Editorial: Vote to protect our country and planet

That massive climate strike in Montreal on September 27 was our Woodstock: We were half a million strong, young and old, students and teachers, and members of Indigenous communities, who had gathered in a massive collective statement, not about 1960s peace and love, but a collective recognition that global warming poses a clear and present threat to our planet, and that massive action is required.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, his wife Sophie Grégoire, and two of their three children, were among the marchers. He was not above criticism, from 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who said he was not doing enough. Some shouted at him.

Environmentalists do not like his government’s $4.6 billion purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and commitment to expand it to carry tar-sand bitumen to the B.C. coast for trans-shipment to Asian markets. Politics is the art of the possible, and though we oppose the move, we understand that Trudeau is navigating a delicate path between the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with such important and effective initiatives as the carbon tax, and keep the economy in oil-rich Alberta humming as we transition away from fossil-fuel dependence.

But the harsh truth is there for all to see: Burning fossil fuels are a principal source of carbon emissions worldwide, which in May were recorded at 415 parts per million, compared to 300 ppm recorded in 1910.

The Liberals’ introduction of the carbon tax, which Andrew Scheer has promised to scrap, has been a good start. Scheer claims that carbon pricing has “proven to fail” in spite of evidence that it has been effective in the northeastern U.S, the U.K., Sweden, and even B.C., where carbon emissions on a per capita basis have decreased since the carbon tax was introduced. Scheer’s focus is on “green technology, not taxes” and he proposed a tax credit to companies using Canadian patented green technology, a $250 million privately managed green technology fund that would require the private sector to contribute $4 for every $1 from government.

They want to repeal the law that created a new authority for assessing the environmental impact of energy projects and set new emissions standards for major polluters. But the devil is the details, and there are no details.

Facilities that emit greenhouse gases will have to invest a certain amount to offset these emissions, above a certain cap, but there is no information on the investment amount or the cap. And what was Andrew Scheer doing when Trudeau and Elizabeth May were marching in Montreal, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was with climate protesters in Victoria?

Scheer announced plans for infrastructure upgrade in urban areas, targeting urban automobile commuters, including a promise to prioritize the expansion of a B.C. tunnel from four lanes to eight. He claimed that this latter expansion would save commuters time and reduce carbon emissions, even though it will create what experts call “induced demand” – expanding road capacity increases traffic by encouraging drivers to use it.

But what worries us is how Scheer, who is the oil and gas industries’ best friend in this campaign, will pay for the promises he ends up making in his bid to win power. When Conservative Doug Ford pulled Ontario out of the cap and trade market, according to a report in the National Observer, his government cancelled 227 emissions-reducing projects in the province.

The cap and trade agreement result in a $2.09 billion fund being accumulated in Ontario, and those most affected by its cancellations were students, low-income Ontarians, municipalities and commuters. Will Scheer’s election and cancellation of the carbon tax produce a similar result nationally? We would rather not take that chance to find out.

The Liberals say they want to plant two billion trees over ten years as part of a plan to get Canada to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with legally binding five-year milestones. That project is tied to the announced goal to conserve and protect 25 per cent of Canada’s land and 25 per cent of Canada’s oceans by 2025, working toward 30 per cent in each area by 2030. It plans to ban “harmful” single use plastics by 2021 and transition to clean electricity to power federal buildings by 2022.

Governments can only do so much to slow down the rate of climate change. Each of us can and must do more to reduce consumption, reuse instead of replacing, and recycle. We can take fewer long-distance air flights, eat less meat, use public transit, switch to electric cars. When we load up with plastic stuff from dollar stores, and toss it out, we are only encouraging the use of fossil fuels in China to produce more stuff, most of which ends up in landfill.

All of us, and our major institutions, such as airlines, hospitals, and schools, must seek out alternatives to plastic! Certainly, the NDP and Green Party have strong programs to protect and enhance the environment. But given our first-past-the-post electoral system, and since according to all surveys, the Liberal and Conservative parties are the only ones with enough popular support in enough ridings to be in a position to form a government, we urge readers to follow up on their concern for the planet by rejecting the alternative and vote for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

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