OTTAWA—After a chaotic six-way election debate, are you left hungry for substantive answers from the parties?
With no knockout blows and a format that left lots to be desired, it was hard going if you were a voter.
But the outcome of the Oct. 21 federal election will lead to a new government one way or another. It will be formed either around a majority cabinet or perhaps by a coalition that would support a minority government, even if on an issue-by-issue basis.
So what might the first six months — the legislative session from January to June 2020 — of a new government look like?
The Star does some crystal-ball-gazing to guide you, assuming — as all public polls suggest is the case — the most likely scenario is a majority Liberal or Conservative government, or a minority government.
Today, climate change and the environment.
Under a Liberal government, the federal carbon price will go up in April 2020, from $20 a tonne to $30 a tonne (or about 7 cents a litre of gasoline).
Starting in January, the fuel levy portion of the price will apply in Alberta, along with the four other provinces — Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan — where the pricing system as a whole is in place.
At tax time, most of the money collected from the levy — 90 per cent — will be rebated to households in those provinces. In Ontario, the projected rebate for a family of four will rise from $307 in 2019 to $451 as the price jumps to $30 per tonne.
Meanwhile, heavy emitters — the oil and gas sector, mining, cement, and more — will start paying by mid-2020 through an “output based pricing system” that sets standards for each major industry. Most sectors have standards set at 80 per cent of average emissions intensity in their industry. Those that emit more than the standard will pay; those that emit less can sell credits to peers.
The Liberals plan to bring in regulations — delayed by three years in 2017 — to restrict methane emissions from oil and gas operations, starting in January.
In the early months, the government would continue public consultations on clean fuel standards for transportation, home heating, and industry. But the full standards won’t be in place until 2023.
The Liberals propose a 10-year tree-planting program and may begin budgeting funds — say about $300 million a year — in the spring. The party says it would cut corporate income taxes in half for clean tech businesses; give Canadians interest-free loans and grants to retrofit homes or build new ones that are carbon neutral; and pass a law to ensure workers transitioning out of the fossil-fuel sector are supported and retrained for new jobs.
The party could set up its promised expert panel to guide Ottawa on five-year plans to reduce emissions so that Canada does even better than its targeted reductions under the international Paris Agreement — 30 per cent below 2005 emission levels by 2030 — and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
There would be no immediate ban on single-use plastics. Trudeau has said the Liberals’ proposed ban won’t kick in until “as early as” 2021.
The first thing a Conservative government led by Andrew Scheer would do is scrap the federal carbon price. He would ditch the Liberal’s incoming fuel standards and replace them with something the party hasn’t yet described.
Together, those two measures were projected by the federal government to reduce emissions by at least 70 or 80 million tonnes per year by 2030 — about a third of what Canada needs to slash from 2005 levels to hit the Paris target. It’s unclear how the Conservatives would achieve those reductions, although Scheer says his plan is at the least Canada’s “best chance” of reaching its Paris goal.
The Conservatives would replace the federal carbon price with a requirement to pay for emissions that only applies to heavy polluters. Facilities that pump out more than 40,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas per year would pay unspecified amounts into clean technology research and development. It is unclear how much large emitters will be required to pay, starting when, or how many megatonnes of GHGs are targeted for reduction. So it’s impossible to say how stringent — or effective — this will be.
The Conservatives promise a tax credit worth up to $2,850 for greener home renovations, a $230-million green technology innovation fund for the private sector, and tax refunds on income generated from green tech patented in Canada. There is no timeline for these policies. But we might expect some answers in a Conservative budget in the spring.
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In order to meet Canada’s Paris targets, the Conservatives would try to convince other countries like China to give Canada credit for emissions reductions that result from the replacement of heavy-polluting energy sources like coal with cleaner energy imports from Canada, like liquified natural gas.
A MINORITY SITUATION
On climate change, every party but the far right People’s Party agrees that climate change is a real, and human-caused challenge that needs to be taken seriously.
A Liberal minority could seek support from the New Democrats or Greens or even the Bloc Québécois — but these parties say Justin Trudeau would have to up his environmental game.
That’s because the NDP and the Greens have promised more stringent, legislated, emissions-reductions targets, in line with what scientists say is required to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.
The NDP and the Greens back a price on carbon emissions. But they’d be tougher on major industrial polluters, however in different ways, and the Greens are the only party that
pledged to keep hiking the carbon price $10 per year beyond 2022, when it hits $50 per tonne.
The NDP and the Greens oppose the Liberals’ approval and expansion of the Trans-Mountain pipeline, but only Green leader Elizabeth May has said it’s a deal-breaker for a minority government.
The Greens want to stop all oil and gas imports to Canada and end all new fossil fuel development, including the $40-billion liquid natural gas megaproject approved last year on B.C.’s coast, as well as a national ban on fracking.
While it’s hard to imagine the Liberals agreeing to these more aggressive measures in the short term, Trudeau’s team agrees with the NDP and Greens on the push for zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs). All three parties are pushing subsidies to encourage the purchase of ZEVs, as well as targets to ensure they make up a larger and larger share of annual vehicles sales in the coming years.
A Conservative minority government would likely struggle to find a party to support its climate plan.
The NDP has already ruled out supporting Scheer based on his failure to support LGBTQ rights, and the Greens say they would only support a party with a real climate action plan.
However, there could be some areas of agreement. The Greens and the Conservatives both propose national energy retrofit programs for residential and commercial buildings, for example. They also have proposed creating an “energy corridor” that would serve as a cross-Canada right-of-way for energy transmission — though Scheer envisions oil and gas pipelines along the route, while May is unequivocal that all energy for Canada’s electricity grid needs to be fully renewable by 2030.