Environmental Science & Engineering Magazine takes a look at some of the details surrounding party platforms on climate, sustainability, and the environment, as Canadians head into the 2021 federal election.
In some polls prior to the last federal election, the environment was the top concern for many voters, passing the usual focus on the economy as the number one priority. Recent polling this time around suggests that almost one-in-five Canadians (18%) views climate change as the most important issue to them when it comes to considering which party they will support on September 20.
There are some commonalities in focus for all major parties during this remarkably short 44th election campaign. Each has committed to some form of carbon pricing in their platforms. Also, there is renewed focus on zero-emission vehicle mandates and boosting a circular economy so that materials flow in sectors such as e-waste and plastics.
Emission targets are also available for the major parties. The Liberals promise a 40%-45% emissions reduction aligned with the current Paris Accords target. The NDP goes further, promising a 50% emissions reduction by 2030; the Green Party pledges a 60% emissions reduction (below 2005 levels) by 2030. The Conservatives, meanwhile, have promised to meet Canada’s previous Paris target of 30% emissions reductions. The party says they will achieve this weaker target, “but without the government taxing working Canadians and driving jobs and investment out of the country.”
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Now, let’s look at some of the individual party platform details.
Under the tagline, “A Cleaner, Greener Future,” Leader Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada are committing to 25% conservation of land and water by 2025. They are also promising to create a $2 billion fund for carbon intensive provinces to decarbonize, specifically Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Liberals have pledged $8 billion to a net-zero accelerator to make strategic investments in domestic net-zero firms. They will also reduce by 50% the corporate and small business income tax rates for firms that manufacture zero-emission technologies.
Trudeau’s party is also aiming to create a “census of the environment” to monitor trends, with $25.6 million over five years to Statistics Canada.
Additionally, the Liberals are vowing to create 10 new national parks and 10 marine conservation areas in the next five years.
The party also wants to update the Canada Water Act to address Indigenous water rights, climate change and other issues. They want to “make any investments necessary to eliminate all remaining advisories” relating to drinking water on First Nations reserves.
They will also identify and prioritize the cleanup of contaminated sites in areas where Indigenous, racialized, and low-income Canadians live.
Already in the works are efforts to establish and fully fund a Canada Water Agency in 2022 to consolidate and coordinate federal freshwater efforts to “combat the debilitating cycles of floods and droughts brought on by climate change,” the party states.
In terms of carbon pricing, the Liberals are focused on a national price that would gradually rise to $170 per tonne by 2030. It is currently priced at $40 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions.
“A serious plan for the environment is a plan for the economy,” Trudeau announced in a recent statement. “We have done more to fight climate change and protect our environment than any other government in Canadian history, and our plan has created new jobs and growth across the country. But we can’t stop now. We can’t go back to the inaction of the Harper years. A cleaner and greener future is within our reach,” he added.
The party also hopes to end plastic waste by 2030.
Additional details on the Liberal Party platform can be found here.
“Secure the Environment” is how Leader Erin O’Toole and the Conservative Party of Canada are branding public discussion on many environmental issues.
The Conservatives say they are recommitted to protecting 17% of land areas, potentially reaching 25%, but without a timeframe.
O’Toole is also rallying against a carbon tax hike. He says this can’t work if the U.S. doesn’t have a national carbon pricing system.
A notable and perhaps signature policy the Conservatives say they will introduce is a national Personal Low Carbon Savings Account. Calling it a “smart, market-based approach,” O’Toole said Canadians would pay a surcharge when they buy fossil fuels, then the money would go into a tax-free savings account earmarked for green purchases like transit passes.
The Conservatives have priced carbon, starting at $20 per tonne and increasing to a maximum of $50 per tonne.
The party is also looking intently at a zero-emissions vehicle mandate similar to one in B.C. They want to require 30% of light duty vehicles sold to be zero emissions by 2030.
O’Toole is also promising to develop a National Clean Energy Strategy, a national climate adaptation strategy (already in the works under the Liberal government), and a natural infrastructure plan.
The Conservatives say they will restore funding for the National Wetland Conservation Fund and the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnership Program, which they blame the Liberals for cancelling. They would also support more wetlands and watershed protection opportunities.
The party’s platform indicates that it wants to end raw sewage dumping into lakes, rivers and oceans. They will also attempt to tighten the rules on cruise ships in Canadian waters to align with Alaska’s rules to prevent sewage and greywater dumping.
“Our infrastructure investments are pivotal to rebuilding our economy and making life easier for Canadians,” O’Toole announced in a September statement. “Only Canada’s Conservatives have a plan to build infrastructure faster and create good jobs for Canadians to fuel our recovery,” he added.
More details on the Conservative platform can be found here.
With a built-in focus on the environment rooted in the party, Leader Annamie Paul and the Green Party of Canada say they will target a 60% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030.
“The painful reality is that Canada is a top 10 net emitter of GHGs, a top five per-capita emitter, and our emissions increased last year, even in the midst of a pandemic-related economic slowdown,” Paul announced in a spring statement.
Also by 2030, the Greens will aim to ensure Canadian electricity is produced entirely from renewable sources. It’s also the same year the party says it will ban the sale of all internal combustion engine passenger vehicles. It will work to develop programs to encourage retirement of existing gas-powered vehicles.
The Greens platform indicates that the party wants better protections for a minimum of 30% of freshwater and land in each Canadian ecosystem by 2030 and 50% by 2050, prioritizing carbon-rich ecosystems.
The party also pledges to end new pipeline construction, fracking and oil and gas exploration projects and use those funds to invest in the infrastructure and green sectors.
The Greens say they will also work to support Indigenous-led protected and conservation areas and fund stewardship of these lands and waters by Indigenous guardians. The party also says they will end long-term boil water advisories by investing in and upgrading infrastructure.
In terms of carbon pricing, the party states that beginning in 2022 and up to 2030, it would increase carbon taxes by $25 per tonne each year. They also say they would enact a Carbon Border Adjustment to ensure Canadian companies paying carbon taxes are not placed at a competitive disadvantage with foreign companies located in countries with no such taxes.
Further Green Party platform details can be found here.
“Protecting our air, land, and water, securing our future,” is how Leader Jagmeet Singh and The New Democratic Party of Canada have billed their environmental platform.
The party’s platform states that it will create a National Crisis Strategy to help communities — particularly vulnerable, remote and Indigenous ones — reduce and react to climate risks and extreme weather, with long-term funding for adaptation, disaster mitigation and climate-resilient infrastructure.
The NDP is promising to preserve 30% of Canadian land areas, fresh and ocean waters by 2030.
The party is also looking at the creation of an Office of Environmental Justice. The new focus could ensure climate investments protect the environment, and address disproportionate impacts that pollution and loss of biodiversity have on low-income, racialized and other marginalized communities. The idea is to place Indigenous communities as equal partners in the design and implementation of climate policies, not just consultants, the party says.
The NDP states that it wants to strengthen the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to better protect people against toxic substances in everyday products like cosmetics.
“Justin Trudeau has talked about climate change for six years, but he’s refused to act,” Singh announced in a recent statement. “He has increased subsidies to big oil and gas companies and let carbon pollution keep going up. We can’t afford Mr. Trudeau’s inaction. It’s time to stand up to big polluters and fight the climate crisis for real,” he added.
Singh pledges to create a Climate Accountability office to oversee federal climate action and end fossil fuel subsidies. The party promises to use money that would have gone into fossil fuel subsidies to fund low-carbon initiatives instead. They also promise to strengthen the federal environmental impact assessment process for new coal mines and mine expansion projects.
More details on the NDP election platform can be found here.