The Carbon Battle of ‘19

As Canadians fire up their barbeques and head to the beach, the political parties are planning campaign strategies for the October 21stelection, just a mere 100+ days away. 
A CBC poll of 4,500 Canadians found they were worried about the cost of living and deeply mistrusted politicians.  But right behind these two main findings was a concern about climate change.  About 20% of the respondents identified climate as their top issue.

The political parties are laying out their platforms and attacking their opponents.  Briefly here is the recipe that each party is offering:

Liberals:  They are not releasing their formal platform until the fall. But the existing climate change framework is a good indication of their plan.  The signature elements are; a carbon tax, coal electricity phase out, funding for green buildings, mass transit and green technology.  Not lost on Albertans is the undeclared war on the oilsands through pipeline cancellations and anti-pipeline legislation.

Conservatives: They released their platform on climate that includes elimination of a carbon tax in favour of taxes on larger emitters. The plan would offer a tax credit to retrofit homes and reduce the tax rate on green technology companies.  The plan is silent on coal.  Part of the plan would see shipping lower emission Canadian natural gas to countries currently using coal (read China).

The NDP: They would cancel the TMX pipeline and end all subsidies to the energy industry. They would focus on home energy retrofits and move toward free public transit using zero emission vehicles.  Their plan retains the carbon tax and increases taxes on large emitters.  A “climate bank” would subsidize green technology.

The Greens: They would stop all further pipeline expansions and exports of oil and natural gas. They would end coalfired electricity, and end oilsands and LNG expansions and increase domestic refining. They would retain the carbon tax, and end subsidies to the energy industry in favour of green technology subsidies. They would invest in Via Rail and more public transit. 

The Provinces:  Five provinces, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have formed a block attacking the federal carbon tax.  The tax is portrayed as ineffective at managing climate change and a “tax grab”. Mostly the Premiers forget to mention the rebates that follow the “tax grab”! The message is that climate change should not cost taxpayers anything.  And the added talking point that Canada’s emissions are miniscule on a global level (1.5%) has many people convinced carbon taxes are a bad idea. The goal of the provinces is to defeat the Liberals and elect the Conservatives.

Courtesy Mackay Hamilton Spectator.

While much can change through the campaign it seems the climate positions of the players are locked in. The arguments will be loud and attacks on the personalities of the leaders will form part of the strategy.  There isn’t any ‘stateman-like’ behaviour in this debate; something that would befit the global crisis that approaches.  Nor have the two main parties demonstrated their plans will actually meet the international commitments to CO2 reduction we promised.  

Many Albertans will see the climate change policy debate as an attack on Alberta’s prosperity.  And certainly, some parties are happy to see oilsands production and investment stall.  

Some recent polls forecast the potential for a minority government.  Would the smaller parties holding the balance of power insist on killing TMX and LNG exports as the price of keeping the Liberals or Conservatives in power?