All five party leaders running outside of Quebec in the upcoming 2019 federal election. (The Canadian Press photos)

All five party leaders running outside of Quebec in the upcoming 2019 federal election. (The Canadian Press photos)

ELECTION 2019: Climate strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

With nearly a million people across Canada pouring into the streets to call for climate action in recent weeks, the environment has quickly become a top priority for federal party leaders.

If elected, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are promising a series of legally binding environmental regulations to bring in net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. They’re also pledging to install 5,000 electric-vehicle charging stations, plant two billion trees over 10 years, raise the price of carbon up to $50 per tonne by 2022, and ban single-use plastics. It will also start a $5-billion clean power fund to support the “electrification” of industries like mining and forestry.

Looking far into the future, the party says it will put any money generated by the sale or construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion towards a transition to clean energy. Construction has yet to begin.

Releasing their platform late in the campaign on Friday, Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives have pledged to scrap the carbon tax, and instead bring in standards for major emitters. Companies will be required to invest “a set amount” for every excess tonne of greenhouse gas they emit, to go toward research for emissions reduction in their industry.

The party has also promised to create tax credits on public transit and green home improvements, end the crude oil shipping ban on B.C.’s north coast, build the Trans Mountain pipeline, and stop cities from dumping raw sewage into Canadian waters.

Jagmeet Singh’s NDP is vowing to reduce emissions by 450,000 megatonnes by 2030 and continue carbon pricing, while switching all public transit to electric power by 2030, eliminating single-use plastics, and investing $40 million in coastline protection.

Singh has spoken out against the Trans Mountain expansion, but has not committed to stopping it.

Elizabeth May’s Greens, who have long made the environment the cornerstone of their platforms, vow to cut carbon emissions to 60 per cent by 2030 and hit net-zero by 2050, continue carbon pricing, and cancel the Trans Mountain expansion.

They also pledge to plant 10 billion trees by 2050, bring in a national strategy for safe drinking water, and ban single-use plastics by 2022.

The People’s Party of Canada claims there is “no scientific consensus” on human-caused climate change. The party says it will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and abolish the carbon tax and subsidies for green technologies.

Kai Chan, a University of B.C professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, said the in-depth environmental plans are a testament to climate strikes worldwide.

“The tone is changing,” Chan told Black Press Media by phone, pointing to polls that suggest climate change is the top issue for nearly one-quarter of voters, even above jobs.

The Trudeau government’s $4.5-billion purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline was widely criticized when it 3was announced in May 2018. However, the polls suggest pro-climate action voters may still choose Trudeau because they see no viable alternative, he said.

READ MORE: Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

READ MORE: Advance voter turnout up 25% for first two days: Elections Canada

The Liberals and the Conservatives are nearly tied in the polls as of Oct. 15, with the NDP trailing nearly 15 percentage points, barely ahead of the Greens.

Those numbers suggest the purchase seems to have “stopped the hemorrhaging” of the party’s right-leaning supporters to the Conservatives, Chain said, while convincing voters in the middle that the party can protect the environment and the economy at the same time.

“I think it was a pretty effective ploy to keep pushing the climate pricing strategy while also spending billions of dollars purchasing a pipeline.”

David Tindall, a sociology professor at UBC, said the Liberals have been playing “a bit of a fear card” on the environmental front.

“They’re saying if you don’t vote Liberal, the alternative is going to be the Conservatives, and they’re going to go back the other direction,” Tindall said.

READ MORE: B.C. teen creates app to help voters know the issues ahead of Election Day

The previous Conservative governments, under Stephen Harper, was criticized for reducing greenhouse gas emission targets, withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, and “muzzling” scientists who publicly opposed its policies.

Voters will elect a Liberal minority government on Oct. 21, Tindall predicted, likely propped up by the NDP and the Greens, who could pressure Trudeau to bring in more climate-friendly policies.

READ MORE: Trudeau targeted in English leaders’ debate

The next story in the series, coming Thursday, is on taxation and the economy.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(BC Hydro photo)
BC Hydro planned power outages to darken downtown Smithers for most of day Sunday, Jan 17

Replacement of poles will affect approximately 250 customers in downtown core from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Smithers Local Health Area reported 25 new cases of COVID-19 Jan. 3 - 9. (BC CDC graphic)
Weekly new cases of COVID-19 rise to 25 in Smithers LHA Jan. 3 – 9

Northern Health reported 49 new daily cases for 497 active, 44 hospitalized, 13 in critical care

The first of two massive turbines headed from Prince Rupert for the Site C Dam near Fort St. John on Jan 10. (Photo: Supplied by Tasha McKenzie)
Massive turbines begin trek across Northwestern B.C.

Hydro-Electric turbines headed from Prince Rupert to Site C Dam week of Jan. 10 to 14

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)

Most Read