Canadian Members of Parliament voted 207-81 Wednesday to approve the country’s ratification of the Paris Agreement, but not without setting off a flurry of outrage aimed at a major telecom company that publicly supported the government’s action.
Calling the vote a significant step after a decade of “inaction,” Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna suggested a crucial measure like the Paris deal was no time for “playing politics” by partisan critics. “We’re going to take practical action to tackle climate change, to grow our economy,” she told the House of Commons. “It’s about the future of our kids and grandkids.”
New Democrat and Bloc Québécois MPs supported the motion alongside the Liberal majority, while Conservative MPs voted against. GreenPAC endorsee Michael Chong (C-Wellington-Halton Hills) opposed ratification, while endorsee Dianne Watts (C-South Surrey-White Rock) was absent for the vote. In the House debate leading up to the ratification vote, Conservative Party MPs made a point of opposing Canada’s emerging climate plan while expressing support for the Paris Agreement itself.
“I want to be very clear,” said Conservative environment critic Ed Fast. “On this side of the House, we Conservatives support the Paris agreement. We clearly understand that Canada must do its part to help address the most significant environment challenges facing the planet today.”
But in a week of political drama in which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared a floor price for carbon, prompting three provincial environment ministers to storm out of a federal-provincial meeting in Montreal, the worst theatrics occurred outside the legislative process.
Following Trudeau’s statement in the house, a group of 22 business and civil society leaders convened by Smart Prosperity issued a statement declaring carbon pricing “the most economically effective way to reduce emissions and stimulate clean innovation—which will be critical to Canada’s success in a changing global economy.” It commends the government’s emphasis on “regionally-tailored paths towards a common goal,” stressing that “a rising carbon price is critical to put Canada on a path to meet its Paris climate commitments, and build the foundation for a cleaner, stronger economic future.”
The statement included quotes from about a dozen corporate leaders—including Telus Senior Vice President Andrea Goertz, who declared that the company “supports putting a price on carbon to help spur clean growth and clean technology innovation.” But when the company tweeted a supporting statement, a harsh response from some customers was amplified by anti-climate blogger Ezra Levant, who retweeted it to 88,000 followers, prompting an unknown number of them to cancel their accounts.
“Our carbon pricing tweet late yesterday was not meant to be partisan or political, but we know it appeared that way, and we’re sorry,” Telus tweeted 17 hours after the original message. “We take your input very seriously and your feedback will inform our sustainability policies and initiatives going forward,” it added three hours later.
One of the customers who dumped Telus was Alberta Wild Rose MLA Derek Fildebrandt, who made news earlier this year when he was suspended from the party caucus for endorsing a constituent’s offensive comments about Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. “I’m disappointed in your decision to back a carbon tax,” he wrote to Telus this week. “I am cancelling Telus services for myself and all of my offices.”
That reaction led to questions from New Democrat MLAs Shaye Anderson and Thomas Dang. “Are you saying that you’re going to use public money in the constit. office for partisan boycotts on Alberta companies?” Dang tweeted. “Are you going to boycott all of the other companies that support carbon pricing? Shell? Suncor? Etc,” Anderson asked.