Trudeau’s climate plan is worth fighting for

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It is also worth spending some money explaining to Canadians just what is involved in the fight on climate change. 

By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on March 25, 2024.

OTTAWA–The World Meteorological Organization had grim news for the globe last week.

In every climate indicator, temperatures were the highest on record in 2023.

And for the past nine years in a row, the planet has been getting hotter.

For the first time ever, Canada’s air quality was worse than the United States, largely because of the effect of massive wildfires across the country.

Evidence is mounting for all but the most obtuse that action needs to be taken to reverse the climate crisis. Zombie fires that started last year are still continuing in parts of British Columbia. New wildfires are starting at an unbelievably early time of the year with 90 fires burning there last week.

But the man who would be prime minister, Pierre Poilievre, is running advertisements attacking British Columbia Premier David Eby because he refuses to pile in with other premiers who are attacking the April increase in the price on carbon established by the federal government.

Instead of focusing on climate solutions, Poilievre is trying to bully provinces into reversing the federal action plan to reduce our carbon footprint.

Politicians should be focused on climate solutions instead of reversing our work on climate action.

Eby was not one to be bullied. British Columbia, arguably Canada’s greenest province, was the first to adopt a price on carbon. That happened a decade before the federal government introduced its 2018 plan.

The B.C. experience has been used as a model for other jurisdictions. Their carbon pricing has had a beneficial impact on the environment with little impact on the economy.

Eby characterized Poilievre’s “axe the tax” as a “baloney office” campaign. Poilievre responded by accusing Eby of forcing British Columbians to eat baloney because of carbon pricing.

What nobody seems to be including in the discussion is how the country will fight forest fires and floods by abolishing the national climate action strategy.

Poilievre has put nothing in the window in his axe campaign, and is deliberately conflating a world inflationary trend with a made-in-Canada carbon plan.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made it very clear that the government has no intention to reverse its climate plan, even after Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Premier Andrew Furey joined six Conservative premiers in his request to cancel the proposed carbon price hike.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has vowed not to collect the carbon price, which could prove rather costly to his residents.

In the national plan, carbon rebates actually go out to approximately 80 per cent of the population based on their reduced carbon footprint.

If Moe refuses to collect, the average family of four in his province will miss out on an annual rebate of $1,800 according to the federal Department of Finance.

Trudeau is committed to the federal action plan, and vows to keep fighting for pollution pricing, despite the claim by Ontario Premier Doug Ford that the federal Liberals could be “annihilated” in the next election because of the pricing policy.

Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie last week distanced herself from her federal counterparts by saying if she were elected, her party would not impose a provincial tax.

The party could fall back on the federal program, but has not committed to doing so as an internal committee studies the issue.

Suffice to say, across the board, the country is gripped with the issue of climate pricing and nobody is particularly engaged in the challenge of doing nothing.

Poilievre is framing the issue as another Liberal gas tax, and spending millions of dollars to get Canadians on his side.

Meanwhile, the federal government has spent nothing in explaining to Canadians what is actually involved in carbon pricing, and why it is so necessary to help the country fight climate change.

At a heated press conference in Calgary recently, Trudeau said it was not his job to be popular when pressed on whether he should ditch the carbon tax.

But to win elections, and carry out his climate plans, he does need to secure the popular vote.

His climate plan is worth fighting for. It is also worth spending some money explaining to Canadians just what is involved in the fight on climate change.

If the country wants to hang on to the progress we have made on climate change, we need to increase the price on carbon so consumption patterns will change.

We are experiencing the hottest decade in history and we owe it to our grandchildren to push ahead on carbon pricing.

Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.