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Who is the greenest of them all?

August 28th, 2015 · No Comments

A platform comparison with an environmental yardstick

The federal riding lines have been redrawn for this election and we are no longer in the old riding of Trinity-Spadina. Instead, the Annex is now situated in the riding of University-Rosedale and we have several strong contenders to be our member of parliament.

Current MP for Toronto Centre, Chrystia Freeland, is running here for the Liberals. She has strong foreign affairs and economic credentials. Jennifer Hollett for the NDP has strong journalism credentials and is a noted advocate for girls and human rights. Nick Wright, running for the Greens, is an environmental lawyer while Karim Jivraj, running for the CPC, has a background in corporate law.

Since the power and influence of individual MPs has been muted over the years, one must look to the national party to get a sense of what might or might not be accomplished on the environmental front (or on any front for that matter). When it comes to government action on the environment, I’m used to being disappointed. Since Stephane Dion got knifed in the front (and the back) for daring to put forth a bold environmental policy, it’s been a political rail. The environment is all but a dead issue federally for all parties with the exception of the Green Party, which has little hope of forming a government. I still want a sense of what the parties might do environmentally. I took an early look at the various party websites (full platforms aren’t out yet) to see who has the greenest.

The Liberals have some loose promises on carbon tax, freshwater protection, and clean tech investment. At this stage, details are scant. There is a promise to work with the provinces to establish a carbon reduction framework. With Canada’s biggest polluting province having recently elected a progressive government, a Canada-wide agenda on carbon reduction might actually have legs this time around. Justin Trudeau has already voiced his support for the Keystone pipeline. While I don’t like the idea in general, it’s better than having oil transported by rail.

The NDP says it will kick-start renewable energy production and “make polluters pay”, but there are not enough details to make much of an analysis, and I would like to see a plan to make consumers pay as well. Without a plan to hit consumers in the wallet, there isn’t enough of an incentive to actually reduce consumption. While it is sympathetic to financial constraints, making polluting equally cheap for the rich and poor will likely not produce the results we are looking for. There are other ways to help out financially constrained families while making carbon intensive purchases pricey.

By virtue of hardly registering with voters, the Greens are forced to create a more comprehensive platform. There is a promise to price carbon through a fee and dividend system (details of which elude me) that promises encouragement of private sector investment in clean tech. Perhaps most exciting to me is the promise to establish a green venture capital fund on the federal level. Canada has been accused of being squeamish on high risk investing, and having a federally supported clean tech fund is something I would love to see happen. Having strong management of the fund, though, is harder than we might expect. There is a promise to ensure no new coal-fired electricity generating stations (given Ontario is already off coal, this might not mean much) and the acceleration of green infrastructure projects. Perhaps the biggest promise that might actually have an impact is the promise to invest in rail infrastructure, as rail is one of the most efficient ways to transport both goods and people. A promise to invest in city infrastructure that includes pedestrians, cycling, and car sharing will do a lot to reduce emissions in urban areas.

The CPC website has no information of any kind on environmental policy for me to analyze whatsoever (or any other kind of policy). In fact, its website features a cartoonish knockoff of the Netflix logo emblazoned with “Tax Hike”. This childish mockery of democracy deserves little mention, so I will stop there. I don’t care for my political leaders to run on “the other guys suck more than I do”.

In terms of policy, I am most impressed with the Green Party’s environmental platform. However, there is more than just the environment to consider when electing our next government. The Greens are also unlikely to form a government and a divided vote does risk re-electing the party most committed to abolishing any sort of environmental protection should we run out of resources.

Neither the NDP nor the Liberals have environmental policies that are well-defined enough to really get excited about yet, but I really do hope the Greens make enough of an impact this election that other parties will start adopting their policies as the campaign continues.

Remember, whomever you decide to vote for, it’s important to get out and vote.

Terri Chu is an engineer committed to practical environmentalism. This column is dedicated to helping the community reduce energy use, and help distinguish environmental truths from myths.

Send questions, comments, and ideas for future columns to Terri at terri.chu@whyshouldicare.ca.

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