Trudeau’s climate failure


in Books and literature, Canada, Economics, Law, Politics, The environment

In closing, a few words can be said about other aspects of the PCF [Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change]. The complete ignoring of the 2020 target illustrates the power of the Canadian dynamic of policy failure set out in chapter 1. Disguising the lack of will and effort needed to achieve an international commitment by focusing on a new target, some years distant, was done in 1997, in 2010 and again in 2015. It provides the government in question with environmental legitimacy by allowing it to appear committed to policy action while avoiding the conflicts and costs the must be borne to actually achieve a target. Unless things change, there is a very real chance it will be done again in the years leading up to 2030, regardless of which government is in power. Because we are so willing to push action off into the future, we are able to avoid the regional conflict inherent to the allocation issue. The Justin Trudeau government’s focus on the easy challenge (which, as events turned out, has not been so easy) of ensuring carbon pricing throughout Canada when the big four emitting provinces already had pricing in place, rather than the much more difficult task of convincing those four to do more than they had already themselves decided on, is a continuation of the dynamic first seen with the easy challenge of the 1995 voluntary program. At that time, as discussed, a voluntary program was all that could realistically have been hoped for. In 2015, however, with very different public attitudes, foreign and domestic examples, and a majority government eager to act, the PCF was a missed opportunity. Taking advantage of that opportunity would have required facing the challenges that are the subject of this book, in particular vastly different western and eastern energy interests. That was not done because the Canadian dynamic of favouring peaceful relations over effective policy was exerting its usual force.

As of the spring of 2019, the Pan-Canadian Framework program, so completely a product of this dynamic that has brought only policy failure since 1990, was providing the worst of both worlds. It did not have the programs in place capable of meeting the stated goal, while a major element of the program, federal construction of a pipeline, will if implemented increase emissions. While providing no guarantees of achieving its goal, the PCF is causing considerable damage to national unity and the possibilities of constructive federal-provincial engagement. The outcome of the 2019 Alberta election made that situation even worse since by then a supposedly national program was opposed by half the provinces, representing more than half the population, and three-quarters of total emissions.

Macdonald, Douglas. Carbon Province, Hydro Province: The Challenge of Canadian Energy and Climate Federalism. University of Toronto Press, 2020. p. 232–3


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