OTTAWA—A new poll suggests many Canadians support the idea of a huge public spending blitz to address climate change, similar to what politicians in the United States have dubbed a “Green New Deal.”
A majority of respondents to an online poll by Abacus Data — 61 per cent — said they either support or somewhat support such a proposal, described as “a massive government jobs program and investment in clean energy, green technology, and electrification.”
The poll question said this Green New Deal “would aim to move Canada to 100 per cent clean energy by 2030 and make it so Canada produces and consumes the same amount of carbon emissions by 2050,” meaning the country would be carbon neutral by mid-century.
Seventeen per cent of respondents opposed such a plan. Nine per cent said they were unsure and 13 per cent said they didn’t have enough information.
Support from respondents inched up to 66 per cent when asked how they feel about the plan if it requires “corporations and the wealthy” to pay higher taxes.
“Because it is kind of more conceptual and forward-thinking, you’ll probably see a little bit higher of a support number,” said Ihor Korbadicz, executive director of Abacus Data.
“It doesn’t make it a less valuable gauge,” he added. “I think there’s broad consensus on the part of Canadians that we need to do something on the topic of climate change. It comes up again and again in the polling we’re doing.”
The online poll included a random sample of 2,000 Canadian adults who were invited to complete the survey from April 4 to 7. The margin of error for a comparable, probability-based random sample of the same size is plus or minus 2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
The survey was commissioned by North99, a left-leaning advocacy organization that positions itself as a progressive response to right wing and white supremacist groups that find audiences online.
“The conversation among politicians has revolved around pollution pricing, but climate change is an existential challenge and requires a solution that matches its scale. Canadians know we need a much broader mobilization against climate change,” North99 co-director Taylor Scallon said in a statement on the poll.
The “Green New Deal” is a proposal championed by some Democrats south of the border, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and several candidates for the party’s presidential nomination.
The basic idea — named after U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt’s program of public works and social programs during the Great Depression — is for transformative government spending to create jobs, build clean infrastructure, retrofit buildings and support green technology. The pitch is premised on the October report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which called for “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” in order to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
While it has some support from figures on the left, the politics of climate change in Canada has centred mostly on the federal government’s policy to enforce a minimum carbon price across the country.
After the United Conservative Party victory in Alberta’s provincial election Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces a band of opposition from the Rockies to the Ottawa River. Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has vowed to dismantle Canada’s carbon pricing scheme, though he has not revealed how he would tackle Canada’s emissions reduction commitments if he wins the general election this fall.
Meanwhile, the Liberal government in Ottawa maintains Canada will meet its target under the Paris Agreement to fight climate change, which is to reduce national emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. As of 2017, Canada’s emissions were 2 per cent below what they were in 2005, according to the national tally submitted this week to the United Nations.
To close that gap, Ottawa enforced a minimum carbon price across the country this year, which will rise from $20 per tonne of emissions to $50 per tonne in 2022. The federal government is also phasing out coal-fired electricity by 2030, when it aims for 90 per cent of electricity in Canada to come from emissions-free sources.
At the same time, the Liberal government has earmarked millions for green technology and infrastructure. On Wednesday, the government held events to tout the $300-million rebate program announced in this year’s federal budget to encourage Canadians to buy zero-emission vehicles. Ottawa has also devoted $1 billion to the Green Municipal Fund, which is mean to help retrofit buildings to make them more energy efficient.
Earlier this month, federal scientists released a report that said Canada is warming at twice the global average because of climate change, and that action to reduce emissions can only mitigate the severity of the consequences, which are likely to include disappearing Arctic ice and permafrost, rising sea levels in coastal cities and more frequent floods, heat waves, summer water shortages and wildfires.
Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga