Last month’s election shows that climate change is at the forefront of Canadians’ minds and political discourse.
If elections last month Canada sends any message to the whole world, it is that climate change is now a major component of political discourse, especially in the North American country.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won a second term, albeit with a minority government, runs the message of climate and economic balance.
In the first half, Trudeau implementing federal carbon pollution price, starting at around $ 15 ($ 20 Canadian) per ton and increased to about $ 37 ($ 50 Canadian) per ton in 2022, with rebates for the individual. After the election, Trudeau recommitted to work on climate change, but said he still plans to extend a controversial oil pipeline opposed by environmentalists.
Trudeau is set to unveil his new cabinet on Wednesday, with the next session of Parliament opened on December 5. The environment will seek Trudeau’s throne speech next month for signs of how he will approach climate change in the coming year.
Canada October elections were the closest the country has ever come to a referendum on climate change. For the first time, all major parties make climate plans ahead for the 10-biggest emitter in the world. Canada also sits on the third-largest oil reserves in the world.
Polls show Canadians have become increasingly concerned about climate change. A government report published in April found that Canada is warming at twice the global level, with northern Canada experienced a heat load. Around the world, the increasingly dire reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and natural disasters more frequent and intense weekly school have prompted strikes by children and adolescents, including in Canada.
During the election, Trudeau climate strike marches in Montreal, drawing the eye from activists who believe he was not aggressive enough on climate, highlighting the government purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline in an effort to ensure expansion.
But ultimately the voters see it as a better alternative to the Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who promised to repeal the carbon price and running on a climate plan that maintains the status quo.
‘Carbon pricing is not political suicide’
Polls show Canadians want Trudeau to climate change in a second term.
David Coletto, one of the founding partner and CEO of Data Abacus, surveyed Canada before the election on issues including climate change and found that 42 percent would describe it as an emergency, and 30 percent said they were not quite ready to call it, but they think it will in the near future.
“So that’s the starting point is that there is widespread recognition that it is happening and we need to do something about it,” said Coletto Al Jazeera.
Voters surveyed by Abacus also rank climate change as the number one issue driving them to the polls last month.
Climate data showing a key ballot question said, Coletto. “If you do not have a serious climate plan, if you are not taken seriously this issue, people will not vote for you.”
Coletto also pointed to the climatic attack as a factor in the election. “It’s a message or a lesson for Canada that we can send all over the world – young people, if you are involved you can have an impact,” he added.
Andrew Leach, associate professor at the University of Alberta focuses on the environment and energy, said the results would indicate that the Liberals ran on a comprehensive climate plan and despite some scandals to win more seats.
“You can have a carbon price and it is not political suicide, and still be filed by the parties at least in the center in terms of resource development,” he said.
Cat Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network, agreed that the climate has become a political priority.
Having a weak climate plan was miscalculated by the Conservatives, said Abreu. They can increase the number of their seats in Ontario and Quebec if they have a plan that is more powerful.
“Should the Conservatives took the issue more seriously, they probably would have put up a better fight in their ridings,” added Abreu.
By walking in canceling a price on carbon, which Scheer called “taxes”, he said they were riling up the base that will choose them anyway.
Leach added this election shows the conversation has moved out of the question “are we to act?” to “how do we act?”
Now that Trudeau has been reelected, the carbon price may not be revoked.
While Abreu hopes that the left-wing parties such as the New Democratic Party (NDP), which opposes the expansion of pipeline projects, would encourage the Liberal minority government to more aggressively on climate change, Trudeau has said the expansion of the Trans Mountain is one of his main priorities.
Trudeau plans to use the funds from the project to invest in three-billion-dollar proposal to reduce emissions of Canada. The measures included the planting of two billion trees over the next 10 years. He said the initiative will create about 3,000 new jobs in the planting of trees.
Trudeau bought the pipe because the owner, Kinder Morgan, threatening to withdraw from the project. Trudeau said pipe gives Canada the opportunity to get a better price for the oil. Many in Alberta supports the pipeline because they believe it will increase employment in the oil sector.
But others, including environmentalists and some indigenous groups, worried what it might mean for land expansion and communities along the road.
Because Trudeau had a minority government, he will need others to support his speech from the throne to reopen Parliament. The speech will lay out his priorities ahead. Environmentalists hope it will include climate change.
Abreu said Climate Action Network encourages governments to include concrete climate action in the letters of credentials to Minister Trudeau’s cabinet. He asked the government to act quickly to entrench Canadian climate targets – reducing emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 – in law, building infrastructure for electric vehicles and began planting trees. Abreu said it was important to start a conversation about a just transition to a sustainable future for the western provinces.
Coletto Abacus warned that the data shows the climate has become the most polarizing issue in Canada, with western provinces voting Conservative and eastern provinces of votes for party-center and left-wing.
western provinces concerned about the climate, Abreu said, but they feel more anxious over their work tied to the oil and gas sector. “It was much more conversations about the failure of the previous government to have the courage to do some conversations were really serious about economic diversification and job creation in the provinces,” he said.
“The election results meant they would have [other] parties to encourage them to go further than they would be alone,” he said of the Liberals. He expects the NDP, for example, to encourage the Liberals to more ambitious climate action.
However, the Liberals will tend to work with the Conservatives to move forward on energy infrastructure, including the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta oil sands to the west coast of Canada.
Abreu is heartened by the election results last month and said the government hoped to form in the future will have to show they are serious about fighting climate change.
If Trudeau can talk to the throne was passed in Parliament next month, he will have the momentum he needed to move forward on the climate action plan, but he will also face pressure to reach the western provinces who feel alienated and want to see the pipeline built.
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