Saturday, September 28, 2019

Who to vote for in the Canadian elections if you're an environmentalist

If you're concerned about climate change, who do you vote for in the upcoming Canadian federal election? A quick comaprison of the various platforms suggest that it is not an easy choice.
Well, first, if you're NOT concerned about climate change, then your best option is Andrew Scheer's Progressive Conservatives. Scheer was the only leader of a major party not to attend a climate walk yesterday and, although his party claims to have a climate change policy (i.e. they are not actually denying climate change), it is by far the weakest. They would cancel the current carbon tax and  clean fuel standards, and, although they say they want to uphold Canada's commitments under the Paris climate treaty of reducing carbon emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, it is not at all clear how their recipe of weak regulations would achieve anything like that (independent fact-checkers suggest it would miss by anywhere between 109 and 179 megatonnes of carbon, or possibly even rise).
The Liberals - who are currently neck-and-neck with the Conservatives in the polls, despite the leadership of Justin Trudeau - say they will not increase the rate of the carbon tax past the top rate scheduled for 2022, despite frankly admitting that this is not enough to achieve out Paris goals (their own figures suggest a gap of 79 megatonnes in 2030). So, although they have made some progress over the last four years (that gap was around 300 megatonnes when Trudeau took office!), substantially more than any Canadian government before them, arguably it is still nothing like enough.
The Liberals have proposed (in addition to keeping the carbon tax and clean fuel standards) new incentives for the purchase of zero-emission vehicles, tax breaks for clean-tech firms, interest-free loans for fuel efficiency home retrofits, and planting 2 billion trees over ten years. This will still leave the Paris goals very hard to achieve, and the Liberals still have the cognitive dissonance of  support for the Trans Mountain Pipeline hanging over their heads. Their latest salvo was to declare a goal of a completely carbon neutral country by 2050, a laudable goal perhaps, pand one that needs to be stated, but, even by their own admission, they currently have no idea how to achieve that.
The other two parties, the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Green Party, have stronger climate change platforms, but suffer from the fact that, in the absence of any huge changes, they will not become the ruling party, at best only acting as a prop for a minority Liberal government (and even then, the Greens say they will not support the Liberals while the Trans Mountain Pipeline is still ion their books; neither party says that they can work with the Conservatives, who are out on their own, come what may).
The NDP's stated goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, not just 30%, and the Greens go even further, promising 60%.  The NDP would energy retrofit half of all Canadian homes by 2030, and ensure that electricity production is net-zero, also by 2030. The Greens would also remove all fossil fuel electricity generation, and pledge to make ALL buildings carbon neutral by 2030. Both have the same net-zero-by-2050 target as the Liberals. But critics complain that even these parties do not have much substantive detail in their platforms about just how these laudable goals might be reached.
Whichever party you vote for still has the unenviable task of dealing with a bunch of intractable, climate change skeptical, and largely Conservative provincial premiers, which will make any meaningful progress on climate change difficult at best. The other conundrum is whether to vote for a party with a stronger climate change platform, and risk splitting the vote and allowing the Conservatives - by far the worst option for anyone with an environmental bent - to slip in through the back door. Personally, I am risk-averse, and willing to hold my nose and vote Liberal rather than risk such an outcome. However much I would like to vote Green on principle, and however much I feel that Justin Trudeau has been a disappointment, the spectre of four years of Conservative government is enough to drive me to hard-hearted decisions, not only for environmental reasons, but also for other social justice and economic reasons. (Actually, this is such a safe Liberal seat, I could probably still vote Green, secure in the knowwdge that the Liberal candidate will win anyway.)
The other aspect of all this is that what we actually vote for is not a party or a leader but a local representative, one that would usually accept and support most of the party platform, but who might still have some individual views on the matter. And that individual must also fit our requirements for a good, thoughtful and approachable human being.
So, like I said earlier, not an easy choice.

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