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Canadians have just voted a strong yes for bolder and more ambitious climate action. But only the Green Party put forth a climate plan that meets IPCC red lines and the climate science needed to reach zero carbon by 2050. In spite of all the marches, climate strikes, and mounting evidence that global warming is spiralling out of control, Canadians still voted for political parties with climate plans that deny the science.

This article was first published by Mitchell Beer in The Energy Mix. 

Canada’s Climate Change Election delivered a Liberal minority government, returning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to power with 157 seats in a 338-seat parliament and fractionally more than 33% of the popular vote as of early Tuesday morning.

The seat count: Liberals 157, Conservatives 121, Bloc Québécois 32, NDP 24, Greens 3, and Independent 1. With 33.05% of the popular vote, the Liberals fell short of a Conservative tally of 34.4%, driven up by regional totals of 69.2% in Alberta and 64.3% in Saskatchewan that left the governing parties with only four seats between Ontario and the Rockies. The result made Trudeau the first PM since John A. MacDonald to form a government with less than 35% of the vote, prompting CBC to opine that the new House of Commons will “test Trudeau’s political skills to the limit”.

A Strong Yes for Bolder Climate Action

“This election was essentially a referendum on climate change action, and Canadians voted a strong ‘yes!’” said Environmental Defence Executive Director Tim Gray. “Although the majority of Canadians didn’t vote for any one political party, the majority of Canadians did vote for a more ambitious climate action plan. Now the parties and members of parliament must work together across party lines to forge an alliance to deliver action in line with what Canadians are expecting, and what science tells us must be done.”

“As a first order of business, the federal government must legislate a new greenhouse gas reduction target for this country and increase our level of ambition to ensure Canada does its part to limit warming to 1.5°C,” Gray added. “The government also needs to bring a swift end to fossil fuel subsidies, reign in the disinformation campaigns paid for by the fossil fuel lobby, and craft a transition plan for workers and communities who will be impacted by the phase out of fossil fuels from our economy.”

“Game on. Let’s get to work,” Ecojustice Executive Director Devon Page told supporters. “When it comes to combating the climate emergency, most Canadians can agree on one thing. We must take unified action to fight climate breakdown. Now.”

“From marching in the streets all across the country to marking their ballots, Canadians have made it clear they want more climate action and they want it before it’s too late,” agreed Pembina Institute National Strategy Director Josha MacNab. “A majority of Canadian voters expect their federal government to do even more to fight climate change, including setting politics aside to cooperate with each other to bring the best ideas forward in the interest of all Canadians.”

Need to dial it way up

While “we’ve come a long way,” MacNab added, “existing progress needs to be dialled way up and missing elements of the climate plan need to be addressed. In the near term, Canada’s clean fuel standard needs to be taken over the finish line, we need to accelerate electrifying the transportation system, commit to zero-emissions buildings by 2050, and ensure the price on carbon is scheduled to increase past 2022.”

Canadian climate hawks elaborate on that agenda here.

CBC notes that Trudeau “fought a campaign with climate policy front and centre—and he won.” Given a tight race and the deep embarrassments the PM ran into on the campaign trail, winning a second chance from voters “is an incredible victory for the Liberal Party,” writes parliamentary reporter Aaron Wherry, in an analysis focused mostly on the challenging parliamentary math Trudeau faces. “This one will have seismic impacts on the short-term and long-term future of federal policy in this country—not least for climate policy.”

Re-elected Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna, who served as environment and climate change minister in the previous government, told supporters she was “so happy” to see climate take its place as a key focal point for the campaign.

“Finally, climate change is a top election issue,” she said. “Climate change is not just an environmental issue. It’s an economic issue. It’s a national security issue. It’s a social justice issue. And most of all, it’s an issue about the kind of future we want to see for our kids, and our grandkids. I’m heartened…that more than two-thirds of the votes…were for parties that believe and are committed to climate action.”

Regional divisions

The regional divisions ahead were front and centre in much of the overnight news coverage, with the newly-resurgent Bloc Québécois vowing to fight any new pipeline through Québec, results from British Columbia showing Trudeau paying a political price for buying us all a pipeline, and Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason urging politicians to counter western alienation by charting a future for Alberta as a green energy superpower.

Across the country, Équiterre co-founder Steven Guilbeault won his seat in the downtown Montreal riding of Laurier-Saint Marie for the Liberals, while Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi lost in Edmonton-Mill Woods. Green candidate Jenica Atwin prevailed in Fredericton, becoming her party’s first federal MP east of British Columbia and joining re-elected leader Elizabeth May in Saanich-Gulf Islands and MP Paul Manly in Nanaimo-Ladysmith. Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and former natural resources minister Jim Carr were re-elected in B.C. and Manitoba, endangered species advocate Richard Cannings held his seat for the NDP in South Okanagan-Kootenay, B.C., Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould won in Vancouver Granville, and Emma Norton of Halifax’s Ecology Action Centre placed second in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

Death knell for the far right

Climate-denying People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier lost his seat in Beauce by thousands of votes, Science Minister Kirsty Duncan cruised to victory in the heart of Ford Nation in Etobicoke North, and overnight standings showed all People’s Party candidates but Bernier forfeiting their campaign deposits. The Toronto Star interpreted the PPC’s collapse as voters’ “thunderous ‘meh’” to political populism, while The Guardian called the campaign result a “death knell for Canada’s fledgling far right”.

Now What?

The Trudeau minority government will need to step up to the climate plate with a much more ambitious climate plan. Canadians want and expect this. The list of priorities is long:


  1. Tell the truth about the seriousness of the climate challenge
  2. Establish an all-party climate emergency war room
  3. Listen to the science on climate
  4. Legislate climate targets aligned with IPCC red lines
  5. Ensure a just transition for workers and communities
  6. End all fossil fuel subsidies
  7. Freeze all new fossil fuel projects
  8. Stop the flow of oil lobbyists in Ottawa
  9. Raise Canadians’ climate literacy level particularly in ridings where climate is not the number on issue 

Related articles:
Carbon Pricing Survives. Now What?
In Pictures: A Climate Awakening Hits Canada

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.Creative Commons License

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  1. What the heck are you smoking? All the signs have not even been collected in a campaign where the Liberals ran on “if you don’t vote for us, the Conservatives will get in” and, just as I predicted, the ‘strategic vote’ strategy has proven a failure: Justin Trudeau has already announced that he has a mandate, and the TMX will be expanded, and the media is already making noise that the NDP might not have the political capital to force the minority government to walk away from the pipeline (even though the Block, the only other party that controls seats giving the difference between a stable government and one that will be defeated on a no-confidence motion in the house is opposed to any Carbon development).

    Since I’m on a roll – I’d also offered to bet Jim Cooperman, (one of the local Green capitalists who had been shilling for her), $20,000 that the local Liberal would not get elected – I may as well go all in: The NDP will vote against the government on the pipeline, but will not overturn the government in a no-confidence motion, allowing them to have their cake – opposition to the pipeline – and eat it too – currying favour in Alberta while hoping that by the time the next election comes around, the voters will have forgotten (they are currently broke).

    Before we are all dead, this will be seen as a crime against humanity, and the search for scapegoats will take place – but don’t expect the real culprits to pay the price. They will probably victimize environmentalists.

    • I do not disagree on your take about the election. I too noticed that in the last days of the campaign, the Liberal mantra became vote for us if you don’t want Scheer – strategic voting. And yes the same party is in government with the same ties to the oil sector. But what is changing is public literacy on climate.

      Also, Jagmeet Singh (with the support of the 3 Greens) can leverage the pipeline into more aggressive emissions targets and more ambitious climate goals.

      Thank you for your comments/feedback.


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