NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has had several different climate-change policies, but none of them were in the climate platform he released last week.
Only last month, he was telling the country the NDP was moving in a bold new direction on environmental issues, opposing all new oil-and-gas infrastructure. That meant no new pipelines or major projects, and no fracking, either.
It was controversial, but bold. It quickly seemed a bit less bold when Mr. Singh ducked and weaved about whether he is now against the big B.C. liquid natural gas project that he supported only months ago – a project backed by B.C. Premier John Horgan’s provincial NDP.
And when it came to putting the federal NDP’s environmental policies in black-and-white, in a 22-page document that the party called “a new deal for climate action and good jobs,” that more radical stuff – opposing all new oil-and-gas infrastructure – wasn’t there.
So, which is it?
The policy document released last Friday is a substantial attempt to give NDP orange a greener tinge, including proposing (unspecified) incentives to retrofit homes and buildings and electrify public transit across the country. They would be part of a package that would cost $15-billion over four years.
The NDP would stick with the federal carbon-tax policy, keeping the “backstop” that applies to provinces that don’t have their own, as well as the rebates that go with it. The party says it would alter the carbon-tax scheme for large industrial emitters, designed to provide incentives to reduce emissions without making Canadian plants unable to compete, by reducing the scope of exemptions for industry.
And the NDP suggests there would be a stick to go along with the carrots: Ottawa would enforce emissions-reductions targets for provinces. That’s like telling Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney you’ll see them in court.
By itself, the NDP policy paper is a serious effort for a social-democratic party trying to beef up its green credentials. But it is not a radical new approach.
David McLaughlin, climate-change director with the International Institute for Sustainable Development, said efforts to reduce emissions with home refit programs would be beneficial. For the most part, the NDP takes approaches similar to the Liberal government, but takes them a bit farther, he said. The NDP proposes to create a $3-billion “climate bank,” but it’s hard to say how that would be very different from the Canada Infrastructure Bank created by the governing Liberals.
So what happened to Mr. Singh’s radical turn to no new oil-and-gas infrastructure? The NDP’s explanation is essentially that that is Mr. Singh’s vision of the future.
But it begs the question of how he intends to get there. Energy is a substantial part of Canada’s economy, so how would the NDP handle such a major transition? And when?
To be fair, every political party in Canada has wide gaps in its environmental policies. The problem with Mr. Singh’s is that he has shifted so much it’s hard to glean his real direction.
At first, he tried to balance green rhetoric with unclear phrases about pipelines. Next, he moved to clearly oppose the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion, angering then-premier Rachel Notley’s Alberta NDP. In January, while he was running in a by-election in Burnaby, B.C., Mr. Singh said he supported the B.C. LNG project; in May, after the NDP lost the Nanaimo-Ladysmith election to the Green Party, he announced the no-new-infrastructure shift. Now, it’s gone again. Or, sort of.
Clearly the NDP wants to compete with more radical rhetoric, probably because of political math. The Green Party is catching up in opinion polls. With lower levels of support, the NDP might not be competing for the votes of union workers, but for green-conscious urban voters in B.C., downtown Toronto and central Montreal. Mr. Singh unveiled his climate platform on Friday in the NDP-held Montreal riding of Laurier-Ste-Marie – where the Liberals are courting prominent environmentalist Steven Guilbeault to run.
Mr. Singh is making it sound like he has taken a radical green turn, but it wasn’t there in black and white. It’s missing. He has had trouble picking one climate policy. He wants to tell the country he has a bold environmental direction, but he hasn’t provided a sense of how he’d get the Canadian economy there. That’s the part that counts.