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Public opinion on climate change has shifted. Politicians who continue to ignore this issue do so at their own peril. In this post-Paris Agreement era, the climate and the ballot booth must go together. The climate may very well be the top issue in the next two major Canadian elections —  the Ontario provincial election on June 7 and the next federal election scheduled in October 2019. As Ontario politics enter a new stage, what do voters need to know before casting their ballot some three months from now?

Source: Ontario Teachers Federation website

The Ontario Election and the Carbon Pricing Pillar

Until recently, the revenue-neutral carbon pricing policy was a key pillar in the Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) party’s platform. But this all changed when Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown was forced to resign by party insiders over sexual misconduct allegations. And now the new PC leadership contenders would scrap carbon pricing from their platform and presumably would pull Ontario out of Cap and Trade, leaving one to wonder if they have any plan at all to reduce greenhouse gases.

Any candidate wishing to win in the next election should note the Abacus Poll released February 10. In this poll, two-thirds of potential Conservative supporters say urgent action on climate change is needed. Another Abacus poll (November 2017) looked at the role climate change will play at the ballot box in upcoming elections. It concluded that there is a significant political risk in appearing to be indifferent or lukewarm on the growing public preoccupation with climate change.

Half of Canadian voters (49%) won’t consider a party or a candidate that doesn’t have a plan to combat climate change.  Only 6% prefer a party or a candidate that ignores the issue. ~ Abacus Poll

The New Ontario Politics

Much has been reported about Ontario politics since the recent demise of Patrick Brown. But Brown at first refused to go away quietly. He managed to re-enter the leadership race to reclaim the party leader role he left only weeks before, throwing the leadership race into a political gong show, as reported in The Globe and Mail.

And now less than two weeks later, amid the ceaseless drip of damaging leaks — allegations of mistreatment of women, a mysterious benefactor, his personal finances and his play-boy reputation — Brown has pulled out of the race to replace himself. And the gong show continues.

Gone are the days of the traditional middle of the road, bland and predictable old Tory party. It looks like Ontario politics have now entered the Trump post-truth and anti-truth era.

But there appears to be more, much more, to this saga. Brown claims that he was set up by political adversaries, either insiders, or people outside the party, or both.

What Ontario Voters Need To Know

Ontario voters need to ask themselves some serious questions before going to the polls on June 7.

1. Was Patrick Brown set up? And if so, why? In a Facebook appeal to supporters, Brown refers to a “small group of insiders who will stop at nothing in their attempt to derail us.” He mentions “forces” which have brought the Ontario Conservatives to its disgraceful performance of the last month.

2. Are there forces at play and who are the people around him who made this happen?

3. Is it merely a coincidence that the new leadership contenders now oppose the central piece of the platform – the revenue-neutral carbon tax previously adopted by their party? Without carbon pricing, there is no platform left. It’s possible that the new contenders now see a political advantage in opposing carbon pricing in order to defeat an unpopular Wynne government which has brought in Cap and Trade.

4. Has Big Oil, led by fossil fuel operatives and Tar Sands mercenaries, conspired to derail the election of a Progressive Conservative leader whose platform pillar is a revenue-neutral carbon tax? According to a 2018 Parkland Institute analysis, carbon pricing spells doom for the Tar Sands. So is it a coincidence that all the new candidates in the PC leadership race are anti-carbon tax except Patrick Brown? Could Canada’s fossil fuel sector be trying to sabotage the Ontario election?

5. One of the top officials in the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario is Alykhan Velshi. He is the Chief of Staff to the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition as well as chief of staff of the PC leader. Velshi is known to have strong ties with conservative elements known to be pro-oilsands and anti carbon pricing.

He has served as head of strategy, crisis management and legislative affairs for Stephen Harper; he was a senior aide to Jason Kenney, now leader of the Conservative Party of Alberta and an anti-carbon tax politician; he is the co-founder of with Ezra Levant, a right-wing radical known for his promotion of “ethical oil” from the dirty Tar Sands.

According to a Washington Post article, “two years later [post Paris Accord] the euphoria of Paris is colliding with the reality of the present…the world is off target….there’s not enough action.” The reality is that global emissions continue to rise and the planet is heating up at an unprecedented rate. Something is going awfully wrong.

When I vote in the Ontario election on June 7, I will not vote for a party that promotes pipelines and the expansion of the Tar Sands. No. I will vote for the party which has a strong climate action plan that also includes an aggressive carbon pricing strategy.

What will you do?

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