact by focusing only on reducing emissions without our borders,” Scheer’s Conservatives signal weak commitment to government action. The NDP under leader Jagmeet Singh promises to cut Canada’s emission almost in half over the next decade. It is also committed to scrapping government aid to the fossil fuel industry and canceling the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The Greens, in a broad program, want to reach a 60 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and zero emissions by 2050, maintain carbon pricing, scrap all subsidies to fossil fuels, ban fracking, rebuild and revamp the east-west energy grid and by 2030 ensure that all new cars are electric.

If the Greens gain traction with their program, they could reasonably be expected to prop up one of the bigger parties, and the only parties with whom they could work are the NDP and the Liberals. Judging from opinion polls, the Liberals with their compromise position stand the best chance of making real progress on environmental issues.

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