The duty to safeguard Canadians against profound fiscal and physical harm now demands that all major policies and actions be viewed through the lens of the climate crisis, investigative reporter Justin Ling writes in a Globe and Mail op ed.
“Just as Justin Trudeau will be rightfully scrutinized for failing to shrink the national debt, there’s another deficit for which he should take heat: Canada’s climate deficit,” Ling writes.
And while the post focuses much of its attention on the sitting federal government’s four-year record, Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives come in for their share of the blame. With Trudeau’s Liberals trying to advance “an economically sound policy to reduce CO2 emissions that has worked on the provincial level, in Europe, and elsewhere,” Ling writes, the opposition Conservatives have done nothing but fan the flames of baseless controversy, “wav[ing] their arms about, saying it’s all lies.”
Ultimately, “lost in the fight over whether carbon pricing works (it does) and whether Mr. Trudeau’s plan to price carbon is enough (it’s not) is whether Canada is actually taking the whole problem of CO2 emissions seriously.”
All of which is very bad news, given the now “inescapable” fact that “without serious and concerted action from every major economy, climate change will be a society-collapsing disaster.”
Observing that a “tame,” yet “disappointingly controversial” carbon levy hardly measures up to such a “massive, existential threat,” Ling asserts that politicians of all stripes must apply a non-partisan climate lens to every major proposal and policy action in the country. “Anything less is a mistake,” he adds.
One emerging strategy would be to apply the same level of attention and caution to the climate deficit that countries bring to fiscal deficits. “We already demand that politicians explain how they intend to pay for their plans and priorities, to avoid heaping debt on the pile,” Ling writes. And in Quebec, an “anti-climate-deficit law” will soon be up for debate, after the Parti Québécois put forward a bill that “if adopted, would force the government of Quebec to prepare an analysis of the possible climate impacts of any government policy or plan.”
The proposed legislation “would also require an annual report detailing the CO2 emissions impact of the government’s budget, with an accompanying plan on how to keep those emissions within the province’s targets,” while empowering the province’s environment commissioner to hold the government accountable.”
Ling says the approach is “ripped right from the Conservatives’ playbook”, recalling that then-federal finance minister (and renowned climate denier) Joe Oliver put forward a similar measure in 2015 that, needless to say, focused on the fiscal deficit but not the climate one. The common feature is that “a federal anti-climate-deficit law would turn our public service’s minds toward addressing the problem at every turn and equip us with the data we need to grasp the issue at hand.”
He adds that the legislation should logically receive cross-party support in the House of Commons, since “there is nothing conservative about ignoring the increasingly costly externality of climate change.” That much seems to be clear to the Conservative or conservative-leaning premiers of Prince Edward Island and Quebec, both of whom have “broken with their federal party in order to actually address the problems at hand, like adults.”
Canada will need such mature, courageous leadership as “rising sea levels promise to displace populations along the coasts, increased rainfalls will require ever-larger bailouts for flooded communities in the East, and worsening wildfire seasons [wreak ever more] havoc through the West,” Ling concludes. “To not prepare more actively to prevent and mitigate” such a litany of harm, and “to campaign, instead, on the few hundred bucks in short-term savings that would come from doing nothing,” takes the taxpayers for fools and throws their futures to the wolves.