Spring 2020 update on the federal Emergencies Act

We are now living amongst the terror and sadness of a global pandemic – Covid-19. Yesterday, after a phone call between the PM and the Premiers, the federal government officially decided, on pressure from the provinces, not to use the federal Emergencies Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 22 (4th Supp.)). That leaves it as still having never been used since it was passed in 1988, replacing the War Measures Act. 

The War Measures Act was used three times – to intern Canadians in WWI, WWII, and during the October Crisis in 1970. The last use, by Trudeau senior, gave it a bad rap (the first two did as well), and after the Charter was passed it no longer seemed to fit the Canadian legal ecosystem, so it was repealed and the Emergencies Act passed, which is supposed to accord with the Charter.

Regardless – it is clear that its potential use is not popular with the provinces, as it is fairly likely to intrude on provincial jurisdiction. BC Premier John Horgan said yesterday that it was a “distraction” and a waste of time. It was also clear that the Emergencies Act is considered a stop-gap measure, to fill in the blanks when there is a failure of national co-operation, or provinces fail or are unable to do their part, Trudeau said in a briefing afterwards;

“We are seeing that the collaboration, the partnership among provinces and territories and the way we’re moving forward on this means that we might not ever have to use the Emergencies Act and that would be our preference.”

This post, by Adrienne Smith, lays out some of the powers the federal government can access under the Emergencies Act;

… Cabinet has the power to evacuate, remove, requisition, direct and dispose of person and things. It can force the establishment of hospitals and shelters – for 90 days. People can be directed to render essential services. This declaration allows for the payment of benefits and support to people who are affected – through Employment Insurance, the CERB and as transfers to the provinces. Various enforcement tools are created, including fines and imprisonment.

Those are extensive, and if the federal government were to use the Emergencies Act regarding climate change they would have considerable powers to deal with it. This post builds on one from last year – Can governments declare a “Climate Emergency”? – the powers under the Act are listed in s. 8 of the Act, and discussed in last year’s post in more detail.

The Act itself mentions “accident or pollution” (s. 5(c)), under “Public Welfare Emergency,” as one of the bases on which to declare an emergency.  Certainly climate change qualifies as pollution. 

In order to really get the answer regarding the question of whether the federal government will ever use the Emergencies Act regarding climate change we can look at two things; 1) the provincial resistance to it, as an encroachment on their spheres of ppower, 2) it would have to be in a situation of complete provincial failure to deal with the problem (which is arguably the case for most provinces), and 3) look at the resistance to the carbon tax, which is also predicated on a failure of the provinces (in order for it to be applied there (to be discussed in a coming post)).

The result? It will have to be very dire circumstances for the federal government to ever consider invoking the Emergencies Act in relation to climate change, including a complete failure of one or more provinces to deal appropriately with those very dire circumstances. It is unlikely to happen any time soon.

3 climate lessons from Covid-19

  1. Suffering sucks. Every person that dies is someone’s loved one, the loss of whom will leave them grieving, possibly needing counselling, or years to digest and reconcile. Loss, pain, tears. Suffering sucks. The numbers of dead are not numbers – they are permanent and negative changes – losses of resources, knowledge, personal and family history, connection and support.
  2. Listen to the warnings. We were warned. We saw it happening in China, spreading out from there. Governments, and people, were slow to react. Instead of listening to the warnings many people believed when they heard someone mumble that it was really just another flu, or that the warnings were overstated. Some used such talk for political leverage.
    We have been warned on climate change. We have not listened.
  3. We have tools, but they are more effective if used early. There is currently less suffering, and more confidence, in places where tools were deployed quickly. Some of those tools have been quarantining, testing, financial and economic measures to support those who respect the request/order not to go to work, ticketing-fines-jail for those who break the rules, and government money into projects that help.
    On the climate front we are late, very late. But, to quote an old english poem, “time still succeeds the former..”
    There are legal, policy, and cultural tools at our disposal. A previous post covered some of the things the Canadian government can do with the Emergencies Act regarding climate change (and there’s another post to come). But some clear examples of legal tools that could be used now regarding climate change, to reduce the impacts, are; financial and economic measures to support transitioning oil and gas workers, and supporting those who are hurt by a transition to a low-carbon economy, ticketing-fines-jail for those who break the rules, and government money into projects that help – solar and wind farms, tidal, geothermal, planting trees, and research and development.
    Some policy options, of many, are leaving oil and gas in the ground – no new projects, and wind down current ones, and completely change how forestry, agriculture and fisheries are conducted to maximise carbon storage.

    Climate change, on the path we are on, is going to cause far greater human suffering than Covid-19. Once the bad part really starts, there will be no turning back, and it will be too late to effectively wield the tools we have. To reduce human suffering we must listen to the warnings and use the tools we have now.

Teck: post-mortem – (they got the message, should we get theirs?)

Teck’s mega “Frontier” oilsands mining project is dead, abandoned by its owner, Teck Resources, on February 23, 2020. Why? Global News said a few days later,

[i]t’s still not entirely clear what led Teck Resources to withdraw its proposed Frontier oilsands mine, nor is it clear why that decision came just days before we were to learn whether Ottawa would approve the project.

There’s not likely a single explanation to all of this, but the company’s deliberately vague announcement left the door open for others to fill in those blanks with their own spin

But the reasons are not really that mysterious. Teck CEO and president Don Lindsay wrote that they had “unprecedented support from Indigenous communities” and the project “was deemed to be in the public interest by a joint federal-provincial review panel following weeks of public hearings and a lengthy regulatory process,” and that the project was “commercially viable.”

But he listed as their key reason, “..global capital markets are changing rapidly and investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change, in order to produce the cleanest possible products.”

And went on to wisely say, “[u]nfortunately, the growing debate around this issue has placed Frontier and our company squarely at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved. In that context, it is now evident that there is no constructive path forward for the project.”

So, he essentially said that markets are changing due to climate change, and Alberta/Canada are not addressing that sufficiently, and they don’t want to get in a big public dispute over it. That’s pretty clear, and reasonable. They probably had their lawyers and advisors look at Northern Gateway, Energy East, Keystone XL, and Trans-Mountain. They probably got advice that they were in for a huge battle, which would be very expensive, they were not sure to win, and they definitely would not win the PR side of it. Good advice.

Perhaps most insightful is that a few days later Teck bought  “SunMine Solar Energy Facility.” They bought a solar farm. At the same time JP Morgan has pulled out of big oil funding Teck has sold the past and bought into the future, policy be damned. Industry is giving up on big oil and gas.

This hasn’t just happened overnight. In September 2019 CNBC posted an article “Climate change: Did we just witness the beginning of the end of Big Oil?” There have been many others like it. The CNBC article made these two key points:

  • The energy sector is notorious for booms and busts, but oil and gas stocks’ weighting in the S&P 500 has not been this low since as far back as 1979.
  • Investors have lost faith in oil companies, but it is not yet clear whether that is a permanent change caused by fear of increasing advances made by renewable-energy sources like wind, solar and electric batteries, or a temporary reluctance to invest caused by low oil prices.

Well, if it wasn’t clear in 2019 it certainly  must be after recent news. A March, 2017 Environmental Defence article titled “Seven oil multinationals that are pulling out of Canada’s tar sands” and said that “[l]ast week brought big news that Royal Dutch Shell, one of the world’s largest multinational oil companies, would sell off its Canadian tar sands assets.”

That’s right, let’s not forget Shell’s withdrawal in 2017, which Environmental Defence attributed to, “low oil prices, stronger policies to fight climate change, and the accelerating global shift to renewable energy make the tar sands uneconomical.”

This again calls into question government funding and support for the oil and gas industry. If Teck’s Frontier mine isn’t viable, should we be putting government money into TMX, subsidies? Arguably Teck’s withdrawal makes oil and gas subsidies that much more questionable – should we be using government money to prop up a dying, or transforming, industry? When Teck said they are “looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change” and then bought a solar farm – doesn’t that imply government money should be going into renewables, not oil and gas?

Does this also say that those who have been fighting against new oil and gas projects, whether they experienced success or failure in each instance, have contributed to shaping the context in which project decisions are made?

The writing is on the wall.

Written Submissions regarding changes to old growth management in British Columbia in the context of a global climate emergency

The following is a copy of my written submissions today to the British Columbia Old Growth Strategic Review:

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal (“SKCA”) recently said that “climate change caused by anthropogenic [GHG] emissions is one of the great existential issues of our time.” Old growth forests are critical to our survival in the context of a global climate emergency.

I am a lawyer, have certificates in international and environmental law, and have worked in environmental law for over 10 years. Before law-school I graduated in the top of my class with a Forest Technician diploma from the Maritime Forest Ranger School, now the Maritime College of Forest Technology. I recently returned there, in 2016, to give the graduation address. I have worked for the federal government, and the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources in the Ontario provincial government. These are my submissions on BC’s review of its old growth policy.

We have known since 1990 or before that old-growth forests store more carbon, and when they are cut that storage capacity is lost for hundreds of years. A dissenting Court of Appeal Judge recently wrote, in the United States “Juliana” case (where youth are attempting to sue the government to force them to take action on climate change), of the situation regarding our climate;

In these proceedings, the government accepts as fact that the United States has reached a tipping point crying out for a concerted response—yet presses ahead toward calamity.  It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses.

The same can be said of Canada and British Columbia. Old-growth forests are a critical defense against climate change, both for mitigation and adaptation. They not only store carbon, but are more fire-resistant, regulate water supplies, and provide food in a number of forms – plants, wildlife, and healthy fisheries.

BC’s old-growth strategy is effectively shutting down this line of defense. That must change. Please stop all old-growth logging immediately.

We need new rules for a new era

We are in a climate emergency, and global biodiversity is collapsing. In 2018 Greta Thunberg said, regarding oil;

Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground, so we can’t save the world by playing by the rules because the rules have to change. Everything needs to change and it has to start today.

Although she was speaking about oil, it is equally applicable to old growth forests. Business as usual means surrender to disaster.

The entire forestry system has to shift to long term investment in our environment, culture, and green jobs. For starters, forestry must be regulated again – not just old-growth, but that is a good place to start. Professional reliance, a key tenet of natural resource management under a neo-liberal worldview, has failed.

Create good green jobs

BC is currently giving millions and millions in subsidies to LNG, reflecting that the province is perfectly capable of spending money to support certain industries. Regarding old growth BC should spend money on protecting areas, and real jobs in forestry. Those could be in science, research, carbon storage, managing our old growth forests, planting new trees, protecting old-growth, and food production.

Forest managers, scientists, rangers, firefighters, tree planters, and forest Guardians – are all good jobs.

Focus of old growth management: carbon storage, fire protection, culture, biodiversity, and water

Old growth is critical to our survival. We are in a climate crisis and old growth stores carbon and protects us from the worst effects of climate change. We are in a biodiversity crisis and old growth supports biodiversity. Yet, we are logging the last of it. It must stop. Not only does old growth store carbon, it also buffers against fires, regulates and cleans water, and is critical to First Nations culture, and tourism.

BC has an opportunity to shift to managing old growth for other interests; wildlife, carbon storage, water, recreation, culture, and global survival.

We all must do our part

BC also has a chance to learn from the people who have lived here for millennia. Joe Martin, Tla-o-qui-aht Master Carver, and former logger, recently wrote, in regard to this review and old growth logging;

Our people practised for abundance rather than “sustainability.” To me, sustainability means keeping our natural resources on a lifeline until they’re eventually gone or until industry has finally had enough and moved on. Practising for abundance is making sure that your grandchildren won’t have to work as hard as you did. It’s ensuring that when we leave this garden for them, they will have everything they need.

This should be part of any new old growth policy. We should manage our forests for abundance, not bare survival. If we do so that may help buffer them, and us, against the coming impacts of climate change.

First Nations should have a veto

There is considerable debate about whether UNDRIP means Indigenous Peoples should have a veto over decisions regarding their traditional territories. In my view they should, but I understand government is not ready yet to embrace that. The B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act is a good start, although there is still much work to be done.

Regarding old growth, however, a veto would be a significant management simplifier, would result in more protection, and would reduce conflict. It would also reduce litigation over this issue, including the incredible expense of that to both the province and First Nations.

First Nations should have a veto over any logging of old growth in their traditional territories. Considering the history of disputes over this issue, the tie-in with colonialism, the commitment to reconciliation, and the ongoing cultural and economic importance of old growth forests to First Nations, this is an obvious potential positive.


Each generation takes the earth as trustees.  We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed.

 J. Sterling Morton

Please put a moratorium on all old growth logging. Take the time to design a new forestry model – heavy on regulation, on-the ground jobs, both public and private, no shipment of raw logs out of BC, and manage for long term well being of the economy and environment on which we all depend.

If that is not possible then at least design a new way of dealing with old growth – precautionary, careful, selective, favoring green jobs, First Nations, and in consideration of our global climate and biodiversity. We all must do our part.

Give First Nations a fair voice in what is theirs, as a step toward healing for all of us. We will need these forests, they don’t belong to us – but to the future, and they are too important to lose.

Thank you,

Patrick C. Canning



SCC confirms the Canada v BC TMX reference case, but misses the rising tide..

Did the SCC get it right technically, but miss the rising tide on factual context?

On January 16, 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) refused British Columbia (BC)’s request for leave to appeal their loss at the BC Court of Appeal (BCCA) in Reference re Environmental Management Act (British Columbia), 2019 BCCA 181 (CanLII).

The case turned on the division of powers, sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867, with Justice Rowe saying at the hearing on January 9, 2020 ‘[t]oday it’s heavy oil, tomorrow it could be anything else..”

The SCC is technically correct about division of powers, and the factual circumstances were brutal for contracted BC lawyer Joe Arvay O.C., Q.C., one of the top Constitutional lawyers in the country. The fact that the BC Premier, John Horgan, had promised in the 2017 election campaign “to use every tool in our tool box” to stop the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX) didn’t help BC any, who then had to try to argue that the impugned measures were not in fact designed to block just the TMX (which would clearly be unconstitutional), but were of a general purpose to protect the environment in keeping with BC’s constitutional jurisdiction under the Constitution Act, 1867.

Apparently the SCC Justice’s pushback was so clear that Arvay conceded by late afternoon he wasn’t likely going to win.

At the BCCA Justice Newbury summed up the issue as follows;

[1]           The protection of the environment is one of the driving challenges of our time. No part of the world is now untouched by the need for such protection; no government may ignore it; no industry may claim immunity from its constraints. This reference is not about whether the planned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (“TMX”) should be regulated to minimize the risks it poses to the environment — that is a given. Rather, this reference asks which level or levels of government may do so under our constitution, specifically ss. 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867. [1] British Columbia asserts that it may regulate the pipeline in the interests of the environment — not exclusively, but to the extent that it may impose conditions on, and even prohibit, the presence of “heavy oil” in the Province unless a director under the Environmental Management Act issues a “hazardous substance permit” under the proposed addition that is the subject of the reference.

BC argued that regulating the presence of bitumen and heavy oil fit under the headings of “property and civil rights” (92(14)) and “Matters of a merely local or private Nature ..” (91(16)), and the principle of “subsidiarity,” which the BCCA described as the principle that “on occasion that certain functions are best carried out by the level of government closest to the citizens affected.”

Canada argued that the matter related to ““Works and Undertakings connecting the Province with any other or others of the Provinces, or extending beyond the Limits of the Province” s 91(29) and 92(10)(a) ..

It is true, and an easy point for Crown lawyers to defend, that interprovincial works are a federal head of power. But, as Peggy Lee sang in 1969 – is that all there is?

Ecojuctice lawyer Harry Wruck, QC, argued that “[w]ithout a viable environment we cannot have a Constitution, we cannot have a nation based on laws, we cannot have institutions, we cannot have a society..”

BC chose to argue the case on the basis that BC was not opposed to oil, but just worried about spills, saying “[t]he only concern the premier, the attorney general and the members of the government have had is the harm of bitumen. It’s not about pipelines. They’re not anti-pipelines, they’re not anti-Alberta, they’re not anti-oilsands, they’re not anti-oil…”

Was that the best strategy? BC’s unfortunate support of LNG and other oil and gas projects made it the easiest path to take, as did the facts of how the law was designed and drafted. But what if they had taken the other strategic path, and argued that they were in fact blocking this pipeline, that they were anti-pipeline, they were, in fact “anti-oil,” because – we are in a climate emergency, and it is the provinces Constitutionally mandated duty to protect property and civil rights, both of which will be directly impacted by the effects of climate change flowing from TMX?

They could have argued that the provinces also have a Constitutionally mandated duty to manage “Public Lands belonging to the Province and of the Timber and Wood thereon,” – which will equally be impacted and undermined by the climate impacts of TMX. How can the province manage forests that are burning, underwater, or dying of drought? By stopping the TMX, that’s how. They would have had to also argue that the feds have failed, regarding TMX, to take into account Canada’s international commitments under Paris, and our moral and legal duty to reduce emissions – a pretty easy branch of the argument to prove.

Would taking that strategic path have improved their chances of winning? Probably not – their chances would have gone from zilch to zilch. But would it have forced the courts grappling with the Reference to deal with the core issues? Possibly.

SCC Justice Rowe was also quoted as saying, regarding the economic impact of the court ruling in BC’s favour, “[t]here will be nothing. The uncertainty will kill the business case” (of projects across Canada).

What if the province had also made the economic argument head-on: that climate impacts are the issue, it affects all heads of power, both federal and provincial, and that the long-term business case for allowing climate change to continue to worsen favours allowing BC to regulate its climate.

The dissent in the recent Juliana case (to be subject of another post) makes the argument, and shows that judges can accept it –

… the government accepts as fact that the United States has reached a tipping point crying out for a concerted response—yet presses ahead toward calamity.  It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses.

Regarding TMX the line could read, “[i]t is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to buy and operate a chunk of asteroid to add to it..” (while at the same time wringing their hands about how terrible it all is, and committing to do something to stop it… ).

Our 1867 Constitution never imagined we could destroy the whole Earth.. the law must adapt. As the SCC said in Hydro-Quebec the law must “be able to keep pace with and protect our emerging values.”

Unprecedented times.

COP25; “an agreement which accommodates everyone”? Failure, process, and alternatives

In the Friday the 13th COP25 Presidency Press Briefing, Andres Landerretche, Coordinator of the COP25 Presidency, said that they would stay until they had an agreement, and that they were working hard to get “an agreement which accommodates everyone”..

It’s now Saturday night, and according to Elizabeth May on twitter, they are still going. This effort by those trying to reach a deal must be applauded, but is this the right process for today?

It’s not clear who, in the COP25 Presidency statement, is considered to be “everyone,” or should be. If “everyone” is all the delegates, including those who want to hold up the process, then satisfying everyone is a question of how low the bar can go and still satisfy most nations, or conversely how high it can go and still be acceptable to the recalcitrants – Saudi Arabia, Australia, and the United States.

If “everyone” is everyone on Earth, everyone who is impacted, or everyone who will be impacted, and that’s pretty clearly not who he was referring to, then it’s clear that “everyone” will not be accommodated at COP25, or through the resolution regarding Article 6 (carbon markets – a key sticking point).

But, could it be? As Dr. Peter Carter, co-author of Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival, points out here, every COP session since the first few have been based on full consensus. The world is burning. We are in a climate emergency. And yet, because of the process we have chosen, a few nations who have chosen personal wealth and power over the greater good can entirely bar us from saving ourselves.

Is it time to consider a different process? The Montreal Protocol had teeth – an enforcement mechanism – that trade sanctions could be brought against violators. We need something similar to that, or other enforcement mechanisms. Those who endanger life on earth should be excluded from the economic community of nations in meaningful ways. Or there must be other sanctions which reflect the gravity of their actions. Massive tariffs on oil and gas from non-compliant countries? That would have the four effects of punishing them, rewarding compliant nations (with increased exports), encouraging other nations to become less oil dependant, and accelerating the death of the oil economy.

How do we get there? The easier method is through article 15(2) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which says that;

The Parties shall make every effort to reach agreement on any proposed amendment to the Convention by consensus. If all efforts at consensus have been exhausted, and no agreement reached, the amendment shall as a last resort be adopted by a three-fourths majority vote of the Parties present and voting at the meeting.

So, the UNFCCC can be amended to change the voting procedure/decision-making mechanism, and / or enforcement mechanisms can be added. A lot more can be said on the specifics of this in future posts, and hopefully others will come up with even better ideas. For now all we need to know is that once “everyone” has tried to convince the few recalcitrants, and failed – a 3/4 majority can change the process.

The only problem with that is – the next COP, COP26, is hosted by the UK, who just elected a Boris Johnson Conservative government. While they are likely to be better about climate talks than some other conservative governments might, they are unlikely to take the vanguard position and initiate this level of change.

That leads to another possibility – can the UNFCCC, or the process – be amended by the UN General Assembly? It’s worth looking into. That would be a much more just process.

This is an emergency – let’s act like it.

Syncrude Canada Ltd. v. Canada (Attorney General) – beware climate hypocrisy

Syncrude Canada Ltd. v. Canada (Attorney General), 2016 FCA 160 (CanLII), <http://canlii.ca/t/grwc3> was one of Canada’s first climate change cases. Canada implemented some early and woefully inadequate renewable fuels regulations – all fuels had to contain at least 2% renewables. A good start, a decade late, and not that big a deal, one would think.

But Syncrude challenged it, mainly on the Constitutional basis for the regulation – that it was not under federal jurisdiction because it did not fall within a head of power under ss. 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867. The court affirmed that it was, under the “criminal” head of power (91(27)). That issue is canvassed pretty thoroughly here, where UCalgary Law professor Sharon Mascher finds that;

Absent an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, this FCA decision removes the lingering question as to whether the federal government can rely on the criminal law power to regulate GHG emissions, an evil that justifies the exercise of the criminal law power. This is so even if the legislation or regulation creates favourable economic and market responses in other sectors or supports the use of indirect economic effects to achieve its dominant purpose.

Leave to appeal to the SCC was denied, so that is effectively the law in Canada – Canada can regulate greenhouse gases under s. 91(27) because it is an “evil” to society.

But this post is not about that, it’s about climate hypocrisy, and the usefulness of this case in more general climate litigation. Syncrude took the position in the case that climate change is a real threat, but that this measure is inappropriate, but also obfuscating the link between burning fossil fuels and climate change, essentially arguing for doing nothing. The FCA said to Syncrude:

[24]           However, as the respondent points out, Syncrude’s submission at paragraph 66 of its factum that “the production and consumption of petroleum fuels is not inherently dangerous” is inconsistent with its concession that GHG emissions contribute to the evil of climate change. Syncrude’s position is problematic and at times concedes the correlation between GHGs, global warming and the consumption of fossil fuels.

This is important because the above could be said to any government that talks about fixing climate change, while making a decision/decisions which in practice makes it worse. The inconsistency is apparent, for instance, in both Canada and BC’s stated positions on climate change, and their ongoing subsidisation of the oil and gas industry.

This case is a good tool for climate litigators, to encourage courts to hold government and industry to their stated positions on the relationship between our climate and the burning of fossil fuels.



The Canadian federal election: no climate emergency to see here.

The October 21, 2019 Canadian election resulted in a Liberal minority, which could be propped up by the NDP or Bloc. What does that mean for the climate?

For starters, it’s not a Conservative government, so not an absolute nightmare for the climate. Just really bad, since the Liberal climate plan (as reviewed in the last post), is not very good. A – they bought a pipeline and hope to pay for climate adaptation/mitigation with the profits. B – their Plan is vague and lacking detail, relies on Stephen Harper’s “updated” and incorrect (re the Paris Accord) targets, and does not set a meaningful and credible reduction target for 2030.

On the plus side – 2 billion trees! And other programming. So, there are some good points. How good may depend on who will hold the balance of power, and how they leverage it.

Who, and what will that mean? If the NDP get asked, will they make Transmountain conditional? Could we imagine the two teaming up without first resolving that issue? The problem is – if the NDP drives too hard a bargain the Liberals can join up with the Bloc instead. So, it’s going to take some time to see how this plays out.

Overall trend – this election was divisive and not great for Canada or the environment. Two reasons – the central Provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, went completely Conservative (except for one seat in Edmonton). The coasts went red, East, and mostly orange-green, west.

Also, as per the climate-plan review in the last post – the Greens and NDP had the best climate plans, and frankly, despite some green growth – neither party did that well, especially compared to how much ground the Conservatives regained.In fact, if you add the NDP and and Greens together, percent-of-vote-wise, and compare that to the last election, they likely dropped. This does not convince parties to move towards building more climate-friendly policies into their platforms, or treating climate change like the emergency it is.

Ultimately, the climate was not a major driving force in this election, and was not a winner. Instead, Mother Nature will vote with her fist for the next four years, trying to convince us to take meaningful action. And the lawyers, campaigners, advocates, and climate strikers – get back to their respective roles.



The federal election climate platforms: goal, dream, or hallucination?

Which party has the best climate plan? There are a number of election-climate tools and comparisons, some quite good. Ecojustice has a good one here, and The lawyer’s daily has a piece here.

Another summary is here, done by Leach and Hayhoe. A Twitter critique of that assessment said “It’s implicitly an endorsement of the Liberals based on two criteria: ambition and feasibility. My concern: way feasibility defined favours middle of road approach.” In other words, it’s based on an assumption that steep change is impossible.

Stand.Earth has a fairly comprehensive one here. Theirs may be the most rigorous, and honest, as it says they all are insufficient. Here are a few more comparisons; the Narwhal, Globe, and Policy Options. There are many more.

This one may the simplest, as there is only one question: How much does this platform reflect a costed, measured, clear PLAN to stay below 1.5? The IPCC has told us that;

… in model pathways with no or limited overshoot of 1.5°C, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 (40–60% interquartile range), reaching net zero around 2050 (2045–2055 interquartile range).

A preliminary assumption, for discussion purposes, is that a 30% reduction is actually enough to reach those targets. Many say it is not. Nonetheless, this post will focus on changes by 2030, as the IPCC has also told us that is what matters.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, in this interview shared with Greta Thunberg, sums it up well. He referenced how California set carbon emissions reductions targets, and beat them – with a plan. He said, “A goal, or dream, without action, is hallucination.”

NDP – a detailed but undefined goal 

The NDP climate plan, Power to Change, a new deal for climate action and good jobs, can be found here. It is the most thorough of them all, coming in at 22 pages, and with lots of detail. That said, it fails to pick a target for 2030 recutions, instead promising to  “Adopt science-based GHG emissions reduction targets for 2030 that are in line with stabilizing
the global temperature increase at 1.5 degrees Celsius” (p. 6).

A good promise, but not appropriate to today. The UN has told us the target – 30% by 2030. Is that likely to change over time? Sure, as things continue to move faster than predicted, the UN may at some point increase that (making it exponentially harder). However, if it doesn’t seem right, the NDP could just bravely set a higher target. It lacks ambition. And, despite the detail, does not cost out the transition clearly.

Green Party – a goal and a dream

The Green Party’s Mission Possible can be found here. It is excellent in a way, it covers all the bases, and is inspiring. But it lacks clear details, and also does not cost out the transition – in other words, it does not show, sector by sector, where we are now, and then how their plan will get us there. But, where?

But another good point about the Green plan – it aims for a 60% reduction by 2030. That’s double what the UN is calling for, and higher than even California’s targets. This is the best part of the Green plan – Mission Possible. But it definitely needs some detail.

The Green party attempt to build a plan which allows Alberta to keep pumping oil for quite some time, keeping it “Canadian” is out of keeping with an otherwise fairly sensible, although vague, plan.

Liberal Party – a dream

The Liberal platform is here. A key premise of their plan is, from Trudeau’s introductory speech, that “Canada is on track to reduce our emissions by 30% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels,” which is simply untrue. Not a good start.

The Liberal climate plan is to reach net-zero by 2050, which is good, but may be too late if the 2030 reductions are not enough. The 2030 goal is “exceed Canada’s 2030 emissions goal by introducing new carbon reducing measures.” (p. 29)

Their method of getting there is to; “set legally-binding, five-year milestones, based
on the advice of the experts and consultations with Canadians, to reach net-zero emissions,” and “appoint a group of scientists, economists, and experts to recommend the best path to get to net-zero.” p. 29

This is not a “plan”, it is a “plan to plan.” How long will that take, before any action starts? And what actions? Presumably those decided by the “group of scientists, economists, and experts.” A good strategy for 2009.

Global news summarised the Liberal climate platform as “The Liberal platform states that if re-elected, the federal government would set “legally binding” five-year milestones based on consultations with experts and attain net-zero emissions by 2050.”

The commitment to plant 2 billion trees is a good, concrete step, but will not get us there on its own.

Conservative Party – a hallucination / mirage

It is here. It is a disaster. It gives a fair bit of detail, all of it oriented toward anything other than reducing oil and gas output /consumption. The plan for supporting renewable energy is good, as are some other elements. We’ll need them in the 5 degrees of warming world their plan will lead to if elected.

Final thoughts

Another factor is the “reality spectrum” – if you’re a voter you’ll need to choose for yourself where to place your bet on this spectrum. A dream, which will likely never happen? Or a cold hard reality which will leave us with anything but. Or you can vote with an eye to the future, and how your vote today may shape party policies going forward. Those choices you must make for yourself.

The best plans, the Greens and NDP, and the mainstream plan – the Liberals (predictably), all fail in one area – carbon tax/carbon pricing. They all support it, in their various ways. And it is not enough. It is a good start, but in the end it is a neo-liberal, “the market will save us” scheme which will never truly yield the results we need. It is an important starting place. But cap and trade is closer, although still not enough. What we really need is source-reduction – we need to keep it in the ground (we’ll continue this thought in another post).

In that way, they all lack imagination. Again, as Greta Thunberg has said, we need new rules. All the plans lack courage to come out and really challenge the power base of our society, and the true source of the problem.




And the children shall lead.. (in the streets, in court, at the UN)

Yesterday Greta Thunberg shook the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. And on the same day announced that 16 youth from around the world “are petitioning the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to hold five of the world’s leading economic powers accountable for inaction on the climate crisis.” And last week’s climate strikes were the largest ever, bringing over 4 million people into the streets around the world.

The world lately seems to have become an anti-dystopian, life-imitates-art era of promise.. does anyone remember the original Star Trek episode about a planet they visit where the adults are all gone and children have taken over? It was dark, and the children were Lord-of-the-flies-esque in their simplicity, need for play, and danger, as they assaulted the “grupps,” or grown-ups, with sticks and stones.

Instead, we live in a world where the adults insist on their need for play, refuse to grow up, and live in a dark Lord-of-the-flies-esque reality of their own creation, where dominating each other and their planet is so important they can’t see the cost.

And children are coming to our rescue. Here is a photo from yesterday’s Climate Action Summit in New York which will define the year, or perhaps even the decade that we are leaving;


This picture sums it up. Trump is the ultimate entitled adult child – selfish, shortsighted, pointlessly competitive, delusional, and ultimately destructive, and as such is reflective of current adult generations. Thunberg is the opposite; calm, intense, brilliant, mature, clear-eyed, and a courageous voice of truth.

She is not alone. Youth all over the world are taking their governments to court. Environnement Jeunesse were recently turned down for a class action in Quebec, although there were some positives to the case, such as a statement that climate matters are not strictly political, and are justiciable by the courts (para 69-72).

At the same time the Juliana youth climate case continues to proceed in the USA, successfully getting over each procedural hurdle so far. And there are more youth climate cases, such as Sinnok v. Alaska, Martinez v. Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation CommissionFoster v. Washington Department of EcologyPetition for Rulemaking to Limit North Carolina’s Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 4 Youth climate striker’s challenge of the Transmountain pipeline, and others.

Regarding the sci-fi episode we are in, in her earth-rattling short speech yesterday (text here) Thunberg confirmed her role as the mature lead-character  – leaving our role to be determined:

“You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.