NDP Environmental Policy

July 22, 2019

Is there room for the NDP to be the Party of choice on environmental issues or has that ground been taken by the Greens and the Liberals?

Many Canadian pollsters have recognized the important role climate change will play in this year’s election. A number of parties are jockeying to be the party of choice by addressing climate change issues with their policies. The parties in play are the Green Party, the NDP Party and the Liberal Party. The four main federal parties, Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Green all have recognized that Canadians are demanding the party elected have a plan to address climate change and its impacts including extreme flooding, droughts and forest fires.

The Conservative Party of Canada does have a plan to address climate change and extreme weather but it is the least stringent and the most vague of all parties. Their plan does not include a fuel charge and would not have a set price per tonne of carbon. There would however be an industrial plan for companies that emit more than 40,000 tonnes per year, companies would be forced to invest an unspecified amount, in private sector green technology, for every tonne by which they go over the limit. Based on this plan, the Conservatives are not considered to be vying for the votes of the people most concerned with climate change.

The Liberal Party has the advantage of being able to refer to its track record and efforts to address climate change and greenhouse gases. The Liberals have implemented a carbon tax for all carbon emitted into the atmosphere, with significant exceptions or minimal requirements for major utilities and emitters. The system basically divides how the price gets implemented, between a fuel charge and a program for industrial emitters and is in place in provinces that have not implemented their own carbon pricing plans. Industrial emitters are compared to the average amount of emissions per industry and are charged for excess emissions as compared to the target of the average. Companies are supposedly incentivised to reduce their emissions.  The money collected must go back to the residents of the provinces from which it was collected; ninety percent is returned to the taxpayers in the form of an income tax rebate while ten percent is diverted to federal investment in green programs. The Liberal Government has also made other commitments to address climate change.

However, at the same time the Liberal Government faces criticism for its actions. It bought a pipeline, is expanding it and have approved a large LNG plant in B.C. Both these infrastructure pieces will lead to annual downstream emissions of carbon dioxide but also address environmental degradation.

The key question for the Liberals is have they found the right balance in environmental action while still allowing/supporting needed resource development? Because for most environmentalists, any new pipeline or LNG plant is a wrong move, and for those dependent on our resource sector, every tanker ban and carbon tax is seen as a negative.

The NDP claim they have presented a concrete plan to fight climate change, “Power to Change:  A New Deal for Climate Action and Good Jobs” which will result in an emissions cut of 38 percent. The NDP would modify the existing Liberal carbon plan to make it stricter; they would lower the limit to 70 percent of their industry’s average. They would keep the Liberal government fuel charge as well as pricing system for carbon and associated price increases. In addition, their plan to fight climate change talks about investment and jobs; to create 300,000 new jobs across the country building the clean energy future, require all new building to be energy efficient by 2030, while retrofitting existing buildings by 2050, support community climate action and energy projects, banning single-use plastic, investing in high frequency rail projects and making zero-emission vehicles more affordable. An NDP government would also end subsidies for big oil and gas companies. There is little detail on restrictions and regulations in this plan.

The Green Party plan would work towards a 60 percent greenhouse gas emissions cut against 2005 levels and is made up of a 20-step climate action plan. It would create one price for all emitters. While its carbon tax plan is similar to that of the Liberal and NDP plan, it however would continue to increase the price on carbon once it reaches $50 per tonne. The Green Party would continue with the annual increases until there are no more carbon emissions. They would also have the revenue collected and give a dividend cheque back to all Canadians on a per capita basis. This would divide the money equally and see no money remain with government. In addition, the Green Party will among other things, ban fracking and end all imports of foreign oil, green the grid, ensure all new cars are electric by 2030, modernize VIA Rail and will complete a national building retrofit to ensure that all buildings are carbon neutral by 2030.

The recent federal by-election in Nanaimo-Ladysmith (May 6) saw the NDP lose a seat they previously held to the Green Party. The NDP hope that their strong environmental stance is enough to win new votes in 2019 and maintain the votes they had in 2015. However, it is possible that the NDP environmental brand has been tarnished by the actions of the B.C. NDP government. The B.C. NDP approved an LNG Canada plant near Kitimat and the Site C dam. Both of these actions are a blow to dedicated environmentalists in B.C.

The NDP and the Green Party have been critical of the Liberals for not doing enough to address climate change. The NDP plan is said to be bolder than that of the Liberals but is also lacking on details for restrictions and regulations and has the potential to have a greater impact on the economy. The Green Party claims that its plan will meet and exceed the NDP plan. The competition is on for the growing number of young votes who feel that action needs to be taken to address the growing climate change issue (emergency, depending on who you talk to). Only votes will tell which plan meets the expectations of the Canadian people.