The environment could be the big winner of Canada’s election

Blog Post | October 24, 2019 - 11:15 am
By Reuven Sussman, Senior Research Manager, Behavior & Human Dimensions Program

Canada’s parliamentary election this week is a big win for energy efficiency and the environment. About two-thirds of voters backed political parties in favor of a carbon tax and other environmental measures, making it easier for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party to enact significant climate and energy legislation.

Climate policy was a top issue. Trudeau defended his Liberal Party’s climate policies, including its backstop carbon tax that began earlier this year and applies to provinces without their own price on emissions. The major opposition party, the Conservatives, made repeal of the carbon tax a cornerstone of its campaign. In 2018 and 2019, opposition to carbon pricing contributed to Conservative provincial victories in Ontario and Alberta among other issues.

The election may spur more energy-saving and climate-friendly policies. Trudeau’s Liberal Party, which is ideologically centrist with a pro-environmental agenda, won the most seats in Parliament but lost its majority. As a result, it will have to compromise with other parties to get bills passed. This is likely to happen with the Bloc Quebecois or the New Democratic Party (NDP), both of which often have even stronger views on environmental protection and are expected to push the Liberals to the left.

A big part of the climate solution in Canada is energy efficiency. According to Efficiency Canada, the Liberal platform promised the following:

  • Retrofit 1.5 million homes over the next 5 years
  • A free energy audit for all interested homeowners and landlords
  • An interest-free loan of up to $40,000 based on the result of the audit
  • A Net Zero Homes Grant of up to $5,000 to help buyers of newly built homes that are certified zero-emissions
  • $100 million in skills training, to ensure there are enough qualified workers to keep up with the increased demand for energy audits, retrofits, and net-zero home construction
  • Mandatory ENERGY STAR® certification for all new home appliances, as of 2022
  • A national competition to create four $100-million, long-term funds to help attract private capital for deep retrofits of large buildings such as office towers

Under a new minority government, supported by the NDP or Bloc, the Liberals could even go a step further and begin to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, a promise they made in 2015.

Climate and energy are very important in Canada. In 2016, Canada had the fourth highest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions in the world (right behind the US), and 9th highest overall emissions. And like other northern regions, Canada has experienced a higher rate of warming than most other regions of the world. The escalating carbon tax, started by the Liberals in 2018, is estimated to reduce emissions by 50 to 60 million tonnes in 2022 (yes, that’s Canadian “tonnes” — they’re a bit bigger than American tons). And the Liberals have pledged to develop a pathway to zero emissions by 2050, which was also a key promise of the NDP.

With the Liberal Party’s new mandate, the Canadian government will now hopefully take the necessary action and demonstrate that energy efficiency, economic sustainability, and environmental stewardship are all possible at the same time.

Steven Nadel, ACEEE’s executive director, contributed to this report.