[lg policy] This issue could define Canada’s elections

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Sat Apr 6 11:09:30 EDT 2019


This issue could define Canada’s elections — and it’s not SNC-Lavalin

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a climate action rally in
Toronto on March 4. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/david-moscrop/>
By David Moscrop <https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/david-moscrop/>
Contributing columnist
April 5 at 1:14 PM

In October, Canadians will go to the polls in the country’s 43rd general
election. Nearly seven months out, the numbers suggest a tight race. The
Conservative Party currently leads the governing Liberals
<https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/elections/poll-tracker/canada/>, who have
been dragged down by a lingering scandal
<https://www.vox.com/2019/3/6/18249949/trudeau-canada-snc-lavalin-scandal-wilson-raybould>
concerning
whether undue pressure was put on a former attorney general, Jody
Wilson-Raybould, to secure a deferred prosecution agreement for Quebec
engineering firm SNC-Lavalin. This week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau removed
Wilson-Raybould and another former Cabinet minister who supported her, Jane
Philpott, from caucus
<https://globalnews.ca/news/5123526/liberal-caucus-wilson-raybould-jane-philpott/>
and
barred them from running as Liberals.

As the SNC affair continues to dominate headlines, it feels as though the
saga will set the agenda right up to the election. But a lot can happen in
a half-year or so — including a shift in what the country is talking about
and, importantly, what voters view as key priorities.

A report <https://changingclimate.ca/CCCR2019/> released on Tuesday by
Environment and Climate Change Canada says that the country is warming at
twice the global rate. According to the findings, Canada’s average
temperature has grown by an estimated 1.7 degrees Celsius (approximately 3
degrees Fahrenheit) in the past seven decades, driven in part by a 2.3
degrees Celsius annual average temperature increase in northern
Canada. On Monday,
the report was leaked
<https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/canada-warming-at-twice-the-global-rate-leaked-report-finds-1.5079765>
to
the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. — the same day that the Liberal
government’s carbon tax backstop came into effect amid
<https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/federal-carbon-tax-supporters-defend-1.5079955>
a
campaign of misinformation
<https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/federal-carbon-tax-supporters-defend-1.5079955>against
the measure
<https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/federal-carbon-tax-supporters-defend-1.5079955>
.

The report finds that — surprise, surprise — humans are causing climate
change. “The human factor is dominant,” the report’s authors state. Last
fall, a United Nations climate report warned that we had 12 years to
mitigate the worst effects of what was coming
<https://www.vox.com/2018/10/8/17948832/climate-change-global-warming-un-ipcc-report>.
Of course, we have collectively decided to miss our Paris Agreement targets
<https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/07/climate/world-emissions-paris-goals-not-on-track.html>,
even though a vast majority of nations recently adopted a plan to step up
efforts
<https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/16/what-was-agreed-at-cop24-in-poland-and-why-did-it-take-so-long>
.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the environment is increasingly
on the collective register in ways it has never been before — save for some
important but more modest instances, such as the acid rain crisis in the
1980s and ’90s
<https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/acid-rain-bush-climate-change-mulroney-1.4934402>
.

Today, climate change is increasingly a front-of-mind issue. More and more,
it intersects with our daily lives in ways people recognize, due in
part to extreme
weather events
<https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/03/29/extreme-weather-fueled-climate-change-disasters-hit-62-m-last-year/3304707002/>,
warnings about its effect on practical concerns such as insurance rates
<http://theconversation.com/rising-insurance-costs-may-convince-americans-that-climate-change-risks-are-real-105192>
,
<https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/rob-magazine/article-why-are-canadas-oil-patch-ceos-changing-their-minds-on-carbon-pricing/>
growing
<https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/rob-magazine/article-why-are-canadas-oil-patch-ceos-changing-their-minds-on-carbon-pricing/>industry
support for carbon taxes
<https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/rob-magazine/article-why-are-canadas-oil-patch-ceos-changing-their-minds-on-carbon-pricing/>,
signals from political leaders (including Norway divesting from oil and gas
exploration
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/08/norways-1tn-wealth-fund-to-divest-from-oil-and-gas-exploration>)
and routine coverage of the issue by the media.

To what effect, though? Could 2019 be the climate change election in
Canada? It ought to be. And it might be — at least sort of.

Recent polling by Abacus Data
<https://abacusdata.ca/will-climate-change-be-a-ballot-box-question-in-2019/>
finds
that 83 percent of Canadians are concerned about climate change — with 30
percent “very” concerned and 27 percent “extremely” concerned. Only 12
percent of them say that climate change policies will be their top issue,
but 19 percent say it will be their second issue, and a further 38 percent
rank it in their top five. A full 70 percent say climate change is a
“practical” rather than “emotional” problem.

The data shows that a lot of people care about climate change. A
considerable amount of them will be assessing parties based on their
climate change policies. And a significant majority of folks consider
climate change to be a practical problem that needs to be solved. That’s as
good of a reason as any to make the next election a contest about getting
serious when it comes to the most significant existential threat humankind
has faced in a very long time — perhaps ever.

Expect to hear a lot of talk about a Canadian Green New Deal. The idea has
gained traction in the United States
<https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/green-new-deal-us-socialist-climate-change-ambitious-explainer-1.5041645>,
though the precise makeup of such a plan has yet to form. But at least it’s
on the radar. Americans, and now Canadians
<https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/02/26/opinion/ndps-only-hope-green-new-deal-canada>,
are talking about the idea of a massive, structural, coordinated plan to
mobilize in defense of the planet. This move will force parties to
demonstrate they have a comprehensive plan for addressing climate change or
be left behind.

Strategically, this is probably good news for the New Democratic Party and
the Green Party in Canada, as both parties will probably be considered
honest and ambitious brokers. The Liberals, who have introduced a carbon
tax plan in Canada, should do well, too, though they will face pressure to
do more and to explain how climate change is consistent with buying a
pipeline
<https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/liberals-trans-mountain-pipeline-kinder-morgan-1.4681911>.
The Conservatives, who just days ago pulled a bizarre anti-carbon-tax stunt
— taking photos across the country at gas stations, filling up before the
price of fuel “increased” — could well end up left behind.

Political scandals and controversies, while significant, come and go. But
the future of the country and planet depends upon how we respond to climate
change. Wise parties will meet voters where they’re headed and develop
wide-ranging, detailed plans for saving humankind. Only time will tell
whether Canadian parties rise to the challenge.

-- 
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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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