Election Post-Mortems Point to Conservatives’ Climate Problem, Urge Massive Federal Investment in Carbon Reductions
In the wake of last week’s federal election results, two different clean transition organizations are pointing to the climate policy problem now facing Conservative politicians in Canada, and the opportunity for governments to invest in the shift off carbon.
Clean Prosperity draws on voter data to show that the federal Conservatives’ climate policy hurt their electoral prospects, while the Council for Clean Capitalism urges Ottawa to direct C$50 billion per year over the next six years to innovation and energy efficiency in buildings, transportation, electricity, heavy industry, and oil and gas.
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The release from Clean Prosperity cites a poll it commissioned from the Policy, Elections and Representation Lab at the University of Toronto, conducted October 22-23 with 1,100 Canadians. “Voters who turned away from the federal Conservatives on Monday were overwhelmingly concerned about climate change,” the organization concludes. “Of voters who did not vote for Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, 20% said they would consider voting Conservative—but 77% also said climate change was among their top issues. Those same voters were unimpressed with the Conservative plan for climate change, giving it an average rating of D.”
The conclusion: “Conservatives missed out on thousands of potential votes across the country thanks to a weak climate plan.”
“Andrew Scheer lost ground with people who might have supported him,” said Executive Director Michael Bernstein. “So if Conservatives are going to win an election anytime soon, they will need to develop a more credible climate plan and need to embrace the carbon tax and rebate.”
The release adds that 59% of Canadians said they supported the carbon tax, compared to 16% who opposed it—and 59% across the country, 61% in Ontario, cited it as one of their top election issues. “The debate on the carbon tax was settled by this election,” Bernstein said. “It’s not only good policy, it’s now good politics.”
But while New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs had the good sense last week to read the election results and commit to a provincial carbon pricing strategy, Ontario Premier Doug Ford doubled down on his likely futile Supreme Court challenge to the federal backstop price on carbon. “Premier Ford needs to learn from Andrew Scheer’s mistake,” Bernstein said. “He’s fighting against the only climate change policy that puts money back in people’s pockets—a policy Ontarians support—and he is wasting taxpayer dollars in the process.”
The Council for Clean Capitalism, meanwhile, released an action plan in the dying days of the campaign that would put Canada on a war footing against the climate emergency, writes former Globe and Mail energy and climate specialist Shawn McCarthy. “The Capital Plan for Clean Prosperity represents the kind of government efforts that are typically employed only in time of a major war or economic crisis, and its proponents argue that such an economy-wide intervention is precisely what is required to prepare Canada for the rapid transition to a low-carbon economy that will be essential to avert the worst impacts of climate change,” he writes.
“Under the council’s proposal, grants would be made available to oil and gas and heavy industry companies that could guarantee that the investments would result in a 50% reduction in either greenhouse gas emissions or energy use in the targeted operations,” he explains. “Similarly, developers and contractors would receive grants for zero-carbon-ready buildings, whether through new construction or retrofits, while fleet operators, including transit authorities, would receive grants to cover the incremental costs of upgrading new vehicle purchases to be zero-emission vehicles (ZEV). Funds would also be made available to cover the full cost of interprovincial high-voltage, direct-current (HVDC) power lines.”
The modelling behind the proposal, produced by green business publication Corporate Knights, pointed to an annual greenhouse gas reduction of 139 megatonnes by 2025, enough to cover 70% of Canada’s current target under the Paris Agreement. “The GHG reductions would be in addition to the impact of measures adopted by federal and provincial governments over the past four years, which Environment Canada has projected would leave Canada some 78 megatonnes above its target of 513 megatonnes in 2030,” McCarthy says.
“The Capital Plan for Clean Prosperity demonstrates that transitioning to a low-carbon economy is less about ‘shutting down’ than it is about retooling, diversifying, and growing,” said Council coordinator and Corporate Knights publisher Toby Heaps. He added that fossil sector investment “offers the biggest carbon savings bang for buck, and where production costs per barrel will be critical to remaining competitive.”
The Council for Clean Capitalism include Teck Resources, which is currently seeking regulatory approval of a massive new tar sands/oil sands mine in northern Alberta, as well as HP Canada, Sun Life Financial Canada, BGIS, the former real estate arm of Brookfield Asset Management, and BASF Canada.