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The Speech from the Throne last week outlined what the Canadian government says are its priorities, based on the recent federal election. Climate change action was at the top of the list: the government says it has “a mandate to fight climate change, strengthen the middle class, walk the road of reconciliation, keep Canadians safe and healthy, and position Canada for success in an uncertain world.”

The Speech from the Throne also says

“The Government will set a target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. This goal is ambitious, but necessary – for both environmental protection and economic growth.  The Government will continue to lead in ensuring a price on pollution everywhere in this country, working with partners to further reduce emissions.”

The Government will also:

  • help to make energy-efficient homes more affordable, and introduce measures to build clean, efficient, and affordable communities;
  • make it easier for people to choose zero-emission vehicles;
  • work to make clean, affordable power available in every Canadian community;
  • work with businesses to make Canada the best place to start and grow a clean technology company; and
  • provide help for people displaced by climate-related disasters.

The Government will also act to preserve Canada’s natural legacy, protecting 25 percent of Canada’s land and 25 percent of Canada’s oceans by 2025. Further, it will continue efforts to reduce plastic pollution and use nature-based solutions to fight climate change – including planting two billion trees to clean the air and make our communities greener.

And while the Government takes strong action to fight climate change, it will also work just as hard to get Canadian resources to new markets, and offer unwavering support to the hardworking women and men in Canada’s natural resources sectors, many of whom have faced tough times recently.”

This last statement is obviously important to people in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, who feel threatened by measures to reduce fossil fuel use.

Merran Smith, executive director at Clean Energy Canada (CEC) at Simon Frazier University in BC reviewed the speech and noted, “Two-thirds of Canadians say they want the federal government to either continue or increase its climate efforts. They voted for different parties, but they agree on that.” Her statement was based on exit poll interviews undertaken by Pollara Research on behalf of CEC between Oct 23 and Oct 25 in which 5,002 Canadian voters from 10 provinces were interviewed. The average margin of error was estimated to be 1.4%

Findings from the CEC survey included:

  • Half (50%) of voters feel that enacting policies to fight climate change should be the top (14%) or a major (36%) priority for the re-elected Government.
  • Two-thirds (67%) of voters want the Liberal Government to enact climate policies that are the same (37%) or stronger (30%) than what they campaigned on.
  • Six-in-ten voters support setting stronger climate change targets, which reduce Canada's overall greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the year 2050 (63%) and enacting legislation and accountability measures that ensure Canada never misses another climate target (61%).
  • Half of the voters support gradually decreasing the production of oil and gas in Canada while transitioning workers to other industries (55%) and ending all public subsidies for the oil and gas industry (51%).

Although the study’s regional numbers show that Alberta and Saskatchewan voters are generally opposed to any threat to the oil and gas industry, Smith notes that “78% of Canadians (in all parties and provinces) say they support large-scale job programs in clean energy.”

hrai2dec112022The CEC this year also engaged Navius Research, to study Canada’s clean energy sector to better understand its economic contributions. It found that Canada’s clean energy sector is growing faster than the rest of the country’s economy, 4.8% versus 3.6% annually between 2010 and 2017. The clean energy sector also accounted for 298,000 jobs in Canada and is attracting tens of billions of dollars in investment each year.

Environmentalists bemoan the imbalance between subsidies used to support Canada’s fossil fuel industry and those in place to help develop clean energy, which in Canada and many other countries are four-to-one or five-to-one. Some say that without subsidies, a liter of gas for cars might cost more than $2.00 and heating oil for furnaces would actually be priced 200-300% higher. Should the government move to address the subsidy imbalance, it will almost certainly do so using a phased approach.

Time will tell whether and how Canada’s new government will act on these public priorities while at the same time 

managing regional concerns about phasing out petroleum-based resources