Our coverage of Canada’s federal election September 20 carried the #Elxn44 tag. You can use the search engine on our site to find other stories in the series.
August 29, 2021: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s campaign promise to cap oil and gas sector emissions at today’s levels and set five-year targets to reduce them beginning in 2025 amounted to the end of fossil fuel expansion in Canada, a leading climate advocate said.
“The Liberals are essentially planning to end fossil fuel expansion,” said Caroline Brouillette, domestic policy manager at Climate Action Network-Canada. “It’s really good to see them finally name that elephant in the Canadian climate policy room.”
The details of the Liberals’ plan will make all the difference, and will be the key to a 1.5°C-compliant future, Brouillette said, stressing that a real phasedown aimed at bringing the country’s emissions to net-zero by 2050 will mean reducing oil and gas production and exports.
Trudeau unveiled his party’s climate platform yesterday at a rally in Cambridge, Ontario where his speech was once again overshadowed loud, abusive anti-vaccine protesters. A release accompanying the announcement cast the Liberals’ climate plan as a jobs plan.
“A serious plan for the environment is a plan for the economy,” Trudeau said in the statement. “Our plan has created new jobs and growth across the country. But we can’t stop now. We can’t go back to the inaction of the Harper years.”
That comment landed just a couple of days after Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole pledged to do precisely that.
A fact sheet accompanying the release combines familiar policy moves from the previous minority Liberal government with new platform commitments. The bullet points include:
• An end to thermal coal exports by 2030;
• A 75% reduction in fossil industry methane emissions from 2012 levels by 2030;
• The promise to reduce fossil industry emissions “from current levels at a pace and scale needed to achieve net-zero by 2050, with five-year targets starting in 2025;
• Targets for new zero-emission passenger vehicles of 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2035;
• EV rebates of up to C$5,000 each for 500,000 buyers, plus 50,000 new charging stations across the country;
• $5,000 energy retrofit grants for nearly half a million households, with interest-free loans of up to $40,000 for deeper retrofits;
• A national strategy to bring the building stock to net-zero by 2050 with “ambitious milestones along the way”;
• A Clean Electricity Standard to bring the electricity grid to net-zero by 2035.
Brouillette said the plan to reduce methane emissions 75% this decade is aligned with the path the Biden administration is laying out in the United States. But she cautioned that Canada has dragged its feet on the 40 to 45% reduction by 2025 that Trudeau promised in 2016, following a summit with then-U.S. president Barack Obama and then-Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.
To hit the 75% target, a post-election Trudeau government would also have to get a handle on actual methane emissions from fossil fuel operations, particularly in the fracking fields of northeastern British Columbia, that are currently 1.6 to 2.2 times higher than federal estimates. And Ottawa would have to pay close attention to the new methane emissions fossils are tacitly endorsing with their plans to produce “blue” hydrogen from natural gas—or, as their critics contend, to use a shift toward hydrogen as a pretext to extend the life of a faltering natural gas industry.
Will the promise of deep methane reductions stick this time? “That’s an interesting question,” Brouillette told The Mix. “For many of the new measures they’ve announced, industry will put on a lot of pressure to either prevent them from happening, or to delay them and dilute their impact. So we will have to stay vigilant and organize to make sure we hold parties accountable to their promises, and that those promises are implemented rigorously.”
As if to prove Brouillette’s point, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers released its campaign wish list last week, while fossil industry executives and analysts said they were preparing for a Liberal Party attack during the election campaign. All of that despite the minimum $18 billion in subsidies that same industry received from the Trudeau government in 2020.
“The debate will be on obviously climate change,” analyst Jeremy McCrea told Postmedia columnist Chris Varcoe. “If oil and gas can stay under the radar and not be the bogeyman that it’s been in prior elections, a lot of these executives will be happy.”
But CAPP’s wish list relies on projections in the International Energy Agency’s 2020 World Energy Outlook to make its case that “global demand for both natural gas and oil is set to reach record levels, and these sources of energy will be needed for decades to come.” Unfortunately for the fossil lobby, the IEA itself took a dramatic step back from that position in mid-May, with a 1.5°C pathway that projects oil demand falling 75% and gas demand dropping 55% between 2020 and 2050.
In Cambridge, Ontario Sunday, an angry crowd of agitators surrounded Justin Trudeau’s campaign buses and screamed profanities at the Liberal Leader during his campaign event. The Canadian Press coverage focused much more on the disruptions than on the policy announcement.
The event was delayed more than hour as the throng of people blocked the entrance to the local sheet metal business where Trudeau made the first big climate announcement of his re-election effort, CP says. It also comes two days after a Trudeau rally in Bolton, ON, was cancelled over security concerns from another angry crowd.
Trudeau said he understands the pandemic has increased the fear and anxiety in many, but condemned any threats or use of violence, racism, and bigotry. He added that people who deny science around vaccines and climate change are not the ones who are going to dictate how Canada moves forward, and the events of this campaign are deepening his resolve to push forward with his platform.
But CP says he was at times difficult to hear over the crowd, which repeatedly chanted expletive-filled slogans aimed at the Liberal leader and carried signs, at least one of which included a photo of Trudeau about to be executed by hanging.
“I do think we need to understand that people have had a tough year, that the world is changing rapidly, that there is fear, there is anxiety out there,” Trudeau said.
“But let me be also very, very clear. I am absolutely resolute in my conviction to continue to move Canada forward. And that’s the choice people get to make in this election.”
One of the crowd members hurled a racist slur at a Black officer in Trudeau’s security detail and a misogynist insult at a female officer. Others were heard shouting death threats.
Police physically carried one woman off the private property when she refused to move back.
Trudeau’s campaign has been faltering thus far, with polls suggesting the significant lead the Liberals held earlier this year has evaporated. His campaign has been dogged by protesters at multiple stops, but the mob mentality and size of the crowds appear to have increased in recent days.
Some of the agitators have appeared at multiple events. One man showed up at a Trudeau event in Hamilton, ON, and then the next day at one in Surrey, B.C. He told reporters he was “maybe” being paid to follow Trudeau around.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh have both condemned the angry crowds and called on people to be respectful. O’Toole also said four Conservative campaign volunteers who showed up in the crowd at the Bolton rally have been told they’re no longer welcome to campaign with the Tories.
Their events were both far calmer than the Liberals’ tour stop Sunday, CP says.
The latter segment of this report was first published by The Canadian Press on August 29, 2021.