Climate change is burning the planet, says Liberal minister who’s “really worried about getting re-elected”

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said, “Gosh, I’m just worried about getting re-elected—earning the right to represent Ottawa Centre.”

Jason Unrau Montreal QC

If we can suspend disbelief for a moment and imagine that cutting Canada’s total carbon dioxide emissions 302 megatons by 2030 will have any measurable effect on global climate, then much of what occurred in federal politics on Monday seemed reasonable, sort of.

The day began with Conservative finance critic and front bench attack dog Pierre Poilievre delivering another smackdown to the Liberal carbon tax in the National Press Theatre.

It would be his second crack at responding to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s remarks, reported in a Sunday Globe and Mail article, indicating a second-term Trudeau government would revisit the carbon tax, contrary to the party’s promise that $50/ton for 2022 was the limit.

“Well, the cat’s out of the bag,” declared Poilievre, arms gesticulating before he expounded upon what he already told the Globe.

“For years, I’ve been calling it the carbon tax coverup … yesterday, she accidentally told the truth. She admitted that if re-elected the carbon tax would go much higher than Liberals previously said.”

Poilievre hit all the talking points—”Raise taxes to fund more out of control spending”; “Massive new taxes”; “A higher cost of living”—before extolling the virtues of the Conservative promise to place onus on industry to reduce its whole environmental footprint; toxic pollution on top of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Carleton MP, whose riding is a mix of urban and rural in southern Ottawa, went on to reiterate that a Conservative government would abolish the carbon tax and the GST on home heating fuel.

Reporters who wanted evidence that controverted a Policy Options opinion piece on the Conservatives “climate action plan”, purportedly falling short “100 megatons”, only amped up Poilievre.  At one juncture he asked a reporter whether he “should explain it a fourth time” and answered a volley on how the Conservatives would “pay for all of its climate-related actions without raising any taxes”, with the following:

“(Liberals) will spend the money, you’re right,” retorted Poilievre.

“Canadians will send it, so Liberals can spend it. And our plan requires large industrial corporations to reduce their emissions. If they fail to they will have to invest their own money in green tech that cleans up their company, and their industry.”

A few hours later in McKenna’s riding, at Science Horizons on Metcalfe Street in downtown Ottawa, the minister announced a $13.5 million partnership with United Nations Canada to pair “under-represented” students with green technology companies in paid internships.  There, she was pelted with questions about the carbon tax and Poilievre’s earlier remarks.

“Our position has not changed as a government,” McKenna told reporters of the $50/ton cap. “There is no intention to go up beyond that.”

This after her Liberal Party’s star eco-warrior candidate in Quebec— Équiterre founder Steven Guilbeault—tweeted out his support for ramping up the carbon tax.

The Liberal government centres its “climate action” around a carbon tax— $20/ton this year, ramping up to $50/ton by 2022 for provinces without their own plans; Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and now Alberta, whose new Conservative government scrapped its provincial carbon tax in July.

Saskatchewan and Ontario have lost preliminary constitutional challenges against federal imposition of the carbon tax in their respective provincial appeal courts.

While McKenna and the government claim the tax will reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, the overall plan also relies on 24 megatons of carbon sink from forests and bakes in around 70 megatons’ reduction tied to “new technologies.”  Some of this technology is at the testing phase, and none evaluated on real-world emission reduction.

Even if Canada does achieve its Paris Accord emissions target, based on approximate 2017 global emissions expressed in this chart and data published by Visual Capitalist, our reductions would represent just 0.8 percent of the total.

Back at Science Horizons, McKenna accused Poilievre of “misleading Canadians” while stopping short of blaming war and pestilence on our increasing “climate emergency”; yet its floods, wildfires, (“The Amazon is burning”) and other calamities; “(the Arctic) is literally melting across the country”, loomed large.

“And that we know the solutions and there’s a huge economic opportunity.”

Reports on this incredible, trillion-dollar windfall that comes with apocalyptic pronouncements and a carbon tax, have been as high as $32 trillion and as low as $23 trillion. But Monday, it was downgraded again to $26 trillion, according to McKenna’s figures.

Like Poilievre, McKenna exhausted her talking points that shifted from  economy and environment “going together” to blasting “this generation of Conservatives”—Andrew Scheer and Doug Ford who would “end all the progress”—before uttering “technology companies” jars her out of Question Period mode and back to students and internships.

“I look at the young people here. This is about your future. Millennials are the largest voting block. I hope you choose. You choose things that you care about,” she said—you can view the moment here on CPAC at approximately 22:25 minute mark.

“When I talk to young people, you’re worried. You’re worried about whether we will continue to have more ambition on climate change. You’re worried about good jobs. You’re worried about life being affordable.”

About 20 minutes later, withering under more questions about the carbon tax, McKenna ended the press conference by revealing her biggest fear.

“Gosh, I’m just worried about getting re-elected —earning the right to represent Ottawa Centre.”

The federal election will occur on or before October 21st.


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