Pro-environment Discourse by Conservative Leader is Sign of Progress in Canada

Guest post by: Alex Tyrell, Leader of the Green Party of Quebec

While the Conservative Party of Canada has been well known for their denial of climate science, their support for the oil and gas industry, opposition to a carbon tax, bashing of the Paris Accord and Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto protocol their messaging under leader Erin O’Tool has changed dramatically. After years of long repetitive speeches in parliament about the « job killing carbon tax » their new leader has abandoned this messaging and adopted a carbon pricing scheme of his own. Don’t get me wrong, the Conservative Party of Canada has no credibility on climate and, in my opinion, they do not deserve the votes of anyone who cares the slightest about the environment. Although the messaging has changed their priorities remain the same. Many have pointed out that their candidates do not support the change in messaging that has occurred under the current leadership. A change in messaging does not necessarily equate to a change in actions. The liberal party has taught us this lesson many times. In this federal election voters have consistently identified the environment as a top priority. This is remarkable given the state of the pandemic and the urgent needs associated with the current situation.

The Conservative environmental platform features a melting glacier.

Canadians understand that the climate crisis is real and more and more want their governments to take bold action. This has not always been the case. A few years ago Canadians voted for a conservative government which had openly campaigned on doing little to nothing to fight climate change. They put the economy first and when the prime minister is so heavily tied to the oil industry as Stephen Harper was this means approving virtually any request from the oil industry while openly mocking environmentalists and our concerns. In this election the conservative climate platform not only exists but the front page features an image of a melting glacier. The change in tone is dramatic and reflects the new reality that public opinion in Canada shifting towards more environmental protection and less sacrifice of the natural environment for short term economic gains.

The conservative leadership has come to the realization that climate denial and anti environment messaging is increasingly unpopular and that this issue alone could keep his party out of government for many years to come. In a country where just a few years ago we were debating laws that would criminalize environmental activists who interfere with pipelines and label them as « terrorists » this is a sign of progress that should be celebrated by activists across the country. As the climate crisis continues to intensify, even right-wing parties will be forced by voters to take bold action. While there may be a back slide after the election – Erin O’Tool’s leadership and his approach on these issues may be contested by his party membership (who voted against his proposal to recognize the reality of climate change less than a year ago) it is safe to say that for the moment, the open denial of climate change has been excluded by all major parties in this election. This is a sign of progress and it shows how a vocal minority of citizens combined with increasing effects of climate change on the ground can shift public opinion in a matter of years. If the environmental movement in this country grows over the next few years as we exit the pandemic than our political parties and leaders will be forced to move beyond the current approach of changing their messaging to actually making bold changes in the way we consume resources and treat the planet.

Erin O’Toole rebrands conservative party while launching climate plan

In order to get there, we need everyone to take action by supporting the environmental movement, showing up and standing up for the environment, the planet and our future. These issues are in our hands and a shift in the trajectory is possible if we work together. It’s time to get involved, please take action to help spread the word that every voice, every protest and every pressure tactic will contribute to making progress on these issues.

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