Labour unions, pension funds and divestment: resolutions from Alberta, Ontario conventions and a U.S. report from Stand.earth

Labour Confronts the Climate Crisis” appeared in the November issue of Our Times magazine, written by James Hutt of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). He highlights the notable speakers from the November convention of the Ontario Federation of Labour, but states that the main discussion at the convention focused on if and how unions can fight climate change through divestment, ethical investing, and active involvement in their pension fund management.

From the article :  

“  Many speakers underlined that divestment may have limited financial impact but can be very effective as a political tool. Democratic institutions, in particular unions, can use it to make a powerful statement and undermine the social legitimacy of the fossil fuel industry…

…. speakers concluded that there are a number of important actions unions should take regarding their pension funds, including demanding transparency and input into how funds are being invested. Unions can also advocate for investing in community-led renewable initiatives, and they can help these initiatives scale up.

The final panel recognized that while pensions do have a role to play, ultimately our true power lies elsewhere. As workers and unions engaged in the climate fight, it’s clear that we must go beyond pension-board tables and the confines of capital markets.”

At its annual convention held in early December, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE)  passed three environmental resolutions, announced and summarized in a press release (Dec. 4).  These included calls for 1.  just transition for workers,  2. a green new deal that includes providing union jobs through an expanded public sector,  modernizes public infrastructure , recognizes Indigenous rights and treaties; and builds a just society, and 3. a  call for the  Alberta Investment Management Corp.  (AIMCo) to “quantify the climate risks of its investments and adopt a path to net zero” in the pension funds it manages.  Response from AIMCo is presented in an article in Benefits Canada , which notes that AUPE members have a seat on the AIMCo sponsors’ Board through their membership in the Local Authorities Pension Plan.   

AUPE members are right to be concerned with the performance of AIMCo – as described in the report published on December 15 by the Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta. Can AIMCo be Fixed?  traces the controversial moves by the UCP government to take control of public sector pensions, as well as AIMCo’s risky volatility trading strategy (VOLTS), which led to a $2 billion loss in 2020.  The authors at Parkland conclude that “A thorough rethink of AIMCo’s board of directors and ownership structure is required in light of the troubling actions by the UCP government, AIMCo’s poor performance as an investment manager in recent years, and the serious structural weaknesses of AIMCo”.  The report makes five policy recommendations for change, none of which relate to its management of climate risks, but focus on the ownership and governance structure, including: Eliminate the Crown’s sole ownership of AIMCo and “Implement a new ownership structure with the government holding a minority position to prevent governments using AIMCo funds for their own political purposes”.

The Parkland report is the latest of several which have condemned the Alberta pension manager for its bias to oil and gas investments, described in a previous WCR article when it invested in the Coastal GasLink pipeline in 2020, and in the 2019 report from Progress Alberta, Alberta’s Failed Oil and Gas Bailout .

From the U.S., a new report released by Stand.earth and the Climate Safe Pensions Network argues for the importance of divestment.  The Quiet Culprit: Pension Funds Bankrolling the Climate Crisis  details the fossil fuel exposure of 14 public pension funds, revealing that  $81.6 billion is invested in coal, oil, and gas. The report notes, for example, that nine of the fourteen funds  have invested over $281 million in TC Energy, the company behind the controversial Coastal GasLink pipeline violating Indigenous rights in Wet’suwet’en land. The pension funds also have over $3.24 billion invested in big tar sands miners Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and Suncor.  The conclusion?  “With over $46 trillion in assets worldwide, pension funds are among the largest institutional investors in fossil fuels. These investments have dangerously underperformed the rest of the market, making public pensions’ fossil fuels investments inherently risky….The fastest way for pensions to address climate change is to divest fossil fuel holdings and invest in just and equitable climate solutions.”

Canada heads to COP26 with a new, activist Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Prime Minister Trudeau announced his appointments to Cabinet on October 26, and one of the strongest symbolic appointments was that of Steven Guilbeault as the new Minister of Environment and Climate Change. It appears that Trudeau did not (yet)  follow the demands in Unifor’s October 22 letter to the Prime Minister , which included “Establish a Just Transition Ministry and Just Transition Fund, partially financed through levies on large industrial emitters, with the mandate to support workers affected by climate-related job displacements through enhanced income insurance, pension bridging, severance pay, retraining and relocation support, and local just transition centres.”  However, the new appointments sent an unmistakable signal, as described in the National Observer article “Cabinet shuffle signals support for climate, not oil and gas”.  The previous ECC Minister, Johnathan Wilkinson, was shifted to the ministry of Natural Resources – replacing Seamus O’Regan, who had been accused of a too-cozy relationship with the fossil fuel industry which falls under the Natural Resources portfolio.  The National Observer article highlights the continued importance of Wilkinson on the climate change file.

Mitchell Beer provides the background to Steven Guilbeault in  “Guilbeault to Environment, Wilkinson to Natural Resources as ‘PM in a Hurry’ Names New Cabinet”Energy Mix, Oct. 26). The article includes reaction from environmental activists – many of whom have worked alongside Guilbeault in his earlier life as a Greenpeace campaigner (when he was arrested for scaling the CN Tower in Toronto) , co-founder of  non-profit Équiterre in Quebec, and as a member of the government’s 2018 advisory panel on climate change, before he was elected to Parliament in 2019.  An exemplary quote, from Stand.earth Climate Finance Director Richard Brooks, “Hoping my old friend @s_guilbeault will remain true to his roots—and lead Canada in upping its climate ambition and more importantly its actions…”  Yet as Keith Stewart of Greenpeace points out in their press reaction, a whole of government approach will be needed. Stewart hopes it will lead to “greater cooperation on climate action across departments, as the minister of Natural Resources has in the past acted as the chief advocate for the oil industry at the Cabinet table.”  As indicated in the reaction from Macleans magazine,  “Trudeau sends a signal to Alberta. Cue the squirming” (Oct. 26), Wilkinson and NRCan are expected to smooth over the sharper edges of a potentially rocky relationship with Alberta:  “ A major test, past Glasgow, will be how Wilkinson and Guilbeault handle their government’s buzzy term: “just transition.”… It will fall in large part to Steven Guilbeault to maintain a steady and reassuring tone that this isn’t the case. His past doesn’t suggest he’s perfectly suited for this task…”  

Reaction from the fossil fuel industry and Premier Jason Kenney is predictably negative, as reported in CBC’s story,   “Kenney says longtime activist’s appointment as environment minister sends ‘very problematic’ message”.  The CBC report quotes an Alberta academic who calls  Guilbeault’s appointment  “a finger in the eye to everything that Kenney has done.” A brief article from Reuters sums up the hostile reaction of the fossil fuel industry in the language of its headline “Trudeau roils Canada’s oil patch naming Greenpeace activist as climate chief (Reuters, Oct. 26).

60% of Canadians voted for climate action platforms – and they are already mobilizing to hold the new minority government to account

Voting in Canada’s Election 44 took place on September 20, returning the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau with an almost identical minority in the House of Commons.  Green Party Leader Annamie Paul failed to win her own seat and her party received only 2.3% of the popular vote – with Paul Manly losing his seat in Nanaimo, to be balanced by a Green gain by Mike Morrice in Kitchener Ontario. Candidates endorsed as “climate champions” by 350 Canada had mixed success, with defeats for Avi Lewis in B.C., Lenore Zann in Nova Scotia, and Angella MacEwen, CUPE senior economist, in Ottawa Centre . Yet  at least seven were re-elected (some still too close to call), including: Peter Julian (NDP , New Westminster—Burnaby), Laurel Collins (NDP , Victoria), Elizabeth May (Green, Saanich–Gulf Islands), Matthew Green (NDP, Hamilton Centre), and Blake Desjarlais (NDP, Edmonton Greisbach).  

Media commentators are keen to paint the election exercise as a waste of time and money. But environmental advocates are not deterred – as described by Jesse Firempong in “What this election means for women, racialized and climate-vulnerable communities”  (National Observer, Sept.21). He states, “This election was a signal to the Prime Minister to step up or step aside. With their series of “first 100 days” promises, the Liberals have given us an easy litmus test to evaluate their sincerity on a few issues, such as legislation to ban conversion therapy, combat online hate, and institute paid sick leave. On keeping fossil fuels in the ground, reconciliation and defunding the police, movement voices will remain critical levers for mobilizing public accountability.”  

And those movement voices are already speaking up. On September 21, Climate Action Network Canada issued a press release, “Environmental organizations representing millions of Canadians urges Prime Minister Trudeau to listen to the majority – climate-concerned voters – and swiftly fulfil climate promises” – which states that nearly 60 per cent of Canadians voted for parties with strong climate commitments, and  announces a new coalition called No more Delays, supported by Greenpeace Canada, Environmental Defence, SumofUs, Stand.earth, Climate Emergency Unit, Équiterre, Citizens Climate Lobby Canada, Climate Reality Project Canada, Grandmothers Advocacy Network and Climate Action Network Canada – Réseau action climat Canada (CAN-Rac Canada). 

No More Delays calls on the newly-elected government to:

  • “Work with MPs across party lines to make good on your promises to protect our communities and our planet. Within100 days, put forward a plan to end fossil fuel subsidies & stop all new fossil fuel expansion 
  • Deliver a clear timeline and strategy to implement the TRC calls to action and UNDRIP 
  • Restart the Just Transition consultation and urgently work to develop and pass this important legislation
  • Commit to at least 60 per cent reduction of domestic emissions from 2005 levels by 2030” .

Member organization Greenpeace goes further, calling for all of the above plus:

  • Implement a just transition for workers including income support and funding for green jobs.
  • End fossil fuel subsidies and cancel the Trans Mountain Pipeline immediately.
  • Increase targets and develop a plan to hit 60% domestic emissions reductions by 2030 (versus 2005).
  • Implement fair taxation of the wealthy to help pay for the transition.

350Canada maintains an online petition to the Minister of Natural Resources and all Party Leaders to act on the Just Transition legislation – consultations. The process was suspended during the campaign, and submissions are set to close on September 30. The Discussion Paper to guide submissions is here .

Leadnow.ca is maintaining an online petition  calling on the parties to work together for climate action, and Seth Klein of the Climate Emergency Unit specifically suggests : “how about we stabilize our political lives with a formal Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA), like we had in British Columbia from 2017-2020, like the Yukon has now, and similar to what the Ontario Liberals and NDP had in the 1980s or at the federal level from 1972-74. … Numerous parties tabled good ideas in this election — let’s see them each put their best ones forward.

And as a refresher – the detailed Liberal platform is here; here are just a few of the climate-related promises to watch for:

  • “Require oil and gas companies to reduce methane emissions by at least 75% below 2012 levels by 2030 and work to reduce methane emissions across the broader economy”;
  • “Set 2025 and 2030 milestones based on the advice of the Net-Zero Advisory Body to ensure reduction levels are ambitious and achievable and that the oil and gas sector makes a meaningful contribution to meeting the nation’s 2030 climate goals.”;
  • “Ban thermal coal exports from and through Canada no later than 2030.”;
  • “Accelerate our G20 commitment to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies from 2025 to 2023.
  • Develop a plan to phase-out public financing of the fossil fuel sector, including from Crown corporations, consistent with our commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.”
  • “Introduce a Clean Electricity Standard that will set Canada on a path to cut more emissions by 2030 and to achieve a 100% net-zero emitting electricity system by 2035.”
  • “Launch a National Net-zero Emissions Building Strategy, which will chart a path to net-zero emissions from buildings by 2050 with ambitious milestones along the way.”
  • ” Accelerate the development of the national net-zero emissions model building code for 2025 adoption.”
  • “Accelerate the transition from fossil fuel-based heating systems to electrification through incentives and standards, including investing $250 million to help low-income Canadians get off home-heating oil.”
  • ” Establish a $2 billion Futures Fund for Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador that will be designed in collaboration with local workers, unions, educational institutions, environmental groups, investors, and Indigenous peoples who know their communities best. We will support local and regional economic diversification and specific placebased strategies.”
  • ” Move forward with Just Transition Legislation, guided by the feedback we receive from workers, unions, Indigenous peoples, communities, and provinces and territories”
  • “Create more opportunities for women, LGBTQ2 and other underrepresented people in the energy sector.”
  • “Launch a Clean Jobs Training Centre to help industrial, skill and trade workers across sectors to upgrade or gain new skills to be on the leading edge of zero carbon industry.”
  •  ” Table legislation to require the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to examine the link between race, socio-economic status, and exposure to environmental risk, and develop a strategy to address environmental justice.”

Canada’s federal election: how do the parties compare on climate issues?

The federal election in Canada takes place on September 20, and according to an Abacus poll conducted on September 4, climate change remains one of the top concerns of voters.  The Liberal Party Platform document   was officially released on September 1, preceded by a  climate plan announced on Aug. 29 (summarized by a 2-page Fact Sheet ). The Conservative platform  was accompanied by a separate climate plan, Secure the Environment . The New Democratic Party platform also is accompanied with specific climate action commitments here. And just before the Leaders’ debates on Sept. 8 and 9, the  Green Party released their full platform on Labour Day weekend. 

The overall Platform statements are compared by the CBC and by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: the “Platform Crunch” for the Liberals (Sept. 3) ; Conservatives   (Aug. 18); and for the NDP (Aug. 13).   

How do the parties’ Platforms compare on climate change?  

It is easy to summarize the differing GHG emissions reductions targets of the parties, with the Green Party committed to a target of 60 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels and net negative emissions in 2050. The Liberal Party commits to reducing emissions by 40-45 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, which is the target they have committed to as a government in the Net-Zero Accountability Act. The NDP target is to cut its emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, and commit to establishing multi-year national and sectoral carbon budgets. The Conservative Party promising to retreat to the Harper-era target of 30% reduction by 2030 – which would violate Canada’s obligation under the Paris Agreement.

Environmental Defence has produced a 2-page voter’s guide identifying the other key issues, along with sample questions voters may want to ask their candidates. Here is a selection of comparisons and summaries on a variety of issues:    

Election 2021: How the four main federal parties plan to fight climate crisis” (National Observer, Aug. 18) 

Election 2021 A Comparison of Climate Policy in Federal Party Platforms  (Smart Prosperity, Aug. 30)

Where they stand. The parties on Climate Change” (The Tyee, Aug. 31)  

How do the federal parties stack up on climate change?” (Clean Energy Canada, Sept. 7)

“What the parties are promising so far”  (Ecojustice, Sept. 7), which uniquely includes the Bloc Quebecois in its comparison.  Ecojustice emphasizes promises related to environmental justice – the strongest of which are from the Green Party (to establish an Office of Environmental Justice at Environment and Climate Change Canada, and to support Bill C-230, the National Strategy Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice Act); and the NDP, ( to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights and to create an Office of Environmental Justice) .

What’s in the Liberals’ $78B platform? Plenty of Green (National Observer, September 2)

“Liberals move to outflank NDP on green issues”  (Dogwood Institute, Aug. 31)  which observes that the federal NDP is hampered by the provincial NDP government of British Columbia , which supports  LNG development and has overseen the huge civil disobedience protests at the Fairy Creek Old Growth forest.

Federal leaders promise action to protect B.C. old growth” (Stand.earth press release , Aug. 25)

Liberals pledge $2 Billion to aid just transition” (National Observer, Aug. 31), quoting the new head of Iron and Earth judgement that it’s a good start, but inadequate.

Assessing climate sincerity in the Canadian 2021 election”  by Mark Jaccard, (Policy Options, Sept.3) wherein the prominent energy economist argues that “the key policy indicators of sincerity are the carbon price level and regulatory stringency”, and assesses Liberal policies as “effective and affordable”, and the NDP as “Largely ineffective, unnecessarily costly”.

Liberals are promising net-zero buildings by 2050. Can they make it happen?”  (National Observer, Sept. 7)

“How Conservatives came around to supporting a carbon tax — and whether it’s here to stay”  (CBC, Aug. 31)

“Conservative climate plan better than before, but still full of inconsistencies” (CBC, Aug. 30). Opinion piece by Jennifer Winter, associate professor and Scientific Director of Energy and Environmental Policy at the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, focussing on  the Conservatives’ proposals for industrial emissions carbon pricing and calling it  “a spectacularly bad idea” and “ the worst of both worlds. “

“O’Toole defends climate plan while promising to revive oil pipeline projects” (CBC, Aug. 30), reporting that the Conservative leader has promised to revive the Northern Gateway pipeline and push forward with Trans Mountain pipeline.

O’Toole Pledges to Break the Paris Agreement” (Energy Mix, Aug. 29). Conservatives are “pledged to move boldly backwards on Canada’s emissions reduction target”, reviving the Harper-era GHG reduction target of 30% by 2030.

 “Erin O’Toole vows to increase criminal punishment for people who disrupt pipelines and railways”   (The Narwhal, Aug. 19) O’Toole promises to enact the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act.

Jagmeet Singh promises to kill fossil fuel subsidies”  (National Observer, Aug. 23) A core demand of environmentalists, which Trudeau is still vague on.

“A vote against fossil fuel subsidies is a vote for our health ” (National Observer, Sept. 3)   

 “Green platform promises big, largely uncosted social programs, end to fossil fuel industry” (CBC, Sept. 7)

Analysis of electric vehicles platform promises in Electric Autonomy, Aug. 30.

Climate crisis a key issue in Canada’s election campaign

Apparently prompted by a desire to strengthen his political power, Prime Minister Trudeau called a federal election, to be held on  September 20.  Following this summer of heat, drought and wildfires, the climate emergency is top of mind for voters –  for example, 46% of Canadians ranked climate change as one of their top three issues of concern in the election, in an Abacus Data poll commissioned by the Professional Institute of the Public Service and The Broadbent Institute, summarized here. Two leadership debates are planned, on September 8 (French language) and September 9 (English language).   But as reported by The Tyee, four elders of Canada’s climate community sent an open letter to the head of the Leaders Debate Commission, calling for a special Climate Emergency Leadership Debate as well – described in  “Suzuki, Atwood, Ondaatje, Lewis Call for Emergency Leaders Debate on Climate”  (Aug. 18, The Tyee) . 

The full platform statements of the major parties, as of August 25, are here: Liberal;  Conservative, (with the climate plan, Secure the Environment ,in a separate document);  New Democratic Party , (with specific climate action commitments here, plus on Aug. 23 Leader Jagmeet Singh pledged to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies “once and for all”);  and the Green Party , whose proposals are not gathered in one document, but who have made a clear statement on Just Transition  .

The National Observer offers an Explainer summarizing the climate platform proposals of each of the main federal parties, here , and Shawn McCarthy contrasts the Liberal and Conservative platforms in “Climate crisis remains wedge issue on campaign trail ” ( Corporate Knights, Aug. 23). More analysis will no doubt follow – watch the National Observer Special section of the election here; sign up here for The Tyee election newsletter, The Run; follow the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Election coverage and commentary at https://www.policyalternatives.ca/Election44 ; or the Council of Canadians coverage here. New indie newsletter The Breach  also offers election coverage, including “Wielding the balance of power” , analysing the historical record of minority governments in Canada.

What are the demands and proposals from climate and labour groups? 

The Canadian Labour Congress hasn’t so far released specific statements regarding climate policies, but has spoken out against Conservative proposals which might lead to privatization of pensions and restriction to  EI (also criticized by the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE),  and against O’Toole’s outreach to workers – summarized in  “O’Toole’s rhetoric cannot hide his record of hurting workers” by the CBC.

Unifor’s 2021 Election campaign is sponsoring TV and social media ads, targeting O’Toole’s Conservatives as taking Canada in the wrong direction.   

United Steelworkers have a clear statement of support for the New Democratic Party at their election website. Their support statement doesn’t mention any climate-related policies.

Public Service Alliance of Canada surveyed their membership in June, and found approximately half ranked climate change as a top concern, with a focus on what the federal government and military can do to reduce their impact. PSAC calls for a commitment “ to a diversified, green economy that supports workers and communities, serves the wellbeing of society, and drastically cuts our greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) released a statement of  approval  of the  NDP transit and transportation policies.

Let’s Build Canada is a coalition of building and construction trade unions, advocating for candidates and political parties “to commit to supporting Canadian workers and well-paying, middle-class jobs.” This includes: supporting labour mobility in the construction industry; building good green jobs and a just transition for energy workers; and government programs and initiatives to support the workforce. (Coaliton members include:  International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied WorkersInternational Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT); Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART); International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron WorkersUnited Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA); and Canada’s Building Trades Unions ).

$17.6 Billion announced for Green Recovery in Canada’s new Budget- but still not enough to meet the Climate Emergency – updated

On April 19, the federal government tabled its much-anticipated 2021 Budget, titled A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth, and Resilience, announcing $30 billion over five years and $8.3 billion a year afterward to create and maintain early learning and child-care programs – stating:  “It is the care work that is the backbone of our economy. Just as roads and transit support our economic growth, so too does child care”. COVID-19 wage subsidy, rent subsidy and lockdown support programs will be extended until September, depending on how long the crisis continues, the maximum sickness benefit period for Employment Insurance will be extended from 12 to 26 weeks, and a new Canada Recovery Hiring Program will provide employers with funding to hire new workers between June 6, 2021 and November 20, 2021.  A new $15 federal minimum wage will apply in federally regulated private businesses.

Green Recovery and the Climate Emergency: The Budget still falls short

In an article in Policy Options in March, Mitchell Beer laid out the challenge: Chrystia Freeland must pick a lane with next budget – climate change or oil and gas? Climate activists laid out what they were looking for in Investing for Tomorrow, Today: How Canada’s Budget 2021 can enable critical climate action and a green recovery , published on March 29 and endorsed by nine of Canada’s leading environmental organizations: Pembina Institute, Nature Canada, Climate Action Network Canada, Environmental Defence, Équiterre, Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Ecology Action Centre, Leadnow, and Wilderness Committee. 

Yet it appears that the federal Budget is still trying to maintain one foot on the oil and gas pedal, while talking about GHG emissions and clean technologies. The reactions below indicate such concerning elements – incentives on the unproven technologies of carbon capture and storage and hydrogen, no signs of an end to fossil fuel subsidies, no mention of a Just Transition Act, and, despite hopes that the Prime Minister would announce an ambitious target at the U.S. Climate Summit convened by President Biden, a weak new GHG reduction target increasing to only 36 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The Budget summary announces “$17.6 billion in a green recovery that will help Canada to reach its target to conserve 25 per cent of Canada’s lands and oceans by 2025, exceed its Paris climate targets and reduce emissions by 36 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and move forward on a path to reach net-zero emission by 2050.” This  Backgrounder summarizes some of the Green Recovery highlights, which include :

  • $4.4 billion to support retrofitting through interest-free loans to homeowners, up to $40,000
  • $14.9 billion over eight years for a new, permanent public transit fund
  • $5 billion over seven years, to support business ventures through the Net Zero Accelerator program – which aims to decarbonize large emitters in key sectors, including steel, aluminum, cement—and to accelerate the adoption of clean technology. Examples given are aerospace and automobile manufacture industry.
  • $319 million over seven years “to support research and development that would improve the commercial viability of carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies.” This would be in the form of an investment tax credit, with the goal of reducing emissions by at least 15 megatonnes of CO2 annually.
  • a temporary reduction by half in corporate income tax rates for qualifying zero-emission technology manufacturers, such as solar and wind energy equipment, electric vehicle charging systems, hydrogen refuelling stations for vehicles, manufacturing of equipment used for the production of hydrogen by electrolysis of water, production of hydrogen by electrolysis of water and others
  • $63.8 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to Natural Resources Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Public Safety Canada to work with provinces and territories to complete flood maps for higher-risk areas.
  • $2.3 billion over five years to conserve up to 1 million square kilometers more land and inland waters, and an additional $200 million to build natural infrastructure like parks, green spaces, ravines, waterfronts, and wetlands.

Reactions

Watershed moment for child care, long-term care: Budget 2021: But pharmacare, tax reform and climate change remain in limbo”, from CCPA states: “Budget 2021 delivers on a number of previously-announced emission reduction initiatives and green infrastructure projects, including $14.9 billion over eight years for a new, permanent public transit fund…….Unfortunately, while the budget makes big strides toward a greener economy, it fails once again to tackle Canada’s dependence on fossil fuel production. Without a clear plan and timeline for winding down oil and gas extraction we simply cannot meet our net zero emission target.”

“Federal Budget React: Canadian Civil Society Responds” compiles reactions from Canada’s major climate advocacy groups, including Climate Action Network’s own statement: “…. Some investments made by budget 2021 are extremely helpful – particularly investments in clean transportation, energy efficient homes, resilient agriculture, and Canada’s first green bonds. Some investments made by budget 2021 are extremely worrisome – investments in carbon capture and storage risk perpetuating our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels, and some of the forestry investments perpetuate a transactional relationship with nature that treats it like a commodity we can trade. Yet the big take away is this: we are in a time of changing norms, and Budget 2021 does not present a vision for climate-safe transformational change” 

Budget 2021 is a healthy dose for the clean economy, but climate measures lack potency” from the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, which points out “There is no way to reach our near-term or net zero targets without retrofitting practically all of Canada’s homes and buildings.  That’s why the lack of mention of energy efficiency and deep retrofits for buildings beyond single-family homes is surprising … There is no mention in the budget of strategic incentives or financing for municipalities or developers to ensure new construction is near-zero construction.”

The Canadian Labour Congress press release, Canada’s unions welcome ‘crucial’ funding for child care, skills training and $15 federal minimum wage doesn’t mention any of the green recovery elements. The CLC later released a Summary and Analysis of the Budget, here.

From NUPGE: Federal Budget 2021: Lofty ambitions need details , which follows NUPGE President Larry Brown’s letter to Environment and Climate Change Minister Wilkinson, titled No more delays on climate action, justice.  

Federal Budget Leaves Out Transit Workers and Riders as Operational Transit Funding Completely Left Out, Says ATU Canada” from the Amalgamated Transit Union  

If not now, when?” Liberals waste another shot at equitable recovery with Budget 2021 from Canadian Union of Public Employees

And from the National Observer: “Critics throw shade at federal budget cash for home retrofits”  and  “Will Trudeau’s wager on carbon capture help or hurt the environment? “.

Can Biden unite Labour and climate activists with his American Jobs Plan ?

On March 31, U.S. President Biden announced his “American Jobs Plan,” which outlines over $2 trillion in spending proposals, including $213 billion to build, modernize and weatherize affordable housing,  $174 billion for incentives and infrastructure for electric vehicles; $100 billion for power grid modernization and resilience; $85 billion investment in modernizing public transit and bringing it to underserved areas; $35 billion investment in clean technology research and development, including incubators and demonstration projects; $16 billion employing union oil and gas workers to cap abandoned oil and gas wells and clean up mines, and $10 billion to launch a  Civilian Climate Corps to work on conservation and environmental justice projects.  All of these are proposals, to be subject to the political winds of Washington, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggesting a date of July 4 for a vote on legislation.

The White House Fact Sheet outlines the specifics . Robert Reich calls the plan “smart politics” in  “Joe Biden as Mr. Fix-it” in Commons Dreams, and according to “Nine Ways Biden’s $2 Trillion Plan Will Tackle Climate Change” in Inside Climate News, “President Joe Biden aims to achieve unprecedented investment in action to address climate change by wrapping it in the kind of federal spending package that has allure for members of Congress of both parties.”   David Roberts offers a summary and smart, informed commentary in his Volt blog, stating: “Within this expansive infrastructure package is a mini-Green New Deal, with large-scale spending targeted at just the areas energy wonks say could accelerate the transition to clean energy — all with a focus on equity and justice for vulnerable communities on the front lines of that transition. If it passes in anything like its current form, it will be the most significant climate and energy legislation of my lifetime, by a wide margin.”

Julian Brave NoiseCat writes in the National Observer on April 6, summing up the dilemma:   …” Each policy has the potential to unite or divide the Democrat’s coalition of labour unions, people of colour, environmentalists and youth activists. Some policies, like the creation of a new Civilian Climate Corps …. are directly adopted from demands pushed by activists like the youth-led Sunrise Movement. Others, like investments in existing nuclear power plants and carbon capture retrofits for gas-fired power plants, will pit labour unions against environmental justice activists from the communities those industries often imperil. Uniting the environmental activists who oppose the development of fossil fuel pipelines with the workers who build them will be among the Democrats’ greatest challenges.”

Some Specific U.S. statements:

Generally favourable reaction comes in a brief statement from the AFL-CIO. The  BlueGreen Alliance states: “This is a historic first step, and yet we know this and more will be needed to deliver the scale of investment needed, particularly in disadvantaged communities and for workers and communities impacted by energy transition.”  Similarly, Kate Aronoff writes “Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Needs More Climate Spending” in The New Republic; and the Climate Justice Alliance response is titled  “Grassroots, Environmental Justice Communities call on Biden To Go Bigger, Bolder And Faster For A Climate, Care And Infrastructure Recovery Package That Meets The Moment”.

The Sunrise Movement press release commends Biden for calling for passage of the PRO Act, for clean energy initiatives, and environmental justice aspects, and has a mixed reaction to Biden’s version of the Civilian Climate Corps: “This gives our movement a starting place, and with a foot in the door we can fight to expand and strengthen the CCC over the coming years.” ….. “The plan Biden rolled out today would create about 10,000-20,00 jobs in a Civilian Climate Corps, which would train and employ young people to build clean energy and decarbonize the economy. When FDR rolled out a similar Civilian Conservation Corps, it employed around 300,000 people per year, and that was back when the US population was ~40% of its current size .”   

Will Biden’s Plan push Canada’s climate ambitions?

The CBC published “Here are four ways Biden’s big climate bill touches Canada” .  Mitchell Beer compiles reactions in “Biden Jobs, Infrastructure Plan Aims to ‘Turbocharge the transition’ off Fossil Fuels”  in The Energy Mix, including Adam Radwanski’s response in the Globe and Mail, “Joe Biden’s new climate plans should jolt Ottawa” (restricted access).   And the Canadian United Steelworkers alludes to the “Buy American” elephant in the room for Canadians, in its press release titled, Build Back Better Through Infrastructure Spending on Both Sides of the Border (April 1)  “the United Steelworkers union (USW) sees U.S. President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan as an opportunity to maintain and create jobs, bolster manufacturing and make our communities safer. ….A decade ago, the USW worked with the Obama administration and the Canadian government to create a North American strategy that benefited workers in the United States and Canada…. Canada is not the problem facing U.S. manufacturing and workers. Co-operation between Canada and U.S. will build on our longstanding and productive trading relationship.”

Natural gas drives GHG emissions increase for Toronto region and Ontario

The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) is home to 7.4 million people in six municipalities: the City of Toronto, City of Hamilton, Halton, Peel, York and Durham regions. According to a new report released by The Atmospheric Fund (TAF),  the region produces  44 per cent of  total carbon emissions in the province of Ontario.   Top level findings from the report, Reality Check: Carbon Emissions Inventory for the GTHA: “Total carbon emissions in the GTHA increased 5.2% in 2018, reaching 55.5 Mt. . …. showing that since the completion of the coal phase out, emissions are slowly increasing across all regions and nearly all sources.” The report zeroes in on each municipality, and also on sectors, showing that buildings (42.8%), transportation (34.3%), and industry (18.9%) are the most significant sources of emissions in the region.

The key take-away from the report:  “Natural gas is a fossil fuel (methane) and it is the most significant source of emissions in the GTHA and Ontario. In 2018 natural gas increased about 10.6%, or 2Mt CO2 eq. Achieving net zero by 2050 will require phasing out virtually all natural gas from both heating and power production.”  An associated blog , “Toronto has an embarrassing gas problem”  (Feb.18) states: “the City’s latest emissions inventory showed an increase of 68% from natural gas from 2017 to 2018, and plans are afoot to increase gas-fired electricity which will make emissions skyrocket by over 300%. …. Toronto cannot meet its 2030 climate goals or the council-approved TransformTO plan if Ontario’s electricity is increasingly generated with fossil gas.”

Based on this analysis, TAF makes policy recommendations for all three levels of government, calling for near zero emissions standards for new building, acceleration of deeper retrofits for existing buildings, and electrification of heating and transportation while decarbonizing electricity production.  Detailed recommendations regarding retrofitting measures are provided in TAF’s submission to the Federal Budget 2021, and summarized in “Four ways the government should boost the retrofit market” (Feb. 23).  At the municipal level,  TAF is supporting one City of Toronto Councillor’s motion which calls for the provincial government to phaseout all gas-fired electricity generation as soon as possible.  The City of Toronto deferred a vote on that motion, and voted in February on a budget which appears to downgrade the priority for climate initiatives.  “’We can’t afford to lose a year’: Worries abound over Toronto’s plan to reduce climate funding” (CBC, Feb. 18)  provides details.

Canada’s legislation for net-zero emissions lacks urgency and enforcement mechanisms

On November 19, Canada’s Environment Minister introduced Bill C-12,  the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act in the House of Commons.  If passed, it would establish in law the already-promised national net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050, and require the Minister to establish a national greenhouse gas emissions target and plan for 2030 within six months of the Act coming into force. Requirements for public consultation and progress reports are included, along with a provision for an advisory body which would also be required to conduct “engagement activities”.  A summary of provisions appears in the government’s press release and in press reports from the CBC and  the Toronto Star . Initial reactions to the legislation abound on Twitter, mostly noting that  2030 is a disappointingly slow first target date. In an article in Behind the Numbers, Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood calls the legislation “much ado about nothing” , and says “the bill’s failure to require a new emissions reduction target before 2030 means the federal government can continue delaying the kinds of transformational climate policies we require to meet the scale of the climate change threat. A new 2025 target would have put real pressure onto the present government rather than shirking responsibility to a future one.”  Legal group Ecojustice  calls the legislation “a significant first step” , and West Coast Environmental Law calls the legislation a “critical juncture for Canada”.   WCELpledges to work towards improving the Bill  in the course of the parliamentary debate…. “to be effective, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act will need to prioritize immediate climate action by setting a 2025 target, and ensure that all the targets we set are as ambitious as possible. It also needs stronger requirements to ensure those targets are actually met.”

The House of Commons website here will link to the Debates on Bill C-12, and chronicle its passage through the legislature. Already, the new Leader of the Green Party, Annamie Paul, has issued a reaction titled, A failure of leadership: Government’s climate bill squanders “the opportunity of a lifetime” for a green economic recovery Former leader Elizabeth May is quoted in the same press release saying “Having worked on the climate issue for over thirty years, watching one government after another kick the problem down the road, today is the tragic low-point. The window on holding to a livable climate will close, forever, before this legislation holds anyone to account.”

Lobbying Joe Biden for climate action, and what it means for Canada

Despite the chaos in post-election politics of the United States, Joe Biden is the legitimate President-elect of the United States, and his climate change platform was an important factor in his victory.  As his Transition team prepares for inauguration in January 2021, environmental and climate change groups are among those advocating for appointments and policies. Prominent among these: The Climate Mandate, a joint initiative of the Sunrise Movement  and Justice Democrats . On November 11, Climate Mandate issued a statement saying:  “We can unite our nation by solving the crises we have in common: COVID-19, climate change, systemic racism and an economic recession. Joe Biden must command the federal government with fierce urgency and bold creativity….  This is Biden’s FDR moment”.  A top demand of the Climate Mandate movement:  the creation of a Climate Mobilization Office  – “with wide-reaching power to combat the climate crisis — just as we mobilized to defeat the existential threat of Nazi Germany in WWII.”  The CMO “will convene and coordinate across the President’s Cabinet agencies and, ultimately, hold every federal department accountable to the national project of stopping climate change. The Office of Climate Mobilization will deeply embed this mission into all of our spending, regulations, policies, and actions.”  Top picks suggested to lead the Climate Mobilization Office:  Washington Governor Jay InsleeGina McCarthy , now Head of the Natural Resources Defence Council and former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, or John Podesta, founder of the American Center for Progress and a counsellor to President Obama and Chief of Staff to President Clinton.

Other names which appear in the Climate Mandate wish list include Bernie Sanders , their top pick for Secretary of Labor; environmental justice champion Mustafa Santiago Ali to lead the Environmental Protection Agency; and  two union officials:  Mary Kay Henry, International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), as an alternate choice for Secretary of Labor, and Sara Nelson, International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA as a second choice for Secretary of Transportation.

The Climate 21 Project is a second group with proposals for Joe Biden.  A  group of more than 150 people, Climate 21 Project is co-chaired by Christy Goldfuss, a former Obama official and now with the Center for American Progress, and Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. The Summary of their Recommendations regarding the transition is here  , accompanied by eleven memos for each of the relevant departments and agencies .

Finally, Greenpeace USA released its Just Recovery Agenda on November 17, directed at Joe Biden.  Broader than climate and environmental issues, “the  Just Recovery Agenda includes more than 100 concrete policy recommendations spanning both legislation and executive action aimed at creating a world in which everyone has a good life and where our fundamental needs — including dignified work, healthcare, education, housing, clean air and water, healthy food, and more — are met.” Detailed policy proposals are here .

Here are a few general reactions and assessments of the climate future since Biden’s election: Initial Thoughts on the Impact of the 2020 Federal Elections on National Climate Policy by Joel Stronberg (Nov. 5);  “Election likely hardens political limits of Biden climate agenda” by Amy Harder in Axios (Nov. 5);   “State Climate Leadership Is Coming to the Nation’s Capital in 2021” in a Center for American Progress blog (Nov. 9) and “How Joe Biden plans to use executive powers to fight climate change”  in Vox (Nov. 9); and “Trump Rolled Back 100+ Environmental Rules. Biden May Focus on Undoing Five of the Biggest Ones” in Inside Climate News (Nov. 17) .

Canada greets Joe Biden and his climate plans

The National Observer maintained a Special Report section  about the U.S. election, including an overview of reactions in  “Ottawa welcomes president-elect Joe Biden as climate fight ally” (Nov. 9) -including comments from politicians (Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and former Minister Catherine McKenna, as well as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs ) along with policy experts Blair Feltmate and Sara Hastings-Simon. A good summary of the most important climate issues appears in  “The Biden presidency could change the terms of the climate debate in Canada”  by Aaron Wherry at CBC (Nov. 10).

In  “Five ways the Biden presidency could change Canadian climate policy for the better in CCPA’s Behind the Numbers (Nov. 12), Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood gives an overview, stating:

“For the past four years, a recalcitrant U.S. administration provided cover for Canadian politicians to water down and delay climate policies. With Biden in the White House, the situation may be reversed. Even if the new president only achieves a portion of his ambitious climate agenda, Canada risks falling behind in the transition to a net-zero carbon economy. …. Biden’s plan could energize Canada’s international climate agenda, could accelerate the growth of Canada’s clean economy, curb fossil fuel infrastructure, strengthen Canada’s carbon pricing system, and strengthen Canadian environmental regulations.”

Whether  Canada can compete with U.S. clean technology industry if the U.S. starts to ramp up its spending is a topic raised  in  “Biden’s victory raises the clean growth stakes for Canada”  (Nov. 7) by Sara Hastings-Simon and  Rachel Samson of the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.  In “What Joe Biden’s Climate plan means for Canada” in The Conversation (Nov. 12),  Robert O’Brien of McMaster University focuses on the prospects for the oil and gas industry and the Keystone XL pipeline, flowing from Biden’s remark that “I would transition from the oil industry, yes.”  O’Brien considers the implications for Indigenous communities, workers and communities in that transition.  Will Greaves of University of Victoria focuses on the oil and gas industry and protection of the Arctic in  “What a Biden Presidency means for Climate Change and Canada” in Policy Options  (Nov. 10) .

Another analysis, from a trade perspective, appears  in Behind the Numbers“Biden’s Buy American Plan should inspire – not scare – Canada” (Oct 25) . Author Scott Sinclair argues that Buy American policies are  not likely to go away, and if you can’t beat ‘em, you should learn from them. “ Canadians can no longer afford to disregard or neglect considerable potential of government purchasing for job creation, improved working conditions and environmentally sustainable development. Given our current trade treaty constraints, ambitious “Buy Sustainable” purchasing policies offer the best way forward for Canadian workers and the environment.”

 

LNG, fossil subsidies as issues in B.C. election on October 24

British Columbia will vote on October 24, and climate and environmental issues are prominent in the Party Platforms of the ruling New Democratic Party (NDP) , the Green Party, and to a much lesser extent, the Liberal Party, which lacks any specific emissions reductions targets, and endorses LNG development.  

The NDP is running on its record and its 2018 CleanB.C. Plan; Sarah Cox wrote a detailed review in The Narwhal in September, “So there’s going to be a fall election in B.C.: has the NDP kept its environmental promises?” . A key NDP commitment  is to reach  net-zero emissions by 2050, but according to David Hughes at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (and many others), that won’t be possible with the current NDP policy to support the LNG industry –  explained, for example, in BC’s Carbon Conundrum Why LNG exports doom emissions-reduction targets and compromise Canada’s long-term energy security (July) . A related report, Subsidizing Climate Change:  how BC gives billions to corporate polluters  was published by Stand.earth in September, reporting that B.C. is second only to Alberta in subsidies to the oil and gas industry, at $557 million in 2018 (the last year for which data is available).  The Dogwood Institute also reports on this in “Tax-payer funded climate change” (Oct. 2) and “BC NDP candidates quiet as oil and gas subsidies soar (Oct. 7).  The NDP platform promises only “a comprehensive review of oil and natural gas royalty credits”. And on another hot-button issue, the Site C Dam – The Narwhal summarizes two critical reports that call for it to be scrapped in an October 15 article, and even the right-wing C.D. Howe Institute published Site C – the case is getting weaker .

For quick summaries and comparisons of all party platforms, see The Tyee “Where they Stand: Climate Change” , or an Explainer on climate and environmental issues in The Narwhal (October 19) .

Canada’s Speech from the Throne sketches out its plans for Covid recovery in pale green

The Liberal government opened the new session of Parliament on September 23 with a Speech from the Throne titled A Stronger and More Resilient Canada.  Acknowledging the perilous moment of history in which it was delivered, Catherine Abreu of Climate Action Network Canada states: “Today the Government of Canada delivered the most progressive speech from the throne heard in a generation. The promises made acknowledged the inequalities and vulnerabilities that have been laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and spoke to the scale of action needed to confront them. Of course, we’ve heard similar promises before from this government. It is the policy and investment decisions made in the coming months that will determine whether the spirit articulated in this historic speech is turned into meaningful action.”

Stating that “this is not the time for austerity”, the Speech emphasizes measures to deal with the impact of Covid-19.  General summaries by the CBC here and the Toronto Star are here;  Trish Hennessy of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives summarizes and critiques the speech with a focus on inequality, the workplace, and health care.  The Canadian Union of Public Employees response appears in  “Promises are good Proof is better”. The Canadian Labour Congress reaction  is supportive of the Speech and highlights provisions of greatest impact to workers, including the government’s promise to create one million jobs through  “direct investments in the social sector and infrastructure, immediate training to quickly skill up workers, and incentives for employers to hire and retain workers.”  Other key promises: the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will be extended through to summer 2021; modernization of the Employment Insurance system will address the growth of the self-employed and gig workers; and yet again, “significant, long-term, sustained investment to create a Canada-wide early learning and childcare system “.

From the Speech from the Throne:  The section titled, Taking action on extreme risks from climate change” :

“….Climate action will be a cornerstone of our plan to support and create a million jobs across the country….. The Government will immediately bring forward a plan to exceed Canada’s 2030 climate goal. The Government will also legislate Canada’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

As part of its plan, the Government will:

Create thousands of jobs retrofitting homes and buildings, cutting energy costs for Canadian families and businesses;

Invest in reducing the impact of climate-related disasters, like floods and wildfires, to make communities safer and more resilient;

Help deliver more transit and active transit options;

And make zero-emissions vehicles more affordable while investing in more charging stations across the country.

The Government will launch a new fund to attract investments in making zero-emissions products and cut the corporate tax rate in half for these companies to create jobs and make Canada a world leader in clean technology. The Government will ensure Canada is the most competitive jurisdiction in the world for clean technology companies.

Additionally, the Government will:

Transform how we power our economy and communities by moving forward with the Clean Power Fund, including with projects like the Atlantic Loop that will connect surplus clean power to regions transitioning away from coal;

And support investments in renewable energy and next-generation clean energy and technology solutions.

Canada cannot reach net zero without the know-how of the energy sector, and the innovative ideas of all Canadians, including people in places like British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Government will:

Support manufacturing, natural resource, and energy sectors as they work to transform to meet a net zero future, creating good-paying and long-lasting jobs;

And recognize farmers, foresters, and ranchers as key partners in the fight against climate change, supporting their efforts to reduce emissions and build resilience.

The Government will continue its policy of putting a price on pollution, while putting that money back in the pockets of Canadians. It cannot be free to pollute.

This pandemic has reminded Canadians of the importance of nature. The Government will work with municipalities as part of a new commitment to expand urban parks, so that everyone has access to green space. This will be done while protecting a quarter of Canada’s land and a quarter of Canada’s oceans in five years, and using nature-based solutions to fight climate change, including by planting two billion trees.

The Government will ban harmful single-use plastics next year and ensure more plastic is recycled. And the Government will also modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

When the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration was closed by a previous government, Canada lost an important tool to manage its waters. The Government will create a new Canada Water Agency to keep our water safe, clean, and well-managed. The Government will also identify opportunities to build more resilient water and irrigation infrastructure.

At the same time, the Government will look at continuing to grow Canada’s ocean economy to create opportunities for fishers and coastal communities, while advancing reconciliation and conservation objectives. Investing in the Blue Economy will help Canada prosper.”

Reaction to climate change provisions:

From The Tyee ,“What’s in This Throne Speech Stew? Straight from the pandemic cookbook, it’s light on green garnishes. No election on the menu.”  Reporters at The National Observer agree in “Liberal throne speech targets COVID-19 over climate” (Sept. 23), stating: “Though the Trudeau Liberals promised an “ambitious green agenda” ahead of the throne speech, the vision for the coming months unveiled Wednesday focused more on COVID-19 and its economic fallout.”  Their compilation of reaction from green groups echoes the cautious optimism in a Greenpeace Canada statement  and from West Coast Environmental Law  – which commends “promising signals” but asks “how the climate goals set out in the Throne Speech tally with the federal government’s continued support for climate-destructive projects such as the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers project.”

In the lead up to the Throne Speech, many green groups had lobbied with their specific proposals : a few examples include an Open Letter to Ministers coordinated by the Climate Action Network; the One Earth One Voice campaign;  and the Draft Throne Speech offered by Greenpeace Canada.

The National Observer highlighted the proposals of the Smart Prosperity Institute in an  Opinion Piece by Mike Moffatt and John McNally ,  “ Want a green, inclusive recovery? You can’t rush that” (Sept. 24).  They condense the arguments from an earlier blog post, ” Making a green recovery inclusive for all Canadians which lays out specific green recovery proposals but warns that a “full recovery” cannot begin until Covid-19 has been brought under control: “The risks of infection from bringing people together, potentially leading to future lockdowns, are too great.”

Can new Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole appeal to Canadians with his Climate Change platform?

Erin O’Toole, Member of Parliament for Durham Ontario, was elected as the new Leader of Canada’s Conservative Party in the early hours of August 25.  General press reaction emphasized his hawkish stance on relations with China, the strength of social conservative forces within his party, and his stated intention to carve out a middle ground to fight the next election. A sampling of articles: “Erin O’Toole works to sell Tories as big tent party” in the Globe and Mail (Aug. 25) ; “Erin O’Toole and the search for a new Canadian centre” by Paul Wells in Maclean’s (August 24); “Erin O’Toole promises to fight for West, human rights” (Aug. 26) in the National Observer; “Will Erin O’Toole Confront Conservatives’ Covid Sickness” in The Tyee (Aug. 31);  and “The inside story of how Erin O’Toole won the Conservative leadership race” in the Toronto Star (Aug. 29) .

On the issues of Climate Change and Energy Policy:

The Narwhal offers this Explainer: “Where new Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole stands on climate change, carbon tax, oil and LNG” and, from Bruce Lourie in The National Observer: “O’Toole’s climate plan has a carbon price — just don’t call it a tax” by (Aug. 26).  Also from The National Observer : “Memo to O’Toole: The road down the middle  is paved with a credible climate plan” (Aug. 31) .

It is yet to be seen what will  happen to O’Toole’s climate change platform when votes are on the line in an election campaign. As a leadership candidate, he published this Climate Change Plan  and this  Action Plan for Alberta and the West  – the latter  promising  to repeal Bill C-69; pass a National Strategic Pipelines Act; scrap the tanker ban; and implement a national LNG Export Strategy.  No wonder he won the endorsement of Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta.

From his Climate Change platform statement: “I will respect the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories by scrapping Trudeau’s carbon tax. If provinces want to use market mechanisms, other forms of carbon pricing, or regulatory measures, that is up to them. The federal government will be there to support them.” ….  “ The world will still be using oil and natural gas for a long time. The question is whether they will come from free countries like Canada with strong environmental protections, or dictatorships with no environmental protections or respect for human rights” … “Domestic energy production – including oil and gas – is an important part of making our country more self-reliant and more resilient in future, as we cannot afford to become reliant on energy from countries like Russia….” And from O’Toole’s stated priorities: “Working with industry on a plan to get to net zero emissions in the oil and gas industry through the use of technologies like electrification generated from sources such as nuclear and wind and carbon capture, with the government providing incentives similar to those that were used to stimulate the early development of the oilsands.”

In Bruce Lourie’s assessment: “The six priorities are hit-and-miss, and revert back to traditional technological solutions in the energy sector while missing many of the important economy-wide measures to help the regions of Canada without oil, as well as addressing the bulk of Canada’s climate change challenges. No mention of the auto sector or transportation at all, or building efficiency (the single most cost-effective measure), and no mention of the agricultural sector…”

BlueGreen, AFL-CIO endorse Joe Biden as president

The U.S. BlueGreen Alliance made its first-ever political endorsement on August 26: for the presidential ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.  BlueGreen’s press release states that “Biden’s manufacturing, environmental justice and sustainable infrastructure and clean energy plans align well with the organization’s Solidarity for Climate Action platform.”  That overall platform, released in 2019, has been fleshed out most recently in June, with Manufacturing Agenda: A National Blueprint for Clean Technology Manufacturing Leadership and Industrial Transformation.  It offers practical discussion of its vision:  “With this agenda, the BlueGreen Alliance and our partners put forward a bold program of action to transform the U.S. manufacturing and industrial sectors at the scale and speed our economic and climate challenges demand. By taking the lead in manufacturing the clean technology needed to dramatically reduce the emissions driving climate change, and by upgrading, retooling and cutting emissions across critical industry, we can also rebuild American competitiveness in the global economy, reinvest in hard hit communities, and secure and create good-paying local jobs across America. “

The AFL-CIO has also endorsed the Biden/Harris ticket, though not on the grounds of its climate change platform. President Richard Trumka’s speech at the Democratic National Convention Labor Council was re-posted by Portside as “Trumka to DNC Labor Council: Our Democracy Is at Stake” (Aug. 19) .

And a commentary from Kate Aronoff in The New Republic: “Biden’s Setting Himself Up to Get Blamed for Lost Blue-Collar Jobs” (August 21) is critical of the establishment Democratic policy :

“A transition off of fossil fuels isn’t some far-off theoretical policy debate: It’s happening now in the most unjust way possible. Failing to reckon with that reality sets up Democrats in 2022 and 2024 to take the blame for the industry’s decline. This is all easy to avoid, but Democrats have to be willing to build a generous safety net instead of catering to deficit hawks. And they have to start a frank conversation within the Democratic coalition about the fact that fossil fuel jobs are already disappearing—even without robust climate policy.”

Positive examples of climate action needed to bring unionists into the climate fight, says veteran activist

“The Climate Movement Doesn’t Know How to Talk with Union Members About Green Jobs” appeared in The Intercept on March 9, transcribing an interview with Jane McAlevey,  a veteran labour activist in the U.S. and now a senior policy fellow at the University of California Berkeley’s Labor Center.  One interview  question: “What do you think organizers should be doing right now to make sure a climate-friendly platform can win in a presidential race where Trump will argue that ending fossil fuel investment means lost jobs?” In response, McAlevey urges activists to allay workers’ fears about the future with examples of positive changes – citing as one of the best examples  the “New York wind deal”  when,  “unions won a far-reaching climate agreement to shift half of New York State ’s total energy needs to wind power by 2035. They did it by moving billions of subsidies away from fossil fuels and into a union jobs guarantee known as a project labor agreement.”   (A previous WCR post  summarizes the campaign which culminated in the New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in the summer of 2019).  Ultimately, McAlevey calls for “spade work” which educates workers about the climate crisis and reassures them by providing positive solutions. Citing the deeply integrated nature of the climate and economic crises, she concludes: “We have to build a movement that has enough power to win on any one of these issues that matter to us….. We’re relying on the people that already agree with us and trying to get them out in the streets. We can’t get there with these numbers.”

McAveley CollectiveBargain-book-cover-329x500The Intercept interview is one of many since Jane McAlevey’s published her third book  in January 2020.   A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy  discusses the climate crisis, but is a much broader call to arms for  the U.S. labour movement.  A very informative review of the book by Sam Gindin appears in The Jacobin, here .

One more time: can Canada meet its GHG emissions targets if oil and gas continues to expand?

The Canadian government pledged to  exceed 2030 emissions reduction targets and reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at COP25 in December 2019, and on January 13, the Minister of Finance announced  pre-Budget consultations  that will include climate change as a “central focus”.    Encouraging as all this sounds, it contrasts with the government’s  2018 purchase of the  Trans Mountain Pipeline (recently critiqued by B.C. economist Robyn Allan, and pictured with new “pipe in the ground” in December), and its mixed signals over whether Cabinet will approve the enormous Teck Frontier oil sands project in February – explained in a Narwhal Backgrounder: “Why the proposed Frontier oilsands mine is a political hot potato”.  (Hint: because it has the potential to produce 260,000 barrels of bitumen every day until 2060).

Recent forecasts for expansion of  oil and gas industry production are also at odds with  Morneau’s “focus on climate change” :

Oil, Gas and the Climate: An Analysis of Oil and Gas Industry Plans for Expansion and Compatibility with Global Emission Limits , published by the Global Gas and Oil Network ( December 2019)  describes how “new oil and gas development in Canada between now and 2050 could unlock an additional 25 GtCO2 , more than doubling cumulative emissions from the sector.”  The report is summarized in a separate WCR post  here .

Canada’s Energy Future 2019: Energy Supply and Demand Projections to 2040 , released in December by Canada Energy Regulator (CER) (formerly the National Energy Board) states “Canada is making progress in transitioning to a low-carbon future” but :

“From 2018 to 2040, crude oil production grows by nearly 50%, to around seven million barrels per day.

Natural gas production increases by about 30%, to over 20 billion cubic feet per day over the next 20 years.

In 2005, wind and solar made up 0.2% of Canada’s total generation. Combined they now make up 5%, and that share grows to nearly 10% by 2040. Over the outlook period, installed capacity of wind nearly doubles, while solar more than doubles. This depends on many factors, including costs of wind and solar power continuing to fall. EF2019 assumes that the cost of wind power falls by 20% and solar by 40% from 2018 to 2040.”

canadas energy future 2019

The  Pembina Institute responded with “Why Canada’s Energy Future report leads us astray”  on January 9th, which states: “How does the government’s long-term decarbonization plan square with its projections for energy production? The simple answer is that it doesn’t. The report’s implication is that Canada will blow past our climate targets as our oil and gas sector effectively continues on a business-as-usual trajectory….The report has real implications for federal planning and decision-making and, perhaps most significantly, the overall vision of the energy sector in this country.”  Canada’s Energy Future 2019: Energy Supply and Demand Projections to 2040 is available in PDF format and in an interactive version .

Amid the distraction of the Christmas season,  the government of Canada released Canada’s GHG Emissions Projections to 2030 , as required by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and as part of Canada’s 4th Biennial Report to the UNFCC.  The December 20 press release from the Minister of Environment and Climate Change claims that Canada will achieve an “historic level of emissions reductions” … projected to be 227 million tonnes (Mt) below what was projected in 2015 [italics by WCR]. ” The summary provides details of anticipated reductions by sector in 3 scenarios: 2019 Reference Case (policies currently in place); a 2019 Additional Measures Case, which considers the Reference Case and those that have been announced but not yet fully implemented as of September 2019 (for example, the Clean Fuel Standard); and a Technology Case, an “exploratory scenario that includes more optimistic assumptions about clean technology adoption in a number of sectors.” A summary of the Emissions Projections document is here ; the full details are in the 4th Biennial Report to the UNFCC, in English here   and here in French .

And for an example of how Industry is framing their emissions vs. growth dilemma:

Cenovus Energy issued a press release on January 9 announcing “Bold Sustainability Targets”  which “position us to thrive in the transition to a lower-carbon future”. The company states: ” Cenovus is targeting to reduce its per-barrel GHG emissions by 30% by the end of 2030, using a 2019 baseline, and hold its absolute emissions flat by the end of 2030″, with a “long-term ambition is to reach net zero emissions by 2050.”  This, despite a separate investor release which promises: “Total production increase of 7% compared with 2019 guidance, as Cenovus’s crude-by-rail program, coupled with the Government of Alberta’s Special Production Allowances, positions the company to move to unconstrained production levels.”

 

Protesters arrested as they demand Green New Deal policies from newly-elected Members of Parliament in Canada

trudeau electionThe 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.”

green new deal squadEnvironmental 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 .

Will the fossil fuel industry hijack energy policy in Canada’s election?

As the Canadian federal election campaign counts down to October 21, The Narwhal’s Explainer from September remains one of the most readable and interesting overviews of the parties’ energy and environmental platforms;  the survey responses from a consolidated questionnaire from the major environmental advocacy groups remains the most complete.  Climate activism has been a backdrop to the campaign: according to Fridays for Future Canada, over one million Canadians in 245 communities participated in climate strikes between September 20 to September 27 (a summary from Energy Mix gives more details).  On October 7, Extinction Rebellion began their demonstrations, blockading  bridges in Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto, Edmonton and  Halifax –  and according to the Vancouver  Star, pledging to escalate actions.

New publications regarding the fossil fuel industry:

Canada’s relationship with its oil and gas industry was the subject of a country profile of Canada published by Carbon Brief on October 8, providing the basic facts and figures.  The Narwhal published an Opinion Piece highlighting  the issue of fossil fuel subsidies:  “Canada’s fossil fuel subsidies amount to $1,650 per Canadian. It’s got to stop.” The article is based on a May 2019 report from the International Monetary Fund  which estimated Canada’s fossil fuel subsidies at close to $60 billion in 2015, despite the government’s G20 commitments to phase out “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies. A related report by Environmental Defence and the International Institute for Sustainable Development in February, Doubling Down with Taxpayer Dollars , examined $2Billion in fossil fuel subsidies in Alberta.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP)  Energy Platform – essentially  a “wish list” from the fossil fuel industry – calls for expanded production for oil and gas and Liquefied Natural Gas.  In report released on October 7, Environmental Defence estimates that the CAPP proposals would increase  oil and gas emissions by 60% from 2017 to 2030.  The report,  The Single Biggest Barrier to Climate Action in Canada – the Oil and Gas Lobby, documents the two types of barriers created by the oil and gas lobby: 1. the actual carbon emissions of the sector, which are responsible for 27% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and for 80 % of the increase in Canada’s overall emissions; and 2. Industry campaigns and lobbying to block or weaken climate change policies.

env diefence re Oil-Lobbyin electionRegarding the economic benefits which the oil and gas industry claims, Environmental Defence states:  “… job creation in oil and gas is far from guaranteed even as the industry expands and reaps significant corporate profits. Despite growing production since 2014, almost 30,000 jobs (10 per cent of the workforce) have been axed in the oil patch in the following four years, with another 12,000 expected to be cut in 2019. That’s because oil and gas companies are moving increasingly towards automation, with the stated goal to “de-man” the industry. Meanwhile, the CEOs of companies such as Suncor, Encana, TransCanada, and CNRL rake in salaries north of $10 million per year.”

The report concludes: “ Canada is bigger than oil. The opportunities that are available to Canadian businesses, citizens, and governments get shortchanged when one industry is able to hijack public policy on energy development and environmental protection.”  Or, as Richard Heede wrote more bluntly in a new series in The Guardian called  The Polluters: “It’s time to rein in the fossil fuel giants before their greed chokes the planet” . Heede’s Opinion article is based on the latest research about the global fossil fuel industry by the Climate Accountability Institute.  The research found that “chiefly from the combustion of their products, the top 20 companies have collectively produced 480bn tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane since 1965 – 35% of all fossil fuel emissions worldwide in that time.”  The press release names the top 20 polluters, led by Saudi Aramco, Chevron, ExxonMobil, GazProm, and BP. All research and data is here .

Election updates: Liberal platform calls for Just Transition Act, national flood insurance plan for high risk homeowners

With the federal election only weeks away on October 21, Justin Trudeau began to flesh out the Liberal Party climate change platform  with a campaign speech in Burnaby B.C. on September 24.  His speech, titled  A Climate Vision that Moves Canada Forward ,  promised that Canada would achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and announced that a re-elected Liberal government would halve the corporate tax rate for clean-technology businesses – from 9% to to 4.5 % for small business, from 15% to 7.5% for larger companies.  The Energy Mix summarized the clean tech proposals here  .

In French only, Trudeau also promised a Just Transition Act: “On va donc introduire une Loi sur la transition équitable, qui fera en sorte que les travailleurs aient accès à la formation et au soutien dont ils ont besoin pour réussir dans une économie plus verte. … Ensemble, on peut continuer de bâtir un pays où les entreprises de technologies propres sont prospères, où nos citoyens sont encouragés à faire des choix plus verts et où nos travailleurs s’épanouissent alors qu’on amorce notre transition écologique.”   An unofficial English translation of that promise might read: “We will be introducing a law on Just Transition, where there’s access for workers for the training and support that they’ll need  if they are to take part in an economy becoming steadily greener.  Together, we can continue to build a country where our own high tech businesses prosper, where citizens choose  green and greener ways of living , and where workers fulfill their goals while they make the choices that will shape Canada’s environment of the future. ”

flooding firefighterA CBC article provides a summary of a second round of Liberal climate change announcements which came on September 25. Trudeau, like the other leaders,  promised financial incentives to encourage energy efficiency retrofits, but  also promised to address the human costs of flood disasters through: creation of a low-cost national flood insurance program for homeowners in high-risk flood zones without adequate insurance protection; a national action plan to help homeowners at highest risk of repeat flooding with potential relocation; efforts to design an Employment Insurance Disaster Assistance Benefit to help people whose jobs and livelihoods are negatively affected by disaster; and to work with provinces and territories to update and complete flood maps to guide Canadians in home-buying decisions.

Looking for guidance on how to vote?

ClimateFederalPartySurvey_CAN-RacCanada-960x640Although Elections Canada made the ground shaky  for environmental groups to speak publicly in the current election, some are stepping up with information.  Fourteen of Canada’s major environmental advocacy groups consolidated their priorities to produce a questionnaire, sent to the federal parties in July 2019.  The responses from five parties are here ; the People’s Party of Canada did not respond . Questions included: “Will you immediately legislate a climate plan that will reduce Canada’s emissions in line with keeping warming below 1.5°C?; Will your climate plan clearly and precisely describe programs to reduce emissions from transportation, buildings and the oil and gas sector? Will you ensure that workers and their families thrive during the transition to a low-carbon economy, by extending the Task Force on Just Transition to include all fossil fuel industries?; Will you create a Federal Environmental Bill of Rights that formally recognizes the legal right to a healthy environment?”.

Climate Action Network Canada was one of the fourteen, and had released Getting Real about Canada’s Climate Planin June, intended as “a baseline against which we can assess federal parties’ climate plans.” EcoJustice was also part of the collaborative questionnaire, but has  posted its own analysis of the party platforms here . Macleans magazine has compiled their own guide to the platforms on all issues here ; on environment and climate change issues here  and on energy policy (including pipelines)  here .

A sampling of Opinions:

“Climate change the sword as Liberal and Conservatives battle for power” in the National Observer https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/09/25/news/climate-change-sword-liberal-and-conservatives-battle-power  (Sept. 25), which describes the competing political rhetoric in the wake of Trudeau’s first announcement;

Clean Energy Canada issued a press release on October 1,  stating: “The platform identifies similar areas of focus as the NDP and Green plans: more and cleaner public transit, increasing the number of zero-emission vehicles on the road, generating more clean power, and building and retrofitting more energy efficient homes. While not as aggressive as those plans, the proposed policies, programs, and investments are generally laid out in greater detail….The Liberal plan is unique, however, in its identification of electrification as a strategic opportunity to make Canadian industries and manufacturing the cleanest in the world, supported by a proposed $5-billion Clean Power Fund sourced from the Canada Infrastructure Bank. “

Simon Donner, professor of climatology at the University of British Columbia  writes in Policy Options (Oct. 1): “Despite lofty claims and aspirational goals, there is no Canadian plan consistent with avoiding 1.5°C or 2°C warming. Wherever you are on the political spectrum, the rhetoric of your party on climate change does not match the numbers.” His article was featured in the Toronto Star .

This week in climate inaccuracy: Climate strike poses” by Chris Turner in The National Observer (Sept. 30) is the first in a promised series of critiques of all parties.

On climate change, the Liberal  plan (mostly) adds up”, an Editorial in the Globe and Mail (restricted access)  (Oct.1).

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 .

Canada’s Green Party and NDP prepare to fight the October election with newly-released Climate Change plans

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 

MayElizabeth_GPGreen 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” .

singh facebook photoNew 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.”

Activists are mobilizing to push for a Canadian Green New Deal in the 2019 elections

The push for a Canadian Green New Deal is a rising tide with strong public support, and a number of different activist groups are gathering in different coalitions to push our politicians to action. “Canadian Coalitions’ Election Platforms Call For Faster Action On Climate” (May 7) in The Energy Mix summarizes three prominent initiatives that launched in early May. Here are a few more details:

SUZUKI green new dealThe Pact for a Green New Deal  launched on May 6 with a very high profile campaign in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. An Executive summary called 10 Questions  states: “it is a non-partisan, grassroots initiative supported by individuals, scientists, unions, Indigenous and civil society organizations and youth from across the country.” It  has been endorsed by over 67 organizations, including many of Canada’s largest environmental advocacy groups, and the following  labour unions:  CUPE Ontario, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec, London and District Labour Council, and Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation.  Amongst youth, endorsers include: Climate Strike Canada, PowerShift: Young and Rising, ENvironnement JEUnesse (ENJEU), iMatter Halifax, and Students for Direct Action.  It also includes a number of influential celebrities, including David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, Stephen Lewis, Michelle Landsberg,  and dozens of musicians and artists – even  K.D. Laing, but not Margaret Atwood!  The full list of endorsers is here.

The 10 Questions document also states that the The Pact for a Green New Deal (P4GND) is NOT a copy of the U.S. campaign so widely identified with  the Sunrise Movement and Alexandria Ocacio Cortez. This Canadian initiative was inspired by Le Pacte  that was started in Quebec in November 2018 by Dominic Champagne (who endorses this new initiative).  The Pacte has attracted over  270,000 signatories who pledge to make personal lifestyle changes to address the climate emergency, including citizen engagement, and who endorse a definite list of priorities.  In contrast,  The Pact for a Green New Deal is a visionary process, as set out in a 3-page statement:

“We Invite All Sectors of Society to Launch The Year of The Green New Deal:  We call on workers, Indigenous communities, students, trade unions, migrants, community organizations and people across the country to gather, define and design a plan for a safe future and more prosperous present. The conversation about a Green New Deal for Canada must be led from the ground up. We call on all politicians and political parties to respond to the demands of the people with a Green New Deal that rests on two fundamental principles: 1. It must meet the demands of Indigenous knowledge and science and cut Canada’s emissions in half in 11 years while protecting cultural and biological diversity. 2. It must leave no one behind and build a better present and future for all of us.”

An interactive map here shows all the planned locations for the Pact for a Green New Deal cross-country tour, starting in Toronto in May.

Environmental Asks for the October 2019 Election: Many of the endorsers of the Pact for a Green New Deal are also endorsing another initiative, announced  on May 7, presenting 20 “asks” for Party Platforms .  “These platform recommendations represent the collective priorities of all of the organizations listed below and will form the basis of joint-venture communication concerning each political parties’ commitments in the lead-up to the 2019 Federal election.”  The group will also evaluate and compare the party platforms once they are announced. There are 14 groups involved are:  Canadian Environmental Law Association, CPAWS, David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, ecojustice, équiterre, Environmental Defence, Greenpeace, Nature Canada, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, West Coast Environmental Law Association, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, and WWF-Canada. In addition, the United Steelworkers have announced their support via an article in the Toronto Star,Labour a key partner in a Green New Deal” (May 6 ) , also issued as a USW press release.

Younger Canadians launched their own political initiative to fight for a Green New Deal on April 17. The group, Our Time, states its goal   is “to organize and mobilize a generational alliance of young and millennial voters that’s big enough and bold enough to push politicians to support a Green New Deal in the lead up to the 2019 election.”

And without using the tern “Green New Deal”, the youth organization Climate Strike Canada, inspired by the Fridays for Future movement, has set out a list of political demands in an Open Letter and online petition :

“We, as citizens, therefore call upon all political parties and politicians to create and commit to a science-based and human rights focused Emergency Plan for Climate Justice that limits global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

We, as citizens, pledge to vote only for political parties and politicians that include the following demands in their Emergency Plan for Climate Justice.

  • Bold Emissions Reductions Targets
  • Separation of Oil and State
  • A Just Transition
  • Environmental rights
  • Indigenous rights
  • Conservation of Biodiversity
  • Protection for Vulnerable Groups

Canadian youth continue climate strikes and join the political push for a Canadian Green New Deal

fridays may 3Students in approximately 95 towns and cities across Canada went on strike from school on May 3, continuing their Fridays for Future campaign .  As was the case after the huge March 15 demonstrations ,  mainstream press coverage was limited, but included a front-page story in the Sudbury Star . Other coverage:  Corner Brook Newfoundland ; Regina Saskatchewan , Edmonton , and Vancouver, where an article in The Straight (May 3) summarizes the strike in Vancouver and notes others across Canada and the world.  In Halifax, CBC News reported that 400 students marched, despite threats of suspension from at least one high school .  In “Thousands march for action on climate change in Montreal as city braces for flooding”, the CBC reports that intergenerational demonstrations were held in Quebec on April 27, and states “Quebec’s largest unions took part in similar marches in Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, Rimouski, Rouyn-Noranda, Alma, Gaspé, Mont-Laurier and Ottawa.”

Youth are driven by fear:  The National Observer has launched a new series on Youth, Parents and the Climate Crisis with “Climate strikes and the youth mental health crisis” (May 2).  Similarly,  “Meet the millennials grieving for the future of planet Earth” describes ecological grief circles in Montreal .  The words of a sampling of youth leaders are revealing in the interviews from  “Canadian Teens Told Us Why They’re Striking Over Climate Change” (May 2) in  Vice . 

What’s Next?  The Federal Election and a Green New Deal: Students say they will continue their school strikes, and in addition, some are now joining the political fight, despite being too young to vote in many cases.   Climate Strike Canada has posted an Open Letter and online petition which lists their demands:

“We, as citizens, therefore call upon all political parties and politicians to create and commit to a science-based and human rights focused Emergency Plan for Climate Justice that limits global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

We, as citizens, pledge to vote only for political parties and politicians that include the following demands in their Emergency Plan for Climate Justice.

  • Bold Emissions Reductions Targets
  • Separation of Oil and State
  • A Just Transition
  • Environmental rights
  • Indigenous rights
  • Conservation of Biodiversity
  • Protection for Vulnerable Groups

SUZUKI green new dealSeveral youth organizations are among the 67 groups who announced for a Green New Deal for Canada  on May 6, launching another political movement to fight for  climate change action in the coming election.  The Energy Mix provides a summary of these new political campaigns  in “Canadian Coalitions’ Election Platforms Call For Faster Action On Climate” (May 7).  Common Dreams also describes the new group in “‘The Pact for a Green New Deal’: Visionary Roadmap From Canadian Coalition Launched”  (May 6).

Saskatchewan Court of Appeal rules for federal carbon tax program

With implications across the country, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal handed down a 3-2 decision  on May 3, ruling that the federal Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA) falls within federal government’s “National Concern” constitutional power. The Saskatchewan Association for Environmental Law has compiled all the legal submission documents here ; the EcoFiscal Commission provides a summary of the 155-page Decision here  .

Local coverage and reaction appeared in the Regina Leader Post (May 3) in “Court of Appeal: Saskatchewan government loses carbon tax challenge , and the Premier of Saskatchewan immediately declared that the province will appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, which it must do within 30 days.  As the Globe and Mail points out,  “Saskatchewan court rules federal carbon tax constitutional in first of several legal challenges” .  According to a CBC report, the Premier of New Brunswick  is still considering his options, but newly-elected Premier Jason Kenny of Alberta will join the Saskatchewan Supreme Court action. The Premier of Manitoba announced that his government will not abandon its own court challenge, which it launched on April 3. In Ontario, the Ford government is aggressively promoting its own battle over the carbon tax: four days of hearings ended on April 18th, and the Ontario Court of Appeal is expected to render its own decision on the constitutionality of the carbon tax in several months – possibly not until after the federal election in October 2019.

The political significance of the Saskatchewan decision:  Aaron Wherry at CBC  summarizes the general situation in  “The carbon tax survived Saskatchewan. That was the easy part”  (May 4).  The Globe and Mail states what is a widely accepted opinion in its editorial,  “Why conservatives secretly love the carbon tax”: “Round One goes to Ottawa. But the courtroom war against the federal carbon tax continues – waged by a fraternity of conservative provincial governments with more of an eye on immediate political returns than ultimate legal outcomes.”

Update:  Three law professors- Jason MacLean (University of Saskatchewan), Nathalie Chalifour ( University of Ottawa) and Sharon Mascher (University of Calgary)  published a reaction to the Saskatchewan Court’s decision on May 7 in The Conversation“Work on Climate not weaponizing the constitution”   takes issue with some of the finer legal points of the decision, but welcomes the Court’s recognition of the urgency and scale  of the climate emergency, and concludes: “We have to stop weaponizing the Constitution and start working together, across party lines at all levels of government, on urgent and ambitious climate action.”

U.K. Unions call for Transformative Transition and Energy Democracy

The Public and Commercial Services Union of the U.K. (PCS), with 180,000 civil service members, chose its annual delegate conference in late  May  to release  Just transition and Energy Democracy,  a thorough discussion of climate change impacts and solutions, which argues that “Far from being a distraction, climate change can reinforce trade union organisation, show their contemporary relevance particularly to young members, and start to place trade unions at the very centre of the crucial and urgent debate about what we mean when we talk of a just transition.”    The paper argues for energy democracy as a fundamental right, and  references a 2016 report  Public ownership of the UK energy system – benefits, costs and processes , which states that energy democracy is necessary for the development of renewable energy and financially possible to achieve .  Just Transition and Energy Democracy  sets out a framework for the public sector role in this energy transition, and states, “For PCS therefore we advocate that a just transition is also a transformative process for economic and social justice, going beyond market based solutions and negotiation within a framework of green capitalism.” In the transformative scenario a just transition “will address the inherent inequality and injustice of the capitalist system”.  Step one in the process would be the  creation of a National Climate Service similar to the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS), to ensure there is a body to create the jobs needed to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The University and College Union (UCU) also debated and carried a resolution     concerning climate change and Just Transition at its convention in June, and adopted a  resolution to take to the TUC conference in September, enumerating actions, including support for energy democracy.

Jeremy_Corbyn_speaking_at_the_Labour_Party_General_Election_Launch_2017

Photo by Sophie Brown, from Wikipedia Commons

Reaction of unions to the surprise Labour surge in the U.K. election is summarized in the June/July newsletter of the Greener Jobs Alliance.  All cite the importance of the Labour Party manifesto, For the many, not the few ,  which included proposals for energy democracy through publicly owned, locally accountable energy companies and cooperatives. It also proposed an industrial and skills strategy to drive investment in electric vehicles, home insulation, new low carbon technologies for heavy industries like steel, and a ban on fracking.