Criticizing the Liberals’ Carbon Pricing Plan Won’t Help the Conservatives, Only A Serious Alternative Approach Will

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John Ibbitson is right that the next Tory leader must have a “creative” and “credible” plan to combat global warming if the party is to have any hope of success in the next federal election. (Globe and Mail, January 31, 2020). Two thirds of voters in the October 2019 federal election chose a party with a strong environmental plan of action including carbon pricing. Indeed, the Conservatives’ refusal to address the issue in any meaningful way in their platform undoubtedly contributed to their defeat.

However Ibbitson’s analysis of the current situation and the existing Liberal legislation contain so many factual errors and unsupported claims that any Tory hopeful would do well to ignore it. The Liberal plan, for example, did not “dictate” or “impose” specific measures on provinces. It enabled each province to determine its own methods to achieve agreed-upon objectives. The Liberal plan also was introduced after extensive consultation, not “confrontation”, with provinces. Moreover the federal government does not need to “work with” Quebec and British Columbia to create a “made-in-province” response. Tired of waiting for the Harper Conservatives to take the initiative, they long ago established their own plans. 

Ibbitson even claims that the Liberals’ “high-handed attitude towards provincial governments” contributed to the resurgence of the Bloc Quebecois, an argument that belies the consensus of academics and party insiders that the Bloc’s unequivocal support for Bill C-21, (provincial legislation on religious symbols) was the primary factor. Similarly his argument that a Conservative federal government would automatically “make better progress” with Conservative-led provincial governments ignores much of federal-provincial history, when regional priorities have often prevailed over ideology.

Finally, the Liberals have not “divided the country” over global warming. Happily for Alberta and Saskatchewan, more than 50% also support the Liberals’ ‘balanced’ approach of carbon reduction measures and targeted aid to the oil industry, including the TMX pipeline.

Sadly, Ibbitson’s flawed analysis distracts from the crucial question: what exactly do the current crop of Conservative leadership candidates plan to do to address global warming, other than repeal the Liberal legislation as a top priority?