Since the last election, the world has changed significantly. Glaciers have melted, global temperatures have risen, and the United Nations declared in 2018 that only 12 years remain to prevent irreversible damage from climate change. Perhaps because of recent heightening of such developments, the environment has established itself as a foremost issue in this election campaign. So, where do the parties stand on this key policy area?

Looking first at the incumbent party, the Liberals advocate for a continuation of the carbon tax introduced earlier this year, setting the minimum carbon price at $20 per tonne. To build upon this policy, the Liberal Party would move to increase the price by $10 per tonne per year, reaching $50 by 2022. The tax is deeply controversial, with it facing numerous court challenges from several provinces in the recent past, citing concerns of provincial sovereignty. 

The Liberals also recently passed a motion declaring a climate emergency, In accordance with the Paris Accord’s carbon emission reduction targets, the Liberals promise to phase out coal power by 2030, and further, pledge net-zero emissions by 2050. Similarly, the party would end “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies and would establish a plan to protect a quarter of Canada’s natural land and ocean habitats by 2025. Lastly, if re-elected, the Liberals would work to ban all single-use plastics by 2021, as well as plant over two billion trees over the next 10 years.

Currently in opposition, the Conservative Party’s environmental policy has largely been dominated by their proposed dissolution of the carbon tax, which they have deemed ineffective. While against the federal imposition of the tax, the Conservatives would grant provinces the autonomy to install a provincial carbon tax. In the carbon tax’s place, nationally, the Conservative Party would move to reduce carbon emissions in the form of mandatory investment of green technology or research by major polluters. The party also promises three different boutique tax credits to encourage both green home renovation and the use of green technology in businesses.  

As a major defender of pipelines, the Conservatives are also presenting the policy plan of a National Energy Corridor. In its essence, this would be a single corridor used to carry energy and resources from coast to coast, with proposed benefits including the minimization of environmental impacts and lowering the monetary and time cost of environmental assessments. This plan is likely a result of the ongoing provincial-federal pipeline disputes that have dominated the Canadian political sphere as of late, namely the highly-contested Trans-Mountain Pipeline. As well, Conservatives would repeal Bills C-49 and C-69, which have been argued to hinder the Canadian oil and gas industry through the installation of increased bureaucratic measures. Just like the Liberals, the Conservatives have committed to meeting targets set by the Paris Accord. 

Thirdly is the New Democratic Party (NDP), which largely aims to expand upon the work of the Liberal government. If elected, the NDP, like the Liberals, would continue the implementation of the carbon tax and rebate program. That said, the NDP would bring noticeable reform to the carbon tax, making it fairer and rolling back the breaks the Liberal government granted to large emitters.

Similarly to other parties, the NDP would set a series of interim emissions reductions targets in the lead up to 2030 and 2050. Unique to the NDP, however, is the creation of a Climate Accountability Office, an independent office that would be tasked with the duties of regular government audits of progress towards the climate goals. Speaking on pipelines, the NDP would abandon the Trans-Mountain pipeline. Contrary to the Conservatives, the NDP would move to remove the subsidies allocated towards fossil fuels and would allocate the subsidies to instead be directed towards investment in renewable energy, by the NDP-created Canadian Climate Bank. This afore-mentioned Climate Bank would be capitalized with $3 billion by the federal government and would be used to spur investment in the low carbon economy. 

Moving to the Green Party, it is not surprising that the party has the most comprehensive environmental policy. When considering the carbon tax, the Green Party is the only party that advocates for an expansion of its reach, establishing a carbon fee on all sources of carbon dioxide pollution and raising the tax for all emitters.

Under the Green Party, no new pipelines, coal, oil or gas drilling, or mining would be approved, with existing oil and gas operations continuing on a declining basis. The Green Party would also move to cancel the Trans-Mountain pipeline, and with this, other subsidies to fossil fuel industries. In replacement of oil, gas, and coal, the Green Party proposes a move towards renewable reliance; by 2030, under the Green Party, 100 per cent of Canada’s electricity would come from renewable sources

Lastly is the newly-minted party, the People’s Party of Canada (PPC). The PPC, although new on the Canadian political scene, is eager to make an impression on voters, with its widely-contested views of climate change dominating policy discussions. What is most notable is the PPC’s total denunciation of man-made climate change, a statement that is reverberated into action through policy. Contrary to the scientific consensus, the PPC argues that climate change is natural. 

Similar to the Conservatives, a People’s Party government would abolish the current federal carbon tax and leave authority to provincial governments to adopt programs to reduce emissions if they wish. Unlike the Conservatives however, the PPC has no wish to contribute to the establishment of green technologies, and instead, wishes to abolish subsidies for green technologies in order to let private corporations develop efficient and profitable alternatives.

On pipelines, the PPC advocates for reform, approving pipeline projects using a streamlined process. In similar nature, the PPC would search for a private buyer for the Trans-Mountain pipeline. 

Looking at the Bloc Québécois, the Quebec-based party would reintroduce a bill granting Quebec the authority to accept or rejecting projects under federal jurisdiction that concern land use planning and environmental protection, and as such, would serve to impact in the development of future pipelines. Based largely on the original equalization payment, the BQ would create a green equalization formula in which carbon tax revenue from provinces with higher per-capita greenhouse gas emissions would be redistributed to provinces with lower emissions, benefitting Quebec in this regard. Lastly, like the Liberals, NDP, and Green Party, the Bloc Québécois would work towards ending all fossil fuel subsidies.

While not historically at the forefront of voters’ minds when casting a ballot, the environment plays a more central role in the election campaign this time around. By comparing and contrasting the parties’ policies on this important issue and others, voters can be equipped to make the right choice for themselves. 

Edited by Catharina O’Donnell

Cover photo designed by Lauren Hill