With unprecedented importance of climate change in the upcoming October 2019 election, and the weakness of the governing Liberal party on the issue, the NDP and Green Party are keenly competing for votes, as described in Aaron Wherry’s analysis for the CBC, “With Singh’s environment plan, the left-centre climate change bidding war begins” (June 1) . On May 16, Canada’s Green Party released a five-page plan called Mission Possible: The Green Climate Action Plan , built on the foundation of the Green Party’s overall policy Vision . On May 31, the leader of the New Democratic Party released Power to change: A new deal for climate action and good jobs .
Green Party Proposal: The Green Party’s Mission Possible Plan (press release is here ), “incorporates all the requirements for economic justice, just transition, the guarantee of meaningful work, while also respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.” It endorses the Pact for a Green New Deal, and promises to go beyond it, stating: “Canadian Greens applaud their commitment and enthusiasm and wholeheartedly endorse their demands for decisive action on the climate emergency, mainly because we have been describing and promoting this exact thing sometime past forever.”
Specifically, Mission Possible calls for Step #1 to “Declare a Climate Emergency: Accept, at every level of government, that climate is not an environmental issue. It is the gravest security threat the world has ever seen.” The 20 action items in Mission Possible include: double the country’s 2030 emissions reduction target to 60%; maintain carbon pricing; abolish fracking; green and modernize the east-west electricity grid; complete a national building retrofit; ensure that all new vehicles are electric by 2030 and address emissions from international shipping, aviation and the military. Without using the term “Just Transition”, the recommended actions reflect a recognition of the need for jobs in the new greener economy, the role of re-skilling, and the need for a gradual transition for workers in the fossil fuel sector. The controversial bit: Although the Greens oppose new fossil fuel projects and fracking in Canada and propose to end all foreign oil imports, the plan supports new pipelines to transport Alberta’s oil. They call for a shift for all Canadian bitumen from fuel to feedstock for the petrochemical industry by 2050, and state that “ pipelines would be needed to transport refined product (gasoline, propane, diesel) instead of diluted bitumen.”
The National Observer summary of the plan is here , and CBC summarizes it in “Greens call for a doubling of Canada’s carbon emissions reduction target”. CBC also discusses the most controversial elements in “ Elizabeth May wants to only use Canadian oil — a plan Quebec’s Green Party leader can’t support” .
New Democratic Party: Power to change: A new deal for climate action and good jobs was released by the NDP on May 31 – a plan which aims to reduce Canada’s emissions to 38 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, achieve net carbon-free electricity by 2030, and create at least 300,000 good jobs. Proposals to reach the targets include: Immediate elimination of fossil fuel subsidies ( valued at $3.3 billion, which would be reinvested in clean strategies); a Low Carbon Industrial Strategy which would, for example, use Buy Canadian procurement; establishment of a new Canadian Climate Bank, capitalized with $3 billion from the federal government to invest in clean technologies; a Clean Communities Fund to support investments in innovative community-owned and operated clean energy projects; make all new buildings in Canada “net-zero ready” by 2030 and retrofit existing buildings by 2050; continuation of the federal electric vehicle purchase subsidies with $5,000 federal purchase incentive (rising in time to $15,000 for made-in-Canada vehicles), plus exemption on the federal sales tax for working families; electrification of Canada’s transit fleets by 2030, and a commitment to work with municipalities towards establishing fare-free transit. Other important proposals: enact an Environmental Bill of Rights guaranteeing clean air, land, and water for Canadians, and tackle pollution with a ban on single-use plastics by 2022, and develop extended producer responsibility legislation to hold companies responsible for the entire lifecycle of their plastics products and packaging. The platform is summarized in the Toronto Star and in the National Observer in “NDP climate plan hinges on electrification, helping workers impacted by climate change”.
The NDP tries to differentiate itself from the Green Party chiefly by its emphasis on jobs and workers, promising to create at least 300,000 good jobs in energy efficiency retrofits, affordable housing, renewable energy, infrastructure, and transit. Specifically, it pledges to make the Employment Insurance system more responsive to the realities of transition by making easier to qualify for EI, and giving workers the option of taking EI-based training before being laid off , and to receive EI if they leave a job to go back to school. The plan further promises to address injustice for Indigenous communities in training opportunities and education, as well as injustice for women, racialized Canadians, Indigenous peoples, and other under-represented groups for apprenticeships. The plan also pledges to create a framework for enshrining Community Benefits Agreements in federally-funded infrastructure projects. The controversial position for the NDP occurred before the release of Power to Change, and is described by The Energy Mix in “Singh discovers new interest in climate, declares against oil and gas fracking in wake of B.C. byelection loss” (May 14) . As a result of the NDP’s position opposing the LNG terminal in Kitimat and the Coastal Gas pipeline project, some union leaders in B.C. are “not happy with Jagmeet Singh, according to The Toronto Star (May 15).
“NDP Reveals ‘Ambitious’ Climate Change Plan” in Vice (May 31) quotes positive reaction from spokespersons from Environmental Defence and 350.org , but includes the criticism of the Liberal Minister of Environment and Climate Change: “The NDP would do almost as much harm to the economy as the Conservatives want to do to the planet,” … “The NDP want to do some of the things we are already doing to fight climate change, but their approach would threaten jobs and hurt workers.” Similarly, the Toronto Star published “ NDP’s $15-billion climate plan greeted with mixed reviews” , which gives voice to the criticisms of the Green Party and Liberal political leaders , as well as Chris Ragan of the Ecofiscal Commission. From the Globe and Mail, ” NDP Climate Policy is serious but not radical“.
In contrast, the United Steelworkers issued a press release calling the NDP plan “the most comprehensive environmental platform of any of the parties”… “This climate plan is worker-oriented and jobs-centred. … this plan specifically mentions working with labour and refers to the recommendations of the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities.”