Now that Manitoba has joined Ontario and Saskatchewan in opposition to a carbon tax, what are the realistic political options for the federal government? Economists overwhelmingly support carbon pricing as the most economically efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emission and combat climate change. But should the federal government now just accept that Canadian conservatives have successfully framed it as a “job-killing tax” whose implementation will “hurt the economy”? Have Doug Ford, Andrew Scheer and other Conservatives been successful in nurturing the suspicion that carbon pricing is just another tax grab by government that will make “ordinary Canadians” worse off? Is the idea now politically dead?
A particularly scathing criticism came from a Globe and Mail editorial that suggests the government could have “simply brought in a carbon price and stopped there”. The Globe claims that price signals could have done the job and left more up to “individual choice”, while achieving emissions reductions at minimum cost. This is a policy based on a narrow and ultra-orthodox reading of neoclassical economics, and it is good that Ontario did not limit itself to carbon pricing.
Recent events have triggered an important discussion on the Left’s approach to climate change policy. The Leap Manifesto is one expression of the desire to transition to a carbon neutral economy while creating a more just and “caring” society.
The new Canadian government has certainly shot off the starting blocks at breakneck speed on climate policy. Catherine McKenna was more or less packing for a ministerial meeting in Paris while swearing her oath to become Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
On a public policy Richter scale, Alberta’s new Climate Leadership Plan is an 11. It is enormously positive and forward-looking and will yield measurable benefits for the health and quality of life of Albertans. Significantly, the new plan is supported by oil industry leaders, environmental organizations and other important stakeholders.
Posted by Geoff Stiles · November 19, 2015 3:45 PM
The recent Broadbent Institute and Mowat Centre report, Step-Change: Federal Policy Ideas Towards a Low-Carbon Canada, appears at a critical time. Intended to provide concrete examples of mitigation policies that might be adopted in the long run by the new federal government, it is also a timely reminder of the need for Canada to revise its approach to negotiating an agreement in Paris.
Justin Trudeau has announced that the Liberals “won’t set a specific emissions target” for greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change. His reasoning is that, “what we need is not ambitious political targets. What we need is an ambitious plan to reduce our emissions in the country.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is doubling down on his strong commitment to oil sands development, charging that the opposition's call for greenhouse gas reductions and a thorough environmental review process of pipeline and new energy projects would be an economic disaster.
This year Pope Francis is expected to deliver an encyclical on ecology, one concerning the environment broadly and perhaps climate change more particularly.
Believers and non-believers alike, united by a common concern for the future of the planet, have high hopes that someone who chose to name himself after that great lover of creation, Francis of Assisi, will say something truly transformational, for as a Canadian Council of Churches document lamentably observes, transformative change has not “found traction within political processes.”