Election Edition — Could Canada’s voters end the “climate laggard” era?


On Monday, Canadians will pick their next leader and decide who will be the face of the nation during the Paris climate negotiations taking place in just a matter of weeks. During nearly a decade of Conservative control, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has fast-tracked growth of dirty tar sands and pipelines, bypassed Indigenous laws of the land, and pushed for an oil-driven economy that drove the looney to its lowest point in 11 years.  Canadians have grown increasingly frustrated and are seeking drastic change, and polls show that Monday’s election, where turnout is expected to be massive, could mark the end of the Harper era. Nonetheless, whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper is reelected, or a new leader representing the Liberal Party or the New Democratic Party enters office, the next administration will play a crucial role in shaping environmental policy both domestically and abroad. As the next federal administration wheels in and maps out its vision for the country, Canada will be positioned to either change course and engage positively in the ongoing transition away from fossil fuels or remain a climate laggard despite the wishes of its citizens.


Key Points

  • Dirty energy is not the basis of Canada’s economic growth. With job growth in Canada’s green energy sector recently surpassing employment in the oil sands, the myth that dirty energy serves as the basis of Canada’s economy and quality of life is busted. According to Statistics Canada, tar sands development contributes just over 2 per cent toward Canada’s gross domestic product. Meanwhile, the costs associated with pursuing a dirty energy strategy are significant.
  • A sustainable economy is a strong economy and Canadians know that as they vote for their future. According to a report published by the NewClimate Economy, economies will grow while carbon emissions shrink — as long as international commitment to clean development is strong. If Canada changes its reputation as a climate laggard and joins the global energy transition, the next prime minister can lead the country towards economic prosperity.
  • Climate change and the environment are top issues for Canadians from all walks of life. A diverse coalition of more than 25,000 people from across Canada assembled in Quebec this spring demanding climate protection from their leaders, while 10,000 more echoed similar demands for jobs, justice and the climate to be at the forefront of the political agenda. Businesses, environmental groups and First Nations all see value in building a low carbon economy.
  • Dirty energy projects have devastated communities. Whether it’s the proposed cross-country Energy East pipeline, the Nexen pipeline rupture in Alberta or the Lac Megantic train derailing disaster in Quebec, oil-driven projects have and will continue to destroy communities. The human and financial toll of risks involved in getting more pipelines and tar sands projects operating simply aren’t worth it.
  • In Canada and around the world, slashing carbon is a social justice issue. Analysis shows that “limiting global warming to below 2degC requires a large reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions in the short to medium term.” Rising emissions are a driving force behind global natural disasters, and in Canada, many First Nations communities live along pipeline routes that risk poisoning their land and waterways. Marginalized communities are often the hardest hit by climate change, and it’s up to Canada as a whole to protect the country’s most vulnerable populations.
  • Policy that fails to care for the climate could impact votes. Canada’s Prime Minister could be the latest climate laggard to end up with his head on a platter. Weeks ago, Australia’s Prime Minister and “Climate Dinosaur,” Tony Abbott lost largely due to regressive climate policy. Climate change and the environment are top issues for Canadians, and federal election contenders who see value in listening to their voter needs face better odds at leading the country.


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