Election 2015: how the parties compare on the environment

Published Tuesday, September 29, 2015 in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal and the Fredericton Daily Gleaner.

In the homestretch of this marathon election campaign, one major issue has garnered very little attention so far: the environment.  So here’s a quick overview of the environmental platforms of the four major parties, in alphabetical order.

Conservative

Perhaps one shouldn’t be totally surprised, but there is very little mention of the environment on the Conservative Party’s website.  In fact, I could find no reference at all.

In government, the Conservatives have pledged to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.  They have agreed with other G7 nations to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by 2100.  

To hit the national target, they plan to regulate natural gas-fired power plants and the chemical industry, and to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.  Regulations on the oil and gas sector itself have long been promised but have not yet materialized.  They support Northern Gateway, Keystone XL and Energy East pipelines.  

The Conservatives also promise to invest more in promoting hunting, fishing, tourism and conservation.

Green

True to their name, the Greens have a comprehensive platform that intertwines the environment and the economy.

They pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.  To accomplish that, they propose to implement a fee on carbon, but then rebate all the money raised back in the form of an equal dividend to every Canadian adult.  They would eliminate $1 billion worth of annual subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.  

They would focus on efficiency, waste reduction and improved transportation infrastructure, especially rail.  They would work with provinces to develop a national energy plan based on renewables, and would invest in growing the clean-tech industry.

They would place a moratorium on expansion of the oil sands, and focus on refining current production rather than exporting it as raw bitumen.  They oppose all new pipelines.  

Liberal

The Liberals have promised significant emission reductions, but have not committed to specific targets.  Justin Trudeau has pledged to meet with provincial premiers within 90 days of taking office to develop a national emissions reduction plan.

The Liberals promise to put a price on carbon, with flexibility for provinces to choose their own mechanisms.  They plan to invest $200 million a year in clean technologies, and $6 billion over four years in public transit.  They plan to create “green bonds” to raise money for renewable energy and clean technology projects.

They would strengthen the federal environmental review process, and increase protected marine and coastal areas.  They would work with the US and Mexico to develop a North American clean energy and environment agreement.

The Liberals promise to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.  They oppose the Northern Gateway Pipeline but support Energy East and Keystone XL.

New Democratic Party

The NDP proposes emissions targets of 34 per cent below 1990 levels by 2025 and 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.  They intend to implement a cap-and-trade carbon pricing system, but will allow provinces with systems already in place to opt out as long as their plans are equal or better.  All revenues would be used to fund greenhouse gas reduction initiatives. 

They plan to expand Canada’s expertise and capacity in wind, hydro, solar and geothermal energy; to invest $1.3 billion annually in public transit, and to work with the provinces to develop a new program for home energy efficiency upgrades.  

They plan to cancel fossil fuel industry subsidies.  They oppose the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines, and say the Energy East pipeline needs a more stringent environmental review before it can be approved.

So – a diverse range of environmental platforms from four parties.  Please choose wisely, and be sure to vote!