OTTAWA—As MPs debated competing “climate emergency” declarations in the House of Commons Thursday, the Green Party released an urgent — and as yet uncosted — blueprint to transform the Canadian economy, abandon partisan political divisions in a manner not seen since the Second World War, and overcome a looming catastrophe that is “as dire as the loss of civilization.”
The Green climate plan — dubbed “Mission: Possible” — would double Canada’s emissions reduction target to 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. It would halt all new fossil fuel development in the country, pursue a nationwide shift toward non-nuclear renewable energy, and create “millions” of jobs by retrofitting all buildings in Canada so that they’re carbon neutral over the next 11 years.
It also calls for the creation of a new “survival cabinet” composed of members from all parties to direct the climate action plan from the heart of government, a proposal modelled on the wartime cabinets of William Lyon Mackenzie King and Winston Churchill.
“We’re saying to all Canadians: this is something we have to do together,” Green Leader Elizabeth May told reporters on Parliament Hill Thursday morning.
“We cannot continue to pretend that we are in a status-quo world where significant changes aren’t coming. Canadians have more in common than we have in difference. We have to pull together,” she said. “This is all hands on deck.”
Buoyed by the party’s spate of electoral wins — most recently last week, when incoming Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly became just the second Green candidate ever elected to the House of Commons — the Greens are now calling for all-party co-operation in the fight against climate change.
May, who was speaking as Environment Minister Catherine McKenna tabled the Liberal emergency motion in the House, argued more needs to be done if Canada is to seriously confront such an emergency. She pointed to the October report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which called for “unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” if the world is to keep global warming below the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees by 2100.
“We’ve now been delivered the sobering news that ought to get leaders to sober up. We’re facing something as dire as the loss of civilization,” May said.
“We want to set the bar where it needs to be.”
The Green vision maintains the Liberal government’s carbon-price plan, which imposes a minimum levy on fuel equivalent to $20 per tonne this year and rising to $50 per tonne in 2022, but the Greens say they would continue to hike the levy each year beyond that.
They pledge to cancel all fossil-fuel development, including already-approved projects like the $40-billion LNG Canada export terminal set for construction on the coast of B.C.
The party would also ban fracking — a method of extracting natural gas from the ground that many environmentalists oppose as destructive and too emissions-intensive — and improve upon a cross-country electrical grid so renewable energy can be transmitted from one province to the other. This would occur as Canada stops importing fossil fuels like oil and gas, and builds new refineries to consume the fuels the country needs as it transitions completely to renewable energy over the coming decades.
The plan also includes a pledge to expand rail service and ensure all internal combustion vehicle engines are replaced with electric models by 2040, along with the installation of a “cross-country vehicle charging system.”
May said Thursday that the full price tag for the ambitious blueprint will be made available during the coming federal election campaign, and that the Greens’ fiscal plan will be submitted for verification to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. She insisted her climate plan could be done in a fiscally responsible way, and promised the Green platform would show how the plan can be executed while eliminating the federal deficit faster than the other parties.
Nathan Cullen, a New Democrat MP from northern B.C., said the Green plan is difficult to judge because it is doesn’t spell out how the various pledges would be accomplished, but said it appears to require new oil pipelines to feed eastern Canada if fossil fuel imports were to be cancelled.
Cullen also questioned the rationale for cancelling the LNG Canada project, predicting such a move would force Canada to pay billions of dollars in cancellation fees to the terminal’s private sponsors.
“It’s big on ambitions and very, very light on details and how we get there,” he said of the Green climate plan. “It’s not detailed enough for me to be able to judge it.”
McKenna defended the government’s climate plan and pointed out that the Liberals are committed to the Paris Agreement’s provision that country’s ramp up their ambition when the deal is reviewed every five years. Canada’s existing plan also includes stricter clean fuel standards, the elimination of coal for electricity generation, and a goal to ensure 90 per cent of electricity in Canada comes from emissions-free sources by 2030.
“Right now, unfortunately, we have Conservative politicians who want us to do less and less, who are fighting a price on pollution, and I really hope we can all come together,” she said. “The first thing we need to do is implement the plan that we’ve already committed to.”
Canada is currently projected to fall short of its existing emissions target, although McKenna has insisted that the Liberal plan will put the country on track to meeting its commitment.
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.
Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga