Election Wrap: International Poll Flags Climate as Canadians’ Top Concern
As Canada’s federal election campaign entered its third week, a new international opinion poll identified climate change as Canadians’ leading concern, Green Party leader Elizabeth May promised to replace East Coast oil imports with domestic crude, and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer pledged to fast-track new pipeline proposals directly to the Supreme Court.
The poll by UK-based NGO Hope Not Hate covered 11,469 respondents from Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, National Observer reports, and the group said it weighted the samples to reflect each country’s demographics. In seven of the eight countries, citizens cited the climate crisis as their top concern. In the United States, climate placed third, behind terrorism and health care.
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Of the 1,599 Canadians surveyed, half said the Trudeau government “has not been bold enough in addressing climate change,” Observer writes. “Just over half of the Canadians polled also said they would be more likely to vote for a political party or candidate who promised to cut the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. As well, 43% said they strongly felt politicians put the interests of big oil companies before communities.”
The Canadian respondents listed climate change, rising food and energy costs, and the environment or pollution as their top three issues, and 77% agreed with the statement that “the world is facing a climate emergency, and unless greenhouse gas emissions fall dramatically in the next few years global warming will become extremely dangerous.” Observer says 53% strong supported more clean energy development, 30% agreed with a carbon tax on polluting products, coupled with tax cuts for clean items, 28% approved of curtailing new fossil development, and 17% agreed with taxes on frequent fliers.
On the campaign trail, Green Party leader Elizabeth May committed to a 2040 deadline to hit a zero-emission target for all ground-level public transit in Canada, and told voters in Calgary Friday that she would support replacing oil imports with domestic supplies.
“The future for all of us, including people in the fossil fuel sector, is far scarier if we don’t act” on the climate crisis, she said. “There is no special climate planet called Alberta which can be insulated from the harm.”
But to soften the impact of the transition for Canadian fossil workers, “the Greens say Canada should turn off the tap to oil imports, using only Canadian fossil fuels and allow investment in upgrades to turn Canadian solid bitumen into gas, diesel, propane, and other products for the Canadian market,” the Globe and Mail writes. As well, “May said the country’s energy workers are highly skilled and will be able to transition, with training support, to new green jobs such as retrofitting orphaned wells to produce geothermal energy.”
Tristan Goodman, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, which represents small and mid-sized fossils, said his members would welcome the Greens’ emphasis on curtailing imports. “There are benefits to looking at that concept,” he told the Globe. “Canada has no issue with being 100% self-reliant with oil or gas.”
Other industry voices are less inclined to welcome May’s message. “It’s hard to come up with the proper adjective or description for the Green Party of Canada’s energy policy in its platform released on September 16,” writes Pipeline News Editor Brian Zinchuk, in a guest column for the Battlefords News-Optimist. “Devastating doesn’t come close. Apocalyptic is closer. As much as I hate to say it, this is Elizabeth May’s ‘final solution’ for the Canadian oilpatch.”
May “is not talking about wiping out people, true,” he adds. “Just the entire industry—one of the most valuable industries in the entire nation.”
The Greens are proposing “job transition programs for workers in the oil, gas, and coal sectors as part of their plan to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 60% from 2005 levels by the year 2030,” the Globe and Mail clarifies. “As a start, they would budget C$400-million in the coming year to help coal workers either retrain or transition to an early retirement.”
[Neither side of that argument factors in the recent report that Canada’s energy efficiency industries already employ 436,000 people, twice as many as oil and gas.—Ed.]
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, meanwhile, put forward a proposal to work around grassroot opposition to new fossil pipelines by referring projects directly to the Supreme Court of Canada. “It’s about fast-tracking some of the questions that have been raised by people who oppose the project,” he said. “Fast-tracking those cases to the Supreme Court—referring those types of jurisdictional questions to the Supreme Court right away so that we can get certainty, instead of watching these court cases move slowly up and up, being appealed. We would have taken that directly to get finality on those decisions.”
Legal observers were divided on how Scheer’s plan would play out.
“He does have the power to put a question to the Supreme Court and bypass any other levels,” said University of Ottawa law professor Carissima Mathen. But “if he is talking about keeping them as live cases, I don’t know how he does that.”
“Technically, it’s not a real case, and technically, it has no real binding power,” said Elizabeth Edinger, an associate law professor at the University of British Columbia. “But the fact is that reference cases are guarded with great respect.”
On Friday, Scheer zigged, then zagged on whether his earlier proposal to cut $1.5 billion in corporate handouts would target fossil fuel subsidies.
At first, he said the subsidies were off the table “because the world and Canada need more Canadian oil and gas,” The Canadian Press reports. “Later in the day he issued a statement saying fossil fuel subsidies would be among the things a Conservative government would review to find the savings.”
“As long as there is international demand for oil and gas, I believe that Canada should be the one supplying it,” Scheer said Friday morning.
“A Conservative government will conduct a review of all business subsidy programs and eliminate those with no benefit to Canadians—including those in the oil and gas sector,” he countered later in the day. “We are going to take money away from already profitable, rich, or foreign companies and then put money back into Canadians’ pockets.”