The Liberals go into this election campaign with four years of climate policy behind
them, and will release a platform during the campaign laying out how they will build
on that action if re-elected.
Immediately after winning the 2015 election, Mr. Trudeau sought to differentiate his
government from Mr. Harper’s on climate-change policy.
In December, 2016, Mr. Trudeau concluded a sweeping agreement with provinces
and territories (minus Saskatchewan) that laid down a road map for achieving the
Paris targets and promised joint action. The federal government has embarked on
enacting some 50 measures − from the carbon tax, to support for electric vehicles, to
regulations on the carbon content in fuels, to investments in public transit and clean
technology. The government has also set a target that by 2030, 30 per cent of lightduty
vehicles sold will be zero emissions vehicles .
The carbon tax is at the centre of the Liberal plan, and is a lightning rod for federal
and provincial conservatives. It kicked in at $20 a tonne − roughly 4.3 cents per litre
at the gas pump − on April 1, and rises $10 each year to $50 a tonne in 2022.
It applies to consumers − who get rebates through the tax system to offset the cost
impact − as well as to businesses. Large industries pay the levy on only a small
percentage of their emissions − from 5 per cent to 20 per cent depending on the
sector − in order to protect business competitiveness.
The carbon tax system put in place by the Liberals has a carrot and stick approach.
On the one hand, the price on carbon acts as an incentive for companies and
individuals to find a way to reduce their carbon footprint in order to avoid the
higher costs associated with a carbon tax. On the other hand, the rebate that is given
to consumers acts both to cover the costs for people who have no other option but
to drive their car and has the added benefit of rewarding consumers who reduce
their footprint because they get the same rebate no matter how much pollution they
If the Liberals are re-elected to government, they say they will consult with
provinces, territories and other interest groups to determine the trajectory of the
tax after 2022. That commitment was first made when the government released its
climate-change plan in 2016. However, this past spring, Environment Minister
Catherine McKenna said there was no plan to raise the carbon price post-2022. In
August, she reverted back to saying any changes to the price would be made in
consultation with provinces and territories.
A new Liberal government would also have to finalize the proposed Clean Fuel
Standard, which would require energy companies to reduce the overall GHG content
of the fuels they sell by mixing in biofuels and other renewable sources, making
their processing operations more energy efficient and gaining credits by financing
other emission-reduction projects.
In June, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer released his party’s environmental
platform that outlines the party’s plan for measures to address climate change. The
centrepiece of the plan is what it won’t include: Mr. Scheer vows to repeal the
federal carbon tax as well as the planned Clean Fuel Standard, which would force
fuel providers to lower the GHG emissions associated with their products.
The Conservative Leader noted that it was his predecessor, Mr. Harper, who first set
Canada’s current emissions targets. His plan would give the country the “best
chance” to meet those targets, he said, while stopping short of actually committing
to that goal.
Rather than taxes and regulations, the Conservative Party’s climate platform relies
on tax incentives and spending to support the development of technology that
would allow consumers and industry to improve their energy efficiency and reduce
the carbon content of the fuels industry produces. It promotes carbon capture and
storage − which has been adopted by two oil refineries in Alberta and a coal-fired
generating station in Saskatchewan − as the kind of technology that Canada can not
only deploy at home but sell to the rest of the world.
While the Conservatives pledge to eliminate the federal carbon tax as it applies to
both consumers and large industrial polluters, they would replace it with “emission
standards” for major industries that would require them to reduce GHGs to a
prescribed limit. The platform gives no indication where those limits would be set,
how they will be enforced or how much of a penalty companies would face if they
exceed them. Instead, it says companies would be required to invest a set amount
per tonne into technology that would help them lower their emissions.
The Tories also propose a two-year program of tax incentives for homeowners to
undertake energy retrofits in order to cut their energy consumption and related
GHG emissions. A household could save up to $3,800 annually if they spend $20,000
on energy-saving renovations. The Conservatives also pledge a voluntary building
standard that they say would provide incentives for builders to construct more
The party is also promising to negotiate agreements that would allow Canada to
claim credit for the sale of lower-carbon fuels to countries that would otherwise be
relying on coal or other high-emitting sources. The 2015 Paris climate accord
contains a provision − Article VI − that facilitates international co-operation by
allowing the transfer of credits for emission reductions between countries. The
Conservatives say the international sale of liquefied natural gas would more than
offset the increased emissions in Canada by, for example, lowering the reliance on
coal in China.
The NDP says it would ramp up Canada’s plans to cut greenhouse-gas emissions −
bringing them 38 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The party says that’s what is
required for Canada to do its part to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5
degrees above preindustrial levels.
To get there, the NDP says it would continue with Canada’s carbon-pricing regime,
including maintaining the pricing set by the Liberals from 2019 to 2022.
However, New Democrats do plan to tweak the carbon tax. According to the party,
the rebates that are currently sent to all households will no longer be sent to
millionaires, and the extra exemptions that the Liberals gave to trade exposed
industries through the output-based pricing system will be removed. This means all
industrial heavy emitters will have to pay a carbon tax on emissions once their
emissions exceed 70 per cent of the industry average. Under the Liberal
government’s policies, the benchmark is 80 per cent and some sectors were given
To reach the new targets, Leader Jagmeet Singh said New Democrats would spend
$15-billion on their climate plan over the course of their first mandate.
The NDP is committing to a suite of aggressive timelines to remove fossil fuels from
the electricity grid, transportation and building sectors. It would offer low-interest
loans in order to finance energy-saving retrofits of all Canada’s housing stock by
2050, with half of them completed by 2030.
The party also wants to spur innovation by establishing a Canadian Climate Bank
with a $3-billion fund for investments in the low-carbon economy. It would also
eliminate fossil-fuel subsidies. To measure its progress, the NDP is promising to
create an independent Climate Accountability Office to track the progress of
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May compares the response Canada needs to bring to
climate change with Winston Churchill’s campaign to defeat fascism in the Second
To respond to climate change, the Greens say Canada needs a “war cabinet” made up
of members from all parties.
The party is pledging to double Canada’s GHG-reduction targets, bringing Canada’s
goal to cut emissions to 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The Greens say they would hike the carbon tax annually by $10 until 2030, which
would raise it to $130 a tonne in that year.
The party also says it will eliminate all fossil-fuel subsidies and ban hydraulic
fracking, which is used by non-oil-sands oil and gas producers throughout Western
The Greens would also stop all pipeline expansion, including the Trans Mountain
Similarly to the NDP, the Green Party is proposing to dramatically change the
building, electricity and transportation sectors, but on even tighter timelines. The
Greens have not yet listed a price tag for these policies or explained whether it
would be done through incentives, such as tax breaks or regulations.
They would require all new cars sold in Canada to be electric by 2030, and phase out
all traditional cars by 2040. They pledge to require energy-saving retrofits of all
buildings – residential, commercial and industrial – by 2030. And they propose to
eliminate coal and natural gas from Canada’s electricity generation by 2030.
The party says it will release more details for its plan during the election campaign