Climate change will be a top issue as Canada votes on October 21

canada flagOn September 11, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau officially kicked off the  federal election, with voting set for October 21.  Throughout the summer, polls have consistently shown that climate change and environmental issues will be a high priority for voters – an August survey by Abacaus Data showed 82 per cent of Canadians say climate change is a serious problem and 42% think it is an emergency, ranking concern about climate change second only to the rising cost of living.  In September, researchers from the Université de Montréal and the University of California Santa Barbara released estimates of Canadian opinion on climate actions in almost every single riding across the country, with an online interactive tool  enabling anyone to see how their local riding compares to others across the country.

The Liberal government will be running on their climate change record – characterized by their “we don’t have to choose between the economy and the environment” approach, brought to life in their handling of the Trans Mountain pipeline .  The other party platforms are here:   Green Party: Mission Possible: The Green Climate Action Plan; New Democratic Party: Power to change: A new deal for climate action and good jobs, and Conservative Party:  A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment . “Where the four main parties stand on climate issues”  is a Globe and Mail  “Explainer” by Shawn McCarthy and Marieke Walsh (Sept 8), which quotes academic experts from all sides of the issue: Andrew Leach, University of Alberta; Jennifer Winter, University of Calgary; Mark Jaccard, Simon Fraser University;Kathryn Harrison, University of British Columbia, and Chris Ragan, chair, Ecofiscal Commission.

How to choose amongst the platforms?

Some commentators urge voting by your conscience – for example, Arno Kopecky in his Opinion Piece, “So What’s a progressive voter to do?”  in The Tyee. Others urge strategic voting – such as Mark Jaccard, energy economist and professor at Simon Fraser University, who stated in his August 1 Blog : “Climate-concerned Canadians need to vote strategically this fall to make sure they don’t elect a climate-insincere government. At the time of writing this blog, the most likely outcome is that the 65% of Canadians who tell pollsters they want a climate-sincere government will split their vote among three parties and enable the election of a climate-insincere government, just as in 2006-2015.” Activist Tzeporah Berman also warns against a split vote in a Toronto Star article “David Suzuki on climate change: ‘We have to address it as if it’s war’”  (Sept. 3), and Sandy Garossino wrote in July, “Despite Pipeline Approval, $70-Billion Federal Plan Is Canada’s Best Shot at Decarbonizing”in The Energy Mix . Garossino’s arguments were almost immediately challenged by UBC Professor Kathryn Harrison in “How ‘Serious’ is a Climate Plan that relies on Pipelines”    .

Unions are also Opinion Leaders   

The Canadian Labour Congress election positions are gathered under their webpage banner: “A Fair Canada for Everyone” , which prioritizes Pharmacare,
Retirement Security, Climate Action, Good Jobs, and Equity and Inclusion.  A statement re Climate positions calls for green manufacturing and infrastructure, better transit and electric vehicles, and green building and retrofits.

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)  launched their CUPE Votes website in August,  endorsing the New Democratic Party and offering information and tools for locals and individuals to get involved in the election. Informational “Notes” lay out positions on key issues, including, Climate Change and the Environment.

Unifor launched a “massive” member-to-member campaign for the election on September 4 under the banner of “Stop Scheer”.  At the national constitutional convention in August, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland addressed the full convention.

The United Steelworkers have endorsed the New Democratic Party – their Election 2019 webpage  offers news and resources, including their May 31 statement, “NDP Climate Plan Protects our Planet and our Jobs”  .  View the Steelworkers’ TV election ads here .

Some Websites to follow for climate-related Election coverage:

The National Observer Election 2019 Special Report:   will compile stories throughout the election, in addition to a special Election Integrity Project  which aims to highlight and call out disinformation – for example, on September 6  “How Maxime Bernier hijacked Canada’s #ClimateChange discussion” . These special features all feed from National Observer’s highly-regarded on-going reporting and Opinion pieces about climate change and the environment.  One relevant recent article: “Who were the winners and losers under Liberal climate policy?”   (Sept. 9)

The Energy Mix will monitor and compile news items from other sources, and publish original content under their special Canada Election 2019 banner .

The Tyee in Vancouver offers  an Election 2019 section  as well as a free election newsletter, called The Run.  It’s worth noting that The Tyee joined the global network Covering Climate Now over the summer of 2019, and in addition to its special topic on Environmental stories, promises another special section on the Climate Crisis.

Shake Up The Establishment is a non-partisan website run by youth volunteers, dedicated to monitoring and comparing the climate and environmental commitments of the main parties.  It publishes a monthly newsletter and maintains active social media sites.

Government gives the go- ahead to Trans Mountain pipeline despite declaring a climate emergency

climate emergencyOn June 18, in a controversial but expected move, the federal cabinet approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, and allow up to 890,000 barrels per day of bitumen to travel from the Alberta oil sands to a marine terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia.  The approval was described by The Energy Mix as “the height of cynicism” because the House of Commons had only 24 hours previously approved a government resolution declaring a climate emergency.  Although the government put on a positive face by predicting that “shovels will be in the ground” by September, the project still has to satisfy conditions set out by the National Energy Board,  including negotiated approval from First Nations.  As described in  “Why we’ll be talking about the Trans Mountain pipeline for a long while yet” in The Narwhal: “The embattled oilsands pipeline has become a proxy battle, pitting the urgency of the climate crisis against near-term economic concerns”.

A sampling of  Reaction and Analysis:

An Angus Reid poll, Shovels in the Ground was released on June 21.  It reports that 56% of Canadians agree with the government’s  approval of  TMX, compared with 24% who disagree. The primary concerns for Canadians, both those who support and oppose the TMX, are the possibility of a tanker spill due to increased traffic in the Burrard Inlet (68%) and the increased burning of fossil fuels from pipeline expansion (66%).

Canada approves Trans Mountain pipeline expansion for second time”  in the National Observer (June 18).  This general overview of the decision is part of the ongoing Special Report on Trans Mountain by the National Observer.

Trans Mountain approval makes mockery of climate emergency declaration” press release from the Council of Canadians.

“Cognitive Dissonance: Canada declares a national climate emergency and approves a pipeline” by Warren Mabee of Queen’s University  in The Conversation (June 20).

“Trudeau Declared a Climate Crisis, then Backed Trans Mountain Again” in The Tyee (June 18), which summarizes reactions from British Columbia, and states that B.C. will  take its case to the Supreme Court of Canada as it seeks the legal right to regulate the shipment of materials (including oil and gas)  within the province.

“Transmountain  pipeline approval triggers lawsuits leaves fossils unsatisfied”    in The Energy Mix (June 19).

“Business leaders welcome pipeline approval but fear it may not be completed”  in The National Observer. The article states:  “Mark Scholz, CEO of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, who said in a statement the pipeline approval is “trivial” and will do little to help a suffering western Canadian drilling sector. Approval doesn’t make up for the federal government’s pursuit of Bills C-69 and C-48, bills reviled by the industry to revamp the regulatory system for resource projects and impose an oil tanker ban on the B.C. coast, he said.”

Minister Morneau in Calgary to talk about the Trans Mountain Expansion project and the future of Canada’s Energy Sector “ (June 19)  a press release that lays out  the government’s best case for Albertans, and states that: “Every dollar the federal government earns from the project will be invested in Canada’s clean energy transition. The Department of Finance estimates that additional corporate tax revenues could be around $500 million per year once the project is online. These funds and any profits earned from the sale of the pipeline will be invested in the clean energy projects that power our homes, businesses and communities for years to come.”

billion-dollar-buyout LaxerA substantial analysis from a different viewpoint, Billion Dollar Buyout: How Canadian taxpayers bought a climate-killing pipeline  was just published by the Council of Canadians. Written by Gordon Laxer, professor emeritus at the University of Alberta, the report summarizes the long history of the Trans Mountain project, with a special interest in how it fits in to the United States Mexico Canada trade agreement (USMCA) and the energy goal of integrating Canadian oil and natural gas into the U.S. market.  Laxer also authored an OpEd in the Toronto Star on June 12, Don’t waste any more money on the Trans Mountain pipeline  .

Not all First Nations Oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline:  The National Observer summarizes First Nations opposition in “As Trans Mountain gets shovels ready for pipeline, First Nations vow to protect territory” (June 19), which  states that the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Squamish Nation will use “all legal tools” available to challenge the TMX approval.  The Tsleil-Waututh Nation has commissioned an independent environmental assessment and an economic study which estimates that TMX expansion will cost Canada $11.8 billion, in addition to the environmental costs. It also predicts lower demand than the government has anticipated and unused capacity. The 127-page economic study, Public Interest Evaluation of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project is dated June 2019 and was written by Thomas Gunton, a professor at the  School of Resource and Environmental Management at  Simon Fraser University, and by Chris Joseph, a B.C. consultant.

Project Reconciliation  is an Indigenous-led coalition which aims to buy part of the pipeline and direct any profits to a Sovereign Wealth and Reconciliation Fund.  Their press release on June 18 applauds the government’s TMX decision.  A January 2019 article by CBC gives background on the group.  The Indian Resource Council is another group, composed of 134 First Nations bands most of whom are also interested in the economic benefits of  pipelines. CBC describes their meeting in  “More than 100 First Nations could purchase the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline” (Jan. 2019).  More recently, in June, the Iron Coalition  launched – “an Alberta-based Indigenous-driven organization with the sole purpose of achieving ownership in the Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMX).”  Iron Coalition leaders are from the Nakota Sioux Nation, the Papaschase First Nation and the Fort McKay Métis, and state that “all profits generated by Iron Coalition will be directed back to each member community to bring lasting economic benefit to Métis and First Nations in Alberta.”

 

A standard to measure party platforms in Canada’s upcoming climate change election

In the lead-up to the autumn federal election, climate change platforms have now been released by the Green Party: Mission Possible: The Green Climate Action Plan; the federal New Democratic Party: Power to change: A new deal for climate action and good jobs, and most recently, on June 20, by the Conservative Party:  A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment .  The WCR has summarized these platforms as they were released, here and here .

Advocates are also releasing their own views about these climate proposals.  On June 14,   Climate Action Network Canada  released  a report  intended as “a baseline against which we can assess federal parties’ climate plans.” Getting Real about Canada’s Climate Plan  calls for a plan which is comprehensive, effective and accountable and which will legislate new, more ambitious, GHG reduction targets for “politically-relevant short-term periods, such as interim 2025 targets, or create carbon budgets to define needed progress between 2020 and 2030.” Other policies called for: eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, and “Leave no community, group, or worker behind. Canada needs to offer real assistance to communities and workers grappling with the inevitable decline of fossil-fuel-dependent sectors, and improve consultation of Indigenous groups by integrating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into future climate policy.”  The more detailed policy discussion appears in the Appendix, which calls for the recommendations of the Just Transition Task Force to be  implemented fully and swiftly, and expanded beyond coal workers and communities to include all GHG intensive sectors where employment impacts from environmental regulations are anticipated.

Climate Action Network-Canada  also issued a statement on June 5, on behalf of itself and the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, Environmental Defence, Équiterre, and Greenpeace Canada. The press release,  All Federal Parties Must Reject CAPP’s Election Demands on Energy Development and Climate Change Say Environmental Groups  , summarizes and rejects the election proposals from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), as outlined in Oil and Natural Gas Priorities: Putting Canada On The World Stage: An Energy Platform for Canada . Catherine Abreu, Executive Director at Climate Action Network-Canada states: “Any party that borrows from such a proposal is a party with no sincere interest in the future of Canadian society.” Notably, in  “Scheer touts industry friendly climate plan” (June 20)  in the National Observer the Conservative Party platform is linked to the CAPP demands.

Although not focused on election platforms, a thoughtful and related overview of Canadian climate change policies appears in Heating Up, Backing Down: Evaluating recent climate policy progress in Canada. The report is written by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and was co-published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change research program (ACW) on June 13.

Conservative Party climate change platform released to strong criticism

scheer-2019On June 20, Andrew Scheer, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada released the party’s long-promised climate change policy document: A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment . The plan is organized and presented around three guiding principles: 1. Green Technology, Not Taxes; 2. A Cleaner and Greener Natural Environment; and 3. Taking the Climate Change Fight Global.

“Green Technology, Not Taxes” relies on the established Conservative criticism that  carbon taxes make life more expensive for all, but not all Canadians have cleaner alternatives available to them. The document asks “how high will your carbon tax go?”, and cites the discredited June 13 study by the Parliamentary Budget Office, Closing the Gap: Carbon pricing for the Paris target  to predict that the carbon tax would need to be $102 per tonne to reach Canada’s emissions reductions targets under the Paris Agreement. The  Conservatives  advocate a number of general measures, including a Green Investment Standard instead of a carbon tax, by which companies will be required to reduce their emissions to the government’s emission standards, and those which exceed that Green Investment Standard (not specified) will be required to invest in research, development, and adoption of emissions-reducing technology related to their industry. The National Observer analysis points out the similarities of the Green Investment Standard to proposals made by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in its recent election-related release: Oil and Natural Gas Priorities: Putting Canada On The World Stage: An Energy Platform for Canada   .

Other proposals in the Conservative party platform: a  two-year Green Homes Tax Credit for homeowners who make energy-saving renovations which cost more than $1000, to a limit of $20,000; a Green Patent Credit that will reduce the business tax rate from 15%  to 5% on income that is generated from green technology developed and patented in Canada;  consultation with government and industry stakeholders to encourage innovation in the transition to cleaner personal transportation, and for heavy-duty fleets; support for the strategic interconnection of electricity grids, on a project by project basis to connect regions, or through the creation of a national energy corridor.  Also, the plan promises to ban plastics waste exports unless there are recycling commitments, and “work with producers to minimize the plastic packaging of products.” And as for oil and gas, it states that Canada should export more oil and gas in order to replace “dirtier foreign energy sources.”

The National Observer reaction in  “Scheer touts industry friendly climate plan” (June 20), in addition to pointing out the similarities with the CAPP proposals, states that  Scheer refused to provide estimates of the emissions reductions that would result from his plan, and his staff did not provide any academic studies or background documents to support any of the proposals. “Several environmental groups, including Greenpeace Canada, Stand.Earth, and Clean Energy Canada, decried the Conservative announcement, saying it would not do enough to address the climate crisis, possibly making it worse.”  Even the mainstream press are shrugging off the Conservative plan, with such headlines as “Andrew Scheer’s climate plan leaves a lot to voters’ imaginations” by Aaron Wheery at the CBC  (June 20) ; “The Scheer Climate Plan, whatever” by Paul Wells in Macleans ; and a Globe and Mail Opinion piece by Gary Mason which calls the plan a “sad joke”.  Even John Ivison, a columnist with the Calgary Herald, states in his opinion piece that the platform document is “a missed opportunity”, and “It should come as no surprise that the new Conservative climate plan is a Potemkin village of a policy, designed to give the impression of solidity to a fake, precarious construction.”

In  “How real is Andrew Scheer’s ‘real plan’ to tackle climate change” in The Narwhal , author Sarah Cox provides detailed discussion of  key issues in the plan, including input from experts Kathryn Harrison and Laura Coristine. Kathryn Harrison provides this assessment: “I think it is a plan that is designed to appeal to a subset of voters who want to be convinced that Canada can step up and do its part without actually doing anything. It is devoid of detail.”

And  The Tyee on June 26 combined the results of two interviews with two experts: Isabelle Turcotte, the director of federal policy for the Pembina Institute, and Cam Fenton , communications and strategy manager for 350 Canada.  Each weighs in on aspects of the climate plans from the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, and Green Party.

Updated: U.S. Labour views on climate strikes and the Green New Deal

Speakers, listed here, addressed the issues of Just Transition, the Green New Deal, public ownership of energy production, and an appropriate role for labour in climate activism at the New York Labor History Association Annual Spring Conference on May 11, under the banner  “Taking the Lead: Labor and Global Warming: Our History, Activism and Challenge”.  “New Calls for a General Strike in the Face of Coming Climate Catastrophe” appeared in the Labor Press (May 13) (re-posted to Portside on May 22) , summarizing some of the discussion, especially the statement by Bruce Hamilton, VP of the  Amalgamated Transit Union, that a general strike “should never be taken off the table”.  The article notes that “A general strike, however, requires a level of unity around the question of climate change and the Green New Deal that presently does not exist inside organized labor.”  On May 30, Portside published  a lengthly compilation of “Reader Responses”  , both pro and con, about using a general strike as a tactic.  (Note that the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is calling for  “a day of global action on climate change” on June 26 as part of their  Climate Proof our Work campaign   , and the Fridays for Future student strike movement has called for a worldwide general strike by adults and youth for September 20).

Union differences  around the Green New Deal have been noted before in the WCR:  in “Labor’s voice in support of the Green New Deal” (May 14) , and “AFL-CIO Energy Committee releases letter opposing the Green New Deal” (Mar 14). On May 22, “The Green New Deal is fracturing a critical base for Democrats: unions” appeared in Vox, providing  a broad overview of national and state-level examples.

Service Employees International Union endorses GND: On June 6, the Service Employees International Union issued a press release announcing that the International Executive Board had passed a resolution in support of the Green New Deal , which states in part: “the Green New Deal supports the right of all workers to have unions, no matter where they work; makes unions central to accomplishing the ambitious goal of an environmentally responsible and economically just society; and commits to providing universal healthcare and a good, union job with family-sustaining wages
and benefits for everyone who wants one.”   The Resolution affirms the goals of the GND, commits to political action, and to cooperation with other advocacy partners in environmental,  immigrant, health care,  and economic justice movements.

On the issue of transitions, it states:

4. “SEIU stands in solidarity with all in the labor movement who share our desire to create family-sustaining union jobs and a healthy and safe environment. Workers who have built and are dependent upon the fossil fuel industry must have:

  • a. Access to good union jobs, training and advancement if their current jobs cease to exist;
  • b. Guaranteed pensions and a bridge of wage support and healthcare until impacted workers find comparable employment or reach retirement;
  • c. Financial support for local community public services during a transition period

Green New Deal and Labour in California:  There is support for the Green New Deal  in polling the green new dealCalifornia – as evidenced by “Packed Bay Area Convergence on Climate Plans for Green New Deal” and other articles  in the Green New Deal compilation by the Labor Network for SustainabilityYet “Labor anger over Green New Deal greets 2020 contenders in California”  appeared in Politico, focusing on the opposition to the Los Angeles Green New Deal announced on April 29, chiefly by California’s building trades unions.  Those unions fear job loss and the costs members may face from higher gas taxes, as well as congestion pricing for tolls on freeways during rush hour. They have differed with environmentalists in the past over environmental justice and pollution regulation at the State level .  In “The Green New Deal- Be-labored?” in Resilience (May 11) and originally in Civil Notion, author Joel Stronberg describes the California divide in even greater detail and quotes a professor from Loyola Law School, who assesses that “the Green New Deal…divides the Democrats on a fault line, which is more of the elites against the working class Democrats who are concerned about losing their jobs.”  Stronberg also states that the Association of Flight Attendants is a second union which has endorsed the Green New Deal, and cites a recent survey by Data for Progress between March 30 and April 7, 2019 which measured union members’ (not leadership) attitudes. According to Stronberg, it shows 52 percent of current union members approve of the Green New Deal, 22 percent were opposed,  21 percent didn’t know about it, and five percent were neutral.

Canadian unions:  In Canada, unions have not yet been as vocal about the Green New Deal – although “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal: The Canadian Connection” in The Tyee (June 3) describes the close ties between the U.S. GND and Canadians Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein of The Leap.    Some unions have endorsed the uniquely-Canadian Pact for a Green New Deal – and the United Steelworkers  have endorsed the New Democratic Party’s newly announced climate change platform  – Power to change: A new deal for climate action and good jobs .