Liberal leadership candidate Stéphane Dion is making the fight against global warming a central plank in his campaign, unveiling a plan today that could spend up to $10-billion to goad Canada into swiftly curbing emissions.
He says his package could put Canada back on track to meet its greenhouse-gas reduction commitments under the controversial Kyoto accord -- but only if the Liberals are able to win office by early 2007.
Mr. Dion, who was serving as federal environment minister when the Liberals were defeated in January, said his plan contains no carbon taxes -- meaning, he explained, there are no levies on petroleum production linked to its carbon-dioxide emissions.
Mr. Dion's plan includes new taxes to help curb consumption, but he declined to reveal them yesterday.
"There are some taxes but not a carbon tax," he said.
However, Mr. Dion's plan would also offer tax and fiscal incentives to reduce energy use.
"There is no free lunch for anyone, but there will be strong incentives at the same time." said Mr. Dion, adding that he thinks business will be able to live with his plan.
"I will not take industry by surprise," he said.
The Liberal candidates have taken pains to avoid alienating party members in oil-rich Alberta because they hope to get delegates from each of the province's 28 riding associations.
Mr. Dion said he will nevertheless require Canada's largest emitters of greenhouses gases -- a group that Ottawa has frequently limited to 700 companies -- to reduce their emissions or pay others for credits under a so-called "cap and trade system."
He said his plan will cost no more than the $10-billion Project Green proposal to meet Kyoto targets that was designed in former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin's government, defending the price tag as necessary in an energy crisis.
"I am very comfortable doing it with the same amount of money that was for Project Green," Mr. Dion said.
"What will be the cost of inaction? To be competitive in the 21st century, we need to realize that cheap energy is passé."
He said the Dion plan would make Canada a leader in energy efficiency and the technology needed for this.
"If we are not able to decrease our cost of energy, how will we stay competitive?"
His proposal stands in contrast to the current minority Conservative government whose commitment to Kyoto has wavered and which has frozen significant anti-climate change spending deployed by the former Liberal government.
Mr. Dion touted his package as the only comprehensive scheme to fight climate change and promote renewable energy unveiled by Liberal leadership candidates.