When it comes to climate policy, the federal Conservative Party’s leadership race looks to be “frozen in the past”, write Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn, with no candidate daring to suggest carbon pricing as a policy plank—and only one erstwhile carbon pricing proponent willing to step forward.
“With another national leadership race gathering steam, greenhouse gas emissions are once again on the back burner,” Regg Cohn writes. “Any candidate who dares to reconsider carbon pricing risks being burned at the stake, unless he recants and admits his mistake.”
That’s because “for true-blue Tories, a carbon tax—or levy—is the litmus test of ideological fidelity. Once again, it must be publicly abhorred, abjured, denounced, and disavowed.”
Regg Cohn cites the “backpedalling” by leadership candidate and Sarnia—Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu, who acknowledged voters’ favourable verdict on carbon pricing in the 2019 federal election…until she entered the federal leadership race and suddenly didn’t.
Gladu, a chemical engineer by training and the only scientist in the Conservative leadership race, has used language familiar to any climate hawk in suggesting the leadership race is a chance for her party to rethink its position. “When your house is burning around you, that’ll change your point of view in a hurry,” she said last month. “I think it needs to be a topic because it’s clear that the policy that we brought on climate change didn’t resonate with Canadians in the election…if we’re going to win the next election, we’ve got to come to Canadians with a credible offering.”
But “after announcing her leadership ambitions, she can no longer countenance carbon pricing—even if Canadians clearly can,” Regg Cohn writes. “No surprise. An aspiring leader must either revoke carbon pricing or reconsider their candidacy,” notwithstanding the “right wing roots” of a response to climate change first conceived by free enterprise economists in the United States.
Regg Cohn lists former Quebec premier and federal Conservative leader Jean Charest, former British Columbia premier Christy Clark, and Halton Hills, Ontario MP and GreenPAC endorsee Michael Chong as potential candidates who’ve bowed out of the race, all of them supporters of different forms of carbon pricing. He wrote his column while Harper-era environment minister John Baird was considering a run, but he, too, has since declined.
“Such is the paradox of party politics. Chong, Charest, and Clark (and in her own way, Gladu) could see the lay of the land thanks to the federal election results, but also knew that a levy was a dead end among party members,” Regg Cohn writes. “Their fellow Tories are now so predictably anti-tax that it matters not if the current carbon levy is rebatable—it is still not debatable.”