Pierre Poilievre’s silence on industrial carbon pricing undermines investment, Canada’s competitiveness and our environment.

  • National Newswatch

Earlier this spring, the Canadian Climate Institute produced a report demonstrating clearly that Canada’s carbon pricing system does a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to cutting the pollution that is fueling climate change. The report estimated that industrial carbon pricing alone could be responsible for reducing nearly half of the emissions required to get to our 2030 target climate target.

As we force big polluters to pay for their emissions and send that money back to Canadians with the Canada Carbon Rebate, Pierre Poilievre seems determined to undermine every proven measure that has finally put our country on track to meet our targets and lead the fight against climate change. He has continually lied to Canadians, denying the very existence of the rebate (despite receiving it himself, just like everyone else) while suggesting that carbon pricing is causing inflation, despite all the evidence which proves otherwise.

Inflation has continued to decline over the past 3 years as the price on pollution has gone up. More than 300 economists have written an open letter, basically pleading with Conservative politicians to stick to facts and evidence when it comes to climate and economic policy. Poilievre ignored them, instead referring to these professors emeritus and doctors of economics “so-called experts”. I suppose it’s a lot to ask for someone who aspires to be Prime Minister to listen to researchers.

Carbon pricing has the potential to efficiently drive large-scale investment in clean technologies that will decarbonize some of Canada’s most polluting industries while supporting Canada’s long-term productivity. William Nordhaus won a Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on carbon pricing, and he says that Canada is getting it right.

It’s crucial that all leaders in Canada recognize and appreciate that there is a real social and economic cost to polluting and what drives businesses to find more efficient, less wasteful ways of getting the job done - is cost.

The only problem?

Billions of dollars in clean technology investments are riding on the confidence of Canadian companies that it will not be free to dump carbon, methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for the foreseeable future. The financial assumptions and bottom line of pollution reduction projects depends on it. And right now, Pierre Poilievre’s silence on industrial carbon pricing is undermining that confidence. He’s awfully loud about his opposition to carbon pricing in general, but his refusal to utter the words ‘industrial carbon pricing’ leaves the most emissions-intensive sectors with a lot of uncertainty and no

Premier Danielle Smith has acknowledged she got more money back from the Canada Carbon Rebate than she paid with our pollution pricing system, and she has never questioned Alberta’s industrial carbon pricing system, which adheres to the federal carbon pricing benchmark. She realizes that industry thrives with certainty.

The latest evidence of this confidence dynamic is now on full display. The Pathways Alliance, a consortium representing 95% of Canada’s oilsands production, says that Pierre Poilievre’s lack of clarity on industrial carbon pricing is jeopardizing the economic basis for clean technology that provides the only viable pathway to reducing emissions from oil production.

Oil and gas companies have made several dubious claims over the years to avoid investing in cutting pollution. But the concern over Pierre Poilievre’s cynically calculated silence on industrial carbon pricing is having real-world impacts. It is reckless and shortsighted to undermine efforts to reduce emissions from oil and gas production. Our government’s plan to cap emissions from the oil and gas sector will backstop these efforts, but Pierre Poilievre’s partisan game-playing remains a major barrier to investment in decarbonization.

Whether Conservatives care to admit it or not, putting a price on pollution is a proven, market-based solution that both Preston Manning and Steven Harper have said is the most cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without hurting economic productivity. There’s no opposition to these market based instrumental truths among economists and actual experts - it’s just conservative politicians that can’t get their math right.

Another uncomfortable truth is that Canada is among the top 10 carbon polluting countries in the world and ranks even higher in terms of per-capita emissions. The only sector with carbon emissions still on the rise is the oil and gas sector, particularly as it applies to bitumen mined from the oil sands. But it’s these companies who require the certainty to make the changes necessary to decarbonize.

The world is moving towards a low-carbon future. Both the economic productivity of Canada and our climate are at stake.

Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives have demonstrated clearly that they do not care about fighting climate change. They don’t even pretend to hide it.

That’s not really the shocking part. What should get everyone’s attention is that Poilievre’s Conservative party seems indifferent about Canada’s economic success, too.

Adam van Koeverden is the Member of Parliament for Milton