Read the full story

originally published by

Peterborough Examiner

According to a poll taken by Global News, Canadians want urgent climate action but the cost of living stands in the way, with 35% of Canadians saying climate change investments can wait for better economic conditions. Overall, the poll found that six in 10 Canadians agree that Canada should do more to fight climate change and that the federal government would be failing the country if it doesn’t act now.

According to a recent CBC News report, the next election will be a climate change election. So what would a Poilievre Conservative government do to fight climate change? When interviewed, Pierre Poilievre wouldn’t say if he’s committed to the Paris accord’s emissions targets. That’s because he doesn’t have a government climate change plan. His only plan is to let businesses take care of it.

According to Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, “Poilievre’s climate plan is to let the planet burn.”

Mr. Poilievre’s doesn’t have a plan or target to reduce emissions. Instead, he’s passing the buck to industry to do it.  For example, in the same CBC News interview, Poilievre said:

“We (the Conservative Party) will green-light green projects like small modular nuclear reactors, hydroelectric dams, tidal wave power and other emissions-free energy that will lead to a massive boom in the clean energy that goes on to our grids and powers our future.”

He also said he would speed up approval of mines for the critical minerals needed for electric vehicles. “That’s only possible if you get the government out of the way and speed up approvals to green-light projects. That’s a common sense plan.” Poilievre told reporters.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Wrong. It makes no sense. If we get government out of the way, then industry and businesses won’t have enough funding on their own to speed up the green transition and it will take forever for Canada to reach its climate change targets. We need government “in the way” to help fund green projects to speed up the transition to green technology. So Poilievre has it all axe backwards. “Axe the tax” he says. If he does that, he will axe all of the climate change progress we have made to date, which is substantial when you add it all up…as I did in my last column.

Since World War II, governments have played an active role in the economy and they’ve been effective in preventing a Depression. When the economy is lagging, governments need to invest money to stimulate employment and growth. A good way to do this is by government investing as much funding as possible in green technology because private businesses don’t always have the means or the will to make the green transition. Industry needs government action and funding to help stimulate the green economy.

An example of this is the current federal government helping Volkswagen build its electric car battery plant in St. Thomas and Stellantis—both of which received massive production subsidies from both the federal and provincial governments. The federal government also teamed up with the Quebec government to invest $644M to build a new Ford electric vehicle plant in Quebec to produce the materials needed for the batteries used in EVs. Estimated at over $1.2B, this project will create over 345 jobs.

Without government funding, which companies will pay back over time, these plants and the jobs that go along with them will not be created. So when Poilievre says that his plan is to ‘green-light’ green infrastructure projects that will be solely funded by private business, his plan is to not have a plan. His dependence on private industry to go through the green light won’t work, because if they had the means and the will to invest in green technologies on their own, why haven’t they done it already?

Mr. Poilievre is good at blaming P.M. Trudeau and the federal government for all of the ills in society right now. But he won’t be good at improving the economy, or the environment if he doesn’t back it with government support.

A Poilievre government also won’t be good at improving our health care system. Without an ambitious climate change action plan with government support, our hospitals will be more full of people suffering from heatwaves and environmental ailments from toxins in our air, water, soil and food—caused by an increase in emissions.

We have to keep asking Mr. Poilievre what his actual plan is to reduce emissions. If it starts off with criticizing the current government, then it’s a bad plan.

So how important is the climate change issue at the next election? At a recent climate change rally a protester was filmed holding up a sign that said  “Fight Climate Change or Die Frying.” I couldn’t have said it better.

Tricia Clarkson is a local climate change columnist and co-chair for Peterborough Alliance for Climate Action.

This article first appeared in the Peterborough Examiner. It is reproduced here iwith permission of the author.