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Deconstructing the Conservative Party's climate plan

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Job killing carbon tax. Image: Linda Leon

The Conservative Party's "A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment" begins with two big whoppers.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer cannot own the activities of Progressive Conservative governments as his party's "proud legacy" because the PC governments were progressive and the Conservative Party is not.

Scheer's claim that Stephen Harper was responsible for the "net decline of greenhouse gas emissions between 2007 and 2015" is also bogus. The Harper government closed research laboratories, gutted environmental regulations and threatened bird clubs with Canada Revenue Agency audits for even mentioning "climate change" in the same sentence as "species loss." There was a big drop in Canada's greenhouse gas emissions that closely corresponds to the 2008 recession which led to a corresponding slowdown in fossil fuel production. Our emission levels have been increasing since 2009.

"A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment" could truthfully be called a picture book because half the content is pictures. Nine per cent of the text consists of ad hominem attacks against the Trudeau government. "Green technology, not taxes" is repeated seven times, in case you forget that the Conservative Party plans to cut the carbon tax if elected.

 "A Real Plan" contains 36 promises. Twenty-four are without teeth, containing words such as "encourage," "voluntary," "foster" and "study."

Here are the actual promises:

11. "Create a single online hub for green technology innovators that will help them identify where they can find talent, information, and resources from the private and public sectors."

"Canada's polytechnics, universities and centres for research and development have numerous resources including students, professors, high quality facilities and leading technology that can be used by Canadian Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)."

Once industry has influence on curriculums, universities and colleges cease to be independent institutions of higher learning and become extensions of corporate research and policies.

33. "Work with coastal provinces, business leaders and industry experts to explore the creation of flexible shipping routes based on latest scientific data, to reduce the impacts of shipping on marine life."

Indigenous people and coastal communities are excluded. And just how flexible will regulations be?

34. "Provide targeted accelerated capital cost allowances to industries that can be shown to reduce emissions in other countries, and to producers who can be shown to be among the least carbon intensive in the world in their industry."

"Canadian energy products like LNG can be used to replace dirtier foreign energy sources like coal."

This is a fossil fuel subsidy to LNG producers who export to countries that use coal. (Natural gas is methane. Methane leaks from well bores are not well monitored. Reporting is not required. Methane is 86 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.)

30. "Re-establish the Hunting and Angling Advisory Panel."

This panel was launched by the Harper government in 2012. It excluded Indigenous people, environmentalists and bird clubs.

32. "Prioritize funding for environmental compliance and enforcement."

The preamble focusses only on poachers.

The best proposals in "A Real Plan" are built on existing legislation:

1. "Set emissions standards for major emitters."

This is similar to the current government's cap on emissions although it has a lower threshold, 40 kilotonnes compared to the Liberal cap of 50 kilotonnes. This is an excellent idea.

5. "Leverage up to $1 billion in private investment in new venture capital for Canadian green technology companies."

A similar fund of $450 million was announced in January by the current government.

9. "Establish a Green Patent Credit that will reduce the tax rate to 5 per cent on income that is generated from green technology developed and patented in Canada."

It is already proven to work in Quebec.

29. "Continue to fund the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWNP). Increased resources for waterfowl conservation measures, funded by modest increases for non-resident hunters on the cost of the migratory bird stamp."

Unfortunately, the Liberals will not continue to fund NAWNP. It gave financial support to grassroots organizations protecting and restoring wetlands.

31. "Ban the export of plastics waste unless it can be shown that it will be recycled at its destination and impose tough penalties for violations."

The current government put regulations in place in 2016 and has not issued any permits to export plastic waste since.

35. "Expand Export Development Canada (EDC) programs to issue more green bonds that provide financing for the development of emissions reducing technologies."

This initiative was launched in 2018 by the Liberals.

Criticisms of the carbon tax contained in this document are misleading. Here are the facts.

  • Is the carbon tax a tax grab? No. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) all but 30 per cent of the wealthiest citizens will get their money back through rebates.
  • Is it accurate to say that consumers are paying 92 per cent of the costs of reducing our carbon footprint? No. The current government has an emissions cap with penalties for industries
  • Carbon taxes are an effective form of behaviour modification and have been shown to change consumer behaviour worldwide. 
  • If we do nothing, our greenhouse gas emissions are projected to be 815 megatonnes by 2030.

In the Paris Accord, Canada agreed to reduce its emissions levels to 30 per cent below our 2005 level by 2030. Government studies predict that the carbon tax will reduce our emission rate by 223 megatonnes which is still 79 megatonnes short of our target. The carbon tax will reduce our carbon footprint by 73 percent of our goal. This is significant.

  • According to the PBO, if the carbon tax was higher, we could meet our target. It would cost each of us, on average, $103 per year, or as CBC pundits put it, the cost of a Netflix subscription. Or we could use other strategies to make up the difference.
  • Canada emits 1.6 per cent of the world's emissions. But on a per capital basis, we are the third-worst polluters after Australia and the U.S. For Canadians who resent pressure to reduce their fossil fuel consumption, consider this: the UN predicts that there will be 135 million climate change refugees by 2045 due to desertification. They are not responsible for their predicament. We are.

So how does the Conservative Party plan to meet our Paris Accord targets? They don't actually say. This is a plan to "protect our environment" and not a sincere plan to reduce our emissions.

We are in a climate change crisis. And although a carbon tax can make a significant difference, there are no magic bullets. Wouldn't it be nice if our leaders put aside partisan politics to work together on this serious problem?

Read Linda Leon's full analysis of climate platforms in the 2019 federal election here.

Yukon is full of artists, thinkers, eccentrics and rabble-rousing political trouble makers. From the windows of her Acting Out Studio, Linda Leon observes the view from North. Every good artist knows that you have to stand far away to get a full perspective.

Image: Linda Leon

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