John Ivison: Liberals' climate plan comes with too much of the messianic message

As George Orwell once said of Christianity and socialism, the worst advertisement for environmentalism is its adherents.

In particular, in full messianic flow is enough to make even the most ecologically conscious among us request a plastic bag next time we go to the supermarket.

The prime minister and ministers Jonathan Wilkinson, Catherine McKenna and Steven Guilbeault revealed the government’s new climate and clean growth strategy on Friday, a plan designed to exceed Canada’s Paris targets of 30 per cent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.

Trudeau brooked no opposition to the plan to increase the federal carbon tax by $15 a tonne every year until 2030.

The plan will create good jobs and help grow the middle class, he said.

“The transition to a clean economy will present new opportunities for you,” he said.

But there are many Canadians who don’t share or trust Trudeau’s approach, which is why three provinces – Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan – are still waiting to hear from the Supreme Court of Canada on whether it deems the federal carbon pricing legislation as constitutional.

He dismissed a question about whether he would have to go back to the drawing board, if the court rules that carbon pricing is a provincial jurisdiction. “Unfortunately, some jurisdictions don’t understand…some places still want to make pollution free. We’re not going to do that,” he said.

I happen to agree with the carbon pricing model the federal government has chosen, at least as long as the rebates equivalent to the carbon tax continue to make their way back to consumers.

The measures announced on Friday will see the carbon tax rise to $170 a tonne by 2030, from $50 a tonne in 2022. Clean Prosperity, an organization that works on market-based solutions to reducing emissions, estimates that a family of four in Ontario will see a rebate of $2,018 in 2030, up from $448 this year, while a family in Saskatchewan would see $3,829 returned that year, compared to $809 in 2020.

Smartly, Ottawa will send that money directly to taxpayers, rather than via a refundable income tax credit, as is the case at the moment.

The increase in the carbon tax alone is expected to reduce annual emissions by 159 megatonnes, surpassing the 77 megatonne reduction gap needed to hit the Paris target.

What is vexing is Trudeau’s conviction that all Canadians share his zeal – and that any who do not are not merely misguided but immoral.

There were divisions in this country when Trudeau became prime minister but he has deepened them – particularly those between rural and urban Canada and between Eastern and Western Canada.

The costs of climate action fall disproportionately on rural and Western Canadians, many of whom feel their jobs, their economy and their way of life are under assault. Steven Pinker wrote in his 2018 book Enlightenment Now about large groups of American voters who are male, religious, less educated and in the ethnic majority, that have been made to feel like they have become strangers in their own country thanks to political leadership that pushes values on them that they don’t share or understand. In Canada, the same could likely be written about those Canadians who feel like their resource-based economy is being pulled out from under them by climate activists, including the ones in Ottawa. Guilbeault mentioned (in French) that the plan makes a place for everyone in the transition to a cleaner economy. But that was not the tenor of the prime minister’s remarks.

The measures in the rest of the plan were curious. Less than two weeks ago, the federal government released a fiscal update that included eight measures estimated to cost $4.7 billion over six years.

On Friday, the Healthy Environment, Healthy Economy plan added another 56 measures, costing an additional $10 billion.

Why were they not included in the fiscal update? Presumably because the government wanted a toothy, glossy photo opportunity on the fifth anniversary of the Paris agreement. At any other point in history, adding $10 billion to the national debt would give the responsible minister acid reflux. But this new spending will be like snow falling in a river. Some of it might add jobs and have a marginal impact on emissions. Making buildings and homes more energy efficient seems like a good idea. Spending billions on incentives for zero emission vehicles does not. Recent research suggests the cost per tonne of reduced emissions through EV subsidies is much more expensive than other forms of greenhouse gas mitigation investments.

But for the prime minister this is much about branding as climate. Supporting zero emission cars is chic and weaves a suitably green narrative.

There were divisions in this country when Trudeau became prime minister but he has deepened them

In all likelihood there were groans around the cabinet table when Denmark announced it is getting out of the oil and gas extraction business in the North Sea by 2050. You can imagine the chagrin among those who want Canada to be the climate change front-runner: “Why didn’t we think of that first?”

The answer is that Denmark produces 100,000 barrels of oil a day, compared to Canada’s two million plus barrels a day.

Ottawa’s aggression toward the natural resources sector has been of the passive variety, driving down capital spending in the oilsands through regulatory uncertainty, high compliance costs and the absence of support programs.

The resentment such policies have kindled has been far from passive and may yet prove fatal to harmony in confederation.

The transition to the new economy should be just and concordant.

But for far too many Canadians, it seems unjust, inequitable and imposed by an urban, Eastern, self-anointed elite.

• Email: [email protected] | Twitter:

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

Read original article here.