The Liberal party of Justin Trudeau was returned to power in the Canadian federal election on October 21 as a minority government. Enthusiasts such as the Washington Post called the election “a victory for the planet”, based on the fact that climate change was a key issue and that a strong majority of the popular vote went to the four parties with serious plans for action (Liberals, Greens, NDP, and the Bloc). Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada , sums up a more complex situation in a National Observer article : “With at least 63 per cent of voters casting ballots for parties that put forward strong climate platforms, it is clear that a majority of Canadians asked for more ambitious and urgent climate action…People voted out of fear of the Conservatives today, rejecting their threats to roll back climate policy. At the same time, voters did not have enough confidence in the Liberal climate record to hand them another majority.”
Environmental activists are determined to press the Liberal government to forge ahead with strong climate action – as evidenced by the arrest of 27 protesters on October 28. Youth activists organized by Our Time for a Green New Deal were arrested and served with a 30-day ban from Parliament Hill after holding a sit-in in the House of Commons in an attempt to deliver “mandate letters” to newly-elected members of Parliament. The letters call for a Green New Deal, including strong climate action, respect for Indigenous rights, job creation, and adherence to the IPCC target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. The CBC and Common Dreams describe the protest demonstration. The mandate letter is here, as part of the Our Time ongoing news reports.
What do environmentalists want from the new government?
In “Climate Community Declares the Win as Polling Shows Climate Concern Driving Vote” , Energy Mix compiles reactions from representatives of Climate Action Network-Canada, Smart Prosperity, Clean Energy Canada, and others across Canada and the U.S.
“Canada to Trudeau – We expect more on climate” is a press release from Oil Change International which lays out four core demands: Legislate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Promote a just transition for oil and gas workers and communities; Say no to Trans Mountain Pipeline, and Eliminate all fossil fuel subsidies.
“With Climate On The Agenda, Advocates Call For Legislated Targets, Fossil Industry Phasedown” is an Opinion piece by Mitchell Beer in The Energy Mix which surveys responses of environmentalists, including that of Environmental Defence Executive Director Tim Gray, calling for: “a legislated and more ambitious greenhouse gas target, an accountability mechanism to keep emission reductions on track, a swift end to fossil fuel subsidies, and reform of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act as first orders of business for the new government.”
“McKenna wins, Sohi loses in mixed result for Liberals on green, energy files” in the National Observer comments on the results of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the loss for the Minister of Natural Resources, both of whom have carried the torch of Liberal climate policy.
“What a Liberal minority government means for Canada’s environment” in The Narwhal predicts the likely policies which will survive in the minority position, including a carbon tax, incentives for electric vehicles, a ban on single use plastics, and “sooner rather than later”, a phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies.
“Minority government an opportunity for progressives” , a press release by Jerry Dias, president of Unifor , states that the union is “already making plans, in fact, to go to Ottawa and push progressive causes, including labour law reform, infrastructure funding, green transition, pharmacare, electoral reform, affordable housing and more.”
Articles addressing the election’s other take-away, regional divisions:
“Why are Albertans so damned angry?” in The Straight (Oct. 25) has been widely praised in the Twittersphere. The article is by Eric Denhoff, a self-described “Prairie boy” and a former deputy minister in B.C. and Alberta under Liberal, NDP, Conservative, and Social Credit governments. He writes that “Trudeau and his Ottawa team are mystified that having factually delivered much more cash to Alberta in four years than Harper in nine-plus, buying a pipeline at considerable political expense, they face this level of hostility.” But sparing no criticism of Alberta Conservative Premier Jason Kenney, Denhoff concludes that “politicians find it easy to trade in a province with a median family income 25 percent or so higher than the rest of the country, with no sales tax, lower income and corporate taxes, and services Ontarians could only dream about. So, the battle will continue… more intense than ever. Ottawa will have to give, and Alberta will have to adjust. As in any relationship.”
“Liberal win stokes talk of separation in Alberta” from the Calgary Herald and “Oilpatch market reaction muted after election of minority Liberal government” in The Star .
“A landslide win for climate politics. Now beware its nemeses” (Oct. 22) in the National Observer states: “We have got to be self-reflective at an important moment like this, and we should beware the twin nemeses of victory — factionalism and triumphalism….We can’t allow the parties’ activists and operators to go on placing politics above planet….we need to raise the chorus demanding deeper, faster action and simultaneously convince sensible, normal people that the policies needed are completely reasonable.”
“Of course Canada is divided- that’s the whole point of elections” by Crawfod Kilian in The Tyee (Oct. 24) calls for us to focus on the self-diagnosis in the election results, “and explore possible remedies for all our ailments: Progressive Narcissism, the Tories’ Prairie Victimization Syndrome, the Bloc’s Passive-Aggressive Separatism, and the Liberals’ High-Functioning Climate Denialism.”
“Politicians Offered a Choice between Climate Fantasies as Our Future Grows Bleaker” (Oct. 25) in The Tyee in which Andrew Nikoforuk grimly states: “Our pathetic politics reflects the inertia in the fossil fuel system, the moral poverty of the status quo and a popular denial about the scale of change required to prevent an unending emergency.”
Shawn McCarthy, former Globe and Mail reporter, writes in the National Observer – “What Trudeau needs to do to win the West”. He calls for “a multi-pronged approach to address the seemingly contradictory realities: the urgent need to reduce emissions, and the uneven cost that effort imposes across the country.” He argues “We tend to focus on — and argue over — the supply side of the energy equation, especially oil and gas versus renewables. The demand side requires far more attention. There is a vast amount of progress that can be made in improving our national efficiency and reducing energy consumption, thereby saving businesses and consumers money over the medium term.”
In a similar vein, Bruce Lourie , Director of Canadians for Clean Prosperity wrote in the National Observer before the election: “If Scheer wins, Albertans can kiss their economic future goodbye” . He promotes a Capital Plan for Clean Prosperity and states: “The only option for Canada is to understand and embrace the complexity of how to finance the transition to a clean economy through a measured, long-term transition investment strategy that sees the cleaning up of the fossil fuel sector in a way that demonstrates global leadership. Politicians pitting different parts of Canada against each other is about the worst possible outcome for Canadians and a sad reflection on the narrow-mindedness of our Balkanized politicians. We need to be competing with the world, not each other.”
For readers from the international community seeking more insight into Canadian politics, the New York Times focuses on the regional differences in “Trudeau Re-election Reveals Intensified Divisions in Canada” and Jeremy Wildeman of the University of Bath, England explains “Justin Trudeau’s political setback: A surprise to the world, but not to Canada” in The Conversation .