Liberals move to outflank the NDP on green issues

John Horgan, Rachel Notley make things awkward for federal New Democrats

When Justin Trudeau was asked by a reporter why he dodged Indigenous youth who traveled from Fairy Creek to one of his photo ops, the Liberal leader didn’t answer the question.

“We recognize there’s a real issue here locally around old growth forests, and decisions made by the BC NDP government,” said Trudeau, the corners of his mouth creeping up in a smile – or maybe a smirk.

“It would be interesting to ask Jagmeet Singh, a B.C. member of parliament and an NDP, uh, leader, what his perspective is on old growth forests and decisions that the Horgan government have made.”

On clearcuts, coal exports, even oil and gas, the Liberals see an opportunity to brand Trudeau as an environmental champion. And despite his record in government, polls suggest the message is getting through.

Where are the Greens and NDP?

The Liberal war room strategists are no fools. They know the Green Party is broke and disorganized after a painful battle between leader Annamie Paul and the party executive. 

Unless voting intentions shift dramatically, Elizabeth May and Paul Manly look like the only Green MPs headed back to Ottawa – and even Manly’s Nanaimo seat could be a tough three-way race.  

The Liberals also know Jagmeet Singh’s NDP is handcuffed by its powerful provincial affiliates.

The John Horgan wing of the party has overseen the arrests of more than 800 forest defenders since May, with Indigenous and Black activists targeted for especially brutal treatment by the RCMP.

The BC NDP has also pushed ahead with the ruinous Site C dam, and more than doubled oil and gas subsidies since taking power in 2017. Meanwhile, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley is an aggressive supporter of the Trans Mountain pipeline and oil tanker project.

This gives Singh a very narrow runway to try to land the message that he is more committed on environmental issues than Trudeau – without contradicting Canada’s only NDP premier.

More Liberal promises

The Liberals are stepping into this vacuum with a fresh batch of election promises and more feel-good green branding.

$50 million for old growth protection (peanuts, but more than their opponents can promise). A ban by 2030 on thermal coal exports (another issue the BC NDP won’t touch, because of their ties to the longshore union and Pattison-owned Westshore terminals).

Trudeau also promised this week to ratchet down emissions for oil and gas companies starting in 2025 as part of his plan to get Canada to “net zero” emissions by mid-century.

He now claims the Liberals’ new emissions “cap” would prevent oil sands expansion, even as Canada builds more bitumen export pipelines.

That’s not how the oil companies interpret it. They plan to keep growing production, while betting on unproven carbon capture technology – and emissions offset schemes – to “balance” their ever-rising carbon output.  

But this is politics.

Climate voters leaning Liberal

Trudeau knows the climate emergency is top of mind for Canadians this summer, and his platform needs to reassure those voters that he’s on top of it.

In fact, the Angus Reid Institute found in a survey last week that climate is the number one ballot box issue in the country, despite a lack of media coverage in the election.

This shift is being driven by voters in B.C., Ontario and Quebec – especially people under the age of 35, who are freaked out by the prospect of decades of deadly heat waves, megafires, drought and worse.

The Angus Reid poll asked voters who listed climate as their top ballot box issue who they were planning to vote for. 41 per cent said the Liberals. 36 per cent said NDP. The Bloc picked up 11 per cent, with the Greens and Conservatives tied at 6 per cent apiece.

That suggests the Liberals’ pitch is working.

But there’s one clear, simple promise Trudeau won’t make to voters grappling with climate dread. He won’t stop building the $20 billion, publicly owned Trans Mountain pipeline and oil tanker expansion. Not unless he’s forced to.

A clear wedge for the NDP

The NDP platform contains more ambitious emissions targets than the Liberals, and a promise to eliminate all federal fossil fuel subsidies.

But nothing symbolizes the Liberal betrayal on climate change more than the fact they bought a pipeline. And nothing shows the hollowness of their faraway “net zero” promises like the Trans Mountain expansion.

Just 30 per cent built, it has already gobbled up billions that could have gone to affordable housing, transit, clean energy, you name it. The final price tag is likely to be at least $20 billion.  

Despite Trudeau’s claims, if Trans Mountain is completed it will unlock a dangerous increase in oil sands production and a dangerous increase in oil tanker traffic.

“This pipeline is nothing short of genocide against my people,” wrote 22-year-old Kayah George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in a powerful op-ed this week in the Toronto Star.

On the campaign trail, Jagmeet Singh has reiterated his opposition to the Trans Mountain purchase. But the NDP leader still won’t say if he would actually cancel the expansion pipeline.

From the perspective of climate science, Indigenous rights and even economics, scrapping TMX is the right thing to do. Singh needs to find the courage to say that, if he wants to stand out amid a wave of Liberal climate announcements.

Local champions

Wherever the party leaders land, pushing the next government into climate emergency mode will take heroic efforts by local MPs and grassroots supporters.

There are a few candidates in this election who have shown a refreshing willingness to buck the party line. For example, Toronto Liberal Julie Dzerowicz says we should scrap Trans Mountain, even though her boss says the opposite.

NDP candidates Anjali Appadurai, Avi Lewis and others have come out publicly in favour of cancelling Trans Mountain, as have dozens of Greens. Later this week we’ll share a tool that makes it easy to contact your local candidates and find out where they stand.

Ultimately we need 170 out of 338 MPs who are willing to make Trans Mountain the turning point towards ending fossil fuel expansion, and who will vote for much more rapid and ambitious climate legislation. That will take MPs from multiple parties. 

Unnecessary, sure. Ill-timed, perhaps. But this election is an important opportunity to put some committed activists in parliament and grow a “climate emergency caucus” at the federal level.

There are three weeks left until election day. If you’re ready to ramp up the grassroots pressure on local candidates, and force the climate emergency into the campaign, contact one of our local volunteer teams and we’ll get you going right away.

13 Responses to “Liberals move to outflank the NDP on green issues”

  1. Gene Auger says:

    I personally don’t think it matters who we vote in, they do not have the guts to go against BIG MONEY, I have voted for labor for over 60 years, but have given up hope that anything will change. The planet is doomed because even the labor party lacks the guts to do what’s right. But then I’m 84 years old and will be dead soon.

  2. Margaret Coles says:

    Excellent article. Vote for the person, not the party this election. And let your candidates know you are going to.

  3. Antoinette Halberstadt says:

    Disappointing to see Kai unaware that the RCMP are in Fairy Creek at the request of Teal Jones, which they can’t refuse because the corporation won their court injunction against the protesters .

    NO politicians whatsoever are allowed to direct the RCMP. No way can Horgan “oversee” their Fairy Creek operation. All a Provincial government does, is gives the RCMP permission to temporarily move from where they’re contracted to operate.

    RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, appointed by Trudeau, is the only one allowed to control how they operate.

  4. Elaine Benson says:

    I am a NDP volunteer for Vancouver South Sean McQuillan and he has signed the petition against TMX and he is scheduled for a climate debate this Wed Sept 8th at 7 pm on zoom all candidates ( although I hear that no other party candidate have signed up!)
    Check him out on FB Sean McQuillan for the zoom MTG link and he has said that if no other candidates show up he is open to climate change discussion.

  5. Gail says:

    wish the federal government and the provincial government would both stop Trans Mountain Pipeline, Site C and fracking up North. it is time to stop LNG too it is not clean and is destroying clean water!

  6. Dave Byrnes says:

    I’m disappointed that my MP, Alistair MacGregor (NDP) has not joined his 40-odd fellow candidates in pledging to vote to scrap TMX. I’ve voted NDP since 1968 – except for my Green candidate the last time we did this. The provincial NDP has already lost me, and I’m going to find it very hard to vote NDP federally this time. I did send a message to Alistair MacGregor about this, but have not received a response.

  7. John Young says:

    Doesn’t it follow from your analysis and the logic of the environmental crisis that parties that do not support a fundamental transformation – and that most certainly includes the NDP – are just obstacles and the debate you are trying to launch is a complete waste of time? Very simply the status quo politicians and that includes the whole lot of them are not prepared to even contemplate the changes needed and not only with respect to the environment. Thus your task should be one of building a truly transformative movement.

  8. Josef A Kuhn says:

    As I’ve said many times, and my wife and others agree, the only way we ‘left of centre’ Green New Deal people can achieve good government in Canada is to have a Green Democratic Party. Dividing our support between Green and New Democrat parties has no chance of achieving Green New Deal goals. The climate crisis requires major change. Divided party politics will not do the job.

  9. Helen Turnbull says:

    Thank you for this information. I live in the Northumberland Peterborough South Riding.
    I don’t feel any of the candidates in my riding are environmental champions. None of them have a track record of environmental advocacy. Do you have any insight as to who amongst them would best move on fighting to end investing in the TMPL and subsidies to oil producers?

  10. Lucie Marcq says:

    I’m so disillusioned with every single candidate & their policies. There is not one person I want to vote into office. What a sad state of affairs.
    Why haven’t you covered PPC – they seem to be making headway? I’m not happy with all what they stand for either.
    Also, why aren’t you talking about Vax Passport? There are hundreds of thousands of people who do not stand by this!

  11. Rolf Jander. says:

    I don’t equate the BC NDP party with the federal party. I voted NDP but will vote Green provincialy.

  12. rajgoaguy says:

    The future does feel very bleak right now.
    So many folk seem to be making life and death decisions based on superstition, not science, These include so called “liberally educated” friends I know. Did I hear in the fed debate that 1/4 Canadians don’t believe humans are causing climate crisis? They don’t know billions of sea animals died in Vancouver area seashores in June 2021 heat dome. They don’t believe in science of vaccines.

    How did we get here? Changed model of journalism and publicly funded media.
    Best summary of this is by Sue Gardner, former CBC journalist and former director of Wikimedia Foundation

    Social media also has fingerprints all over the crime scene. Twitter, FB, etc. Another great show on this, that presents research on how the “lie” vs “truth” tree on Twitter. “The trees of lies spread further, wider and faster than the truth trees. . It took the truth approximately six times as long as falsity to reach 1,500 people.”

    I used to volunteer with the Greens, since it felt like they were the only party with a real climate strategy. Feels like I got disillusioned after last 2019 election, when climate was already centre stage, we hoped for a “green wave” and got very little. It was then I realized that many of my “left leaning, do-gooder, hippy dippy friends” love to HEAR politicians say they have a climate strategy, but they really don’t want any meaningful action. A good test question is whether people support slowly increasing the price of gas to about $10/gallon aka $2.63/litre. It might change how we use personal vehicles, flying for leisure.
    It will be very interesting to see the outcome of this election.

  13. Lana says:

    Subsequently Alistair MacGregor has taken the pledge to scrap the TMX. So no disappointment in this issue!

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend