As Western premiers blow smoke on carbon tax, youth organize for climate justice

Image: Spence Mann
Image: Spence Mann

Justin Trudeau’s re-election has unleashed political outrage in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is talking about Alberta’s being “betrayed” while Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe sent a letter to Trudeau demanding the cancellaiton of the federal carbon tax, support for various pipelines, and a renegotiation of the formula for equalization payments.

I’ll withhold detailed comment on equalization payments, other than to say that for many years, Saskatchewan was a “have-not” province that relied heavily upon them. But let’s look more closely at Moe’s letter as it relates to the carbon tax and pipelines. Moe’s strident demands are likely based upon the election results in Saskatchewan and Alberta, where the Conservatives won 47 of 48 seats. On the other hand, parties supporting a carbon levy won almost two-thirds of the seats and popular vote across Canada.

It is significant, too, that the results in Alberta and Saskatchewan were not monolithic. In Alberta, 28 per cent of those casting ballots voted for the Liberals, NDP or Greens, and these parties all support a carbon tax. In Saskatchewan, 34 per cent of the electors voted for those three parties. If we had purely proportional representation rather than our flawed first-past-the-post electoral system, parties other than the Conservatives would have 10 seats in Alberta and five in Saskatchewan. So Kenney and Moe cannot say that they are speaking on behalf of all their constituents.

 Carbon tax haters are delayers and deniers

Kenney, Moe and others constantly repeat the mantra that the carbon tax will be a “job killer” and according to Doug Ford will lead to a recession. But these claims have been challenged. In a February, three independent experts, including the highly respected Don Drummond, concluded: “Economists are virtually unanimous in the view that carbon pricing reduces greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest possible cost to the economy.” British Columbia, Quebec and California are all using some form of carbon tax and their economies are humming along.

If Moe and others are opposed to a carbon tax, what is their suggestion, if any, for a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? There’s the rub. While Moe, Kenney, Ford and Andrew Scheer rail against the carbon tax, or demand that various pipelines be built, they usually avoid any mention of the climate crisis.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes the world’s best climate scientists, has been issuing reports for years. The IPCC reports of late are increasingly urgent in tone. The IPCC now says that global carbon dioxide emissions will have to fall by 45 per cent in 2030, and to reach a net of zero by 2050 to avoid catastrophic damage.

The Trudeau government — implausibly, many suggest — has promised that it is on course to meet those targets and that a carbon tax is the rightful centerpiece of that effort. Ottawa believes the tax will encourage a market shift away from fossil fuels toward renewable sources of energy.

The strategy of the tax’s opponents has shifted from denying the reality of climate change, which is no longer credible, to tactics of delay. During the election campaign, Conservatives said they would require large polluters to pay into a research and development fund for green technology. That plan appeared suspiciously akin to what was being proposed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the oil industry’s main lobby, which has a close relationship with Andrew Scheer. Tellingly, the proposal contained no associated targets or timetables for reducing emissions, and was described by one analyst as simply “a plan to expand fossil fuel production.”

Support on the street

While premiers Moe and Kenney attempt to delay, there is growing support on the street for climate action. On September 27, hundreds of thousands of people — 500,000 in Montreal alone — marched in climate strikes that took place in 200 Canadian cities and towns. Many of the organizers were youth, and they were participating in a global day of action to demand that our political leaders do more to confront the climate crisis. These youth organizers are looking to the future. Premiers Moe and Kenney are staring into the rear-view mirror.

Election 2019: You Can Help Elect MPs Who Will Fight for Proportional Representation!

No party with 39% of the vote should get 100% of the power.

The Trudeau Liberals promised to end first-past-the-post, and make every vote count. In February 2017, the Liberals announced they were breaking their promise. Trudeau stated, “It was my choice to make.” He stated that if you don’t agree with his decision, “That is what elections are for.”

We CAN get electoral reform back on the table. In the event of a minority government situation, we would like to see parties make action on electoral reform a condition of their support.

Watch “Crowded” – our video ad on Trudeau’s Broken Promise 

Find out which parties and candidates we’re endorsing in this election.

Learn about our target ridings this election – and how you can help.

Read the results of the Angus Reid national poll on electoral reform. Learn more about our call for a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.

Find out why a Green New Deal needs proportional representation and watch our video ad about why climate action needs PR


National Poll on Proportional Representation Conducted by Angus Reid

Angus Reid Global, in partnership with Fair Vote Canada, conducted a poll of 1510 Canadians in September, 2019, to ask their opinions about proportional representation and Trudeau’s broken promise on electoral reform. Results are below.

“In order for a political party to form a majority government, it should have the support of over 50% of Canadians”

Net agree: 82%
Net disagree: 18%

Strongly agree: 51%
Somewhat agree: 32%
Somewhat disagree: 13%
Strongly disagree: 5%

“Our electoral system should encourage parties to cooperate and compromise so that the important policies that are passed in parliament reflect the support of over 50% of Canadians.”

Net agree: 90%
Net disagree: 10%

Strongly agree: 53%
Somewhat agree: 37%
Somewhat disagree: 7%
Strongly disagree: 3%

“Do you feel that the overall composition of Parliament should be an accurate reflection of how people voted?”

Yes: 80%
No: 9%
Not sure: 10%

“Do you support or oppose moving towards a system of proportional representation in Canadian elections?”

Net support: 77%
Net oppose: 23%

Strongly support: 33%
Somewhat support: 44%
Somewhat oppose: 14%
Strongly oppose: 9%

Note: Supporters included 80% of those who voted Liberal, 65% of those who voted Conservative, 88% of those who voted NDP, 79% of those who voted Bloc and 94% of those who voted Green/other in 2015. 

“Which of the following statements best reflects your opinion on electoral reform and the Liberal government’s handling of it?”

70%: The Liberal government was wrong not to pursue electoral reform — it should have kept its promise.
30%: The Liberal government was right not to pursue electoral reform, even though it broke a promise.

Note: Of the 70% who said the government was wrong not to pursue electoral reform, this included 61% of Liberal voters, 66% of Conservative voters and 83 to 85 % of NDP, Bloc or Green voters.

Why Trudeau’s broken electoral reform promise could rebound on him

In a minority Parliament, he could find himself painted into a corner

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s about-face on electoral reform was an unambiguous example of a broken campaign promise. He probably hasn’t heard the last of it. (Terry Reith/CBC)

Four years after he made it, Justin Trudeau’s promise of electoral reform haunts him still.

But while reform is a nagging headache for Trudeau, it is still the dream of proportional representation’s advocates, including Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats — even if it’s rather unclear how any leader could now promise to move forward with the sort of change that Trudeau rejected.

While the greater question of whether Trudeau has lived up to his promises is at least debatable, when it comes to electoral reform, the answer is fairly straightforward.

In June 2015, Trudeau vowed that the federal election of that year would be the last conducted under the first-past-the-post system. In February 2017, as prime minister, he decided to walk away from that commitment.

Whatever the merits of that decision (Trudeau had misgivings about the ramifications of moving toward proportional representation and feared that a national referendum would be divisive), electoral reform is easily classified as a “broken” promise — an  example readily available whenever a critic or political rival wants to assess the Trudeau government’s four years in office.

Regardless of how many (or few) Canadians were eager to see the electoral system changed, that abandoned commitment has become a totem for the argument that Trudeau has failed to live up to expectations.

What do Canadians want?

But then, there’s also what happened after Trudeau broke that promise — when actual voters were asked whether they wanted to adopt reform through referendums in British Columbia and Prince Edward Island.

In December 2018, British Columbians voted against moving to proportional representation by a margin of 61 per cent to 39 per cent. Four months later, in Prince Edward Island, the vote was different but the verdict was the same, with Islanders saying no to proportional representation by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.

Ballots from B.C.’s electoral reform referendum are counted in Victoria, B.C. on Dec. 11, 2018. (Michael McArthur / (CBC)

Those results don’t change the fact that Trudeau promised electoral reform, nor do they answer questions that might be asked about how his government approached the issue after it came to office.

But those two referendums suggest a significant number of Canadians share the prime minister’s discomfort with proportional representation. The two votes also underline the risk that a national referendum would have produced a narrow or divided result that broke down along provincial or regional lines.

Still, those results have not deterred the New Democrats from promising to move forward with a change to a mixed-member proportional representation system should they form government after this fall’s federal election. MORE


Green Party: Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system must go.

It represents neither our voices nor our values.

The results of the next federal election—if electoral reform had happened

A Green-NDP merger? It could be a big hit.  A new 338Canada analysis shows the ‘Green Democrats’ would hold the balance of power in a minority government after the next election

Philippe J. Fournier: A new 338 Canada projection shows that under a proportional representation system the Greens and NDP would take a combined 90 seats

Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May introduces newly elected Green MP, Paul Manly, on Parliament Hill on Friday, May 10, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

Proponents of electoral reform couldn’t help but reiterate their displeasure with the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system when commenting on last week’s 338-seat projection, and the numbers certainly suggested they may have a point.

The Conservative Party of Canada, then with an average support of 36.6 per cent of Canadian voters according to the latest poll aggregate, was projected to win an average of 174 seats—just above the 170 seat threshold for a majority at the House of Commons.

“A majority government with less than 37 per cent of the vote?” many of them rhetorically asked, not without disdain.

National seat projection under PR

Under the regional proportional representation system described above, the Conservative Party of Canada would be projected at an average of 125 seats—the highest amongst parties, but a total that would be far from the 170 seat threshold for a majority at the House of Commons. The Liberals would win an average of 108 seats.

Here are the PR seat projections with 95-per-cent confidence intervals:

As in the case of our hypothetical NDP-Green merger simulation, this regional PR projection is an exercise of pure politics-fiction. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have shown any interest whatsoever in promoting such reform [PR]  and, from these numbers above, we can understand why. SOURCE

Visit your NDP or Green candidate about making PR an election issue!


Sign up to visit your NDP or Green candidate about proportional representation HERE.

In the last federal election, the Liberals, NDP and Greens all promised that 2015 was the last election using first-past-the-post and to make every vote count in 2019.

The results of five months of consultations with Canadians showed overwhelming support for proportional representation from citizens and experts, giving the Liberal government a strong mandate to proceed with proportional representation.

Let’s get proportional representation back on the table in this federal election! With your support, we can help ensure that our broken electoral system is a topic in the media, at debates, on social media and at the door. Ensuring candidates in favour of PR are well informed and will speak up for it often is important. SIGN HERE