Conservative leadership in Ontario embraces carbon pricing

Conservative leadership in Ontario embraces carbon pricing

By Cathy Orlando

This is it! Conservative leadership in Canada’s largest province, Ontario, has embraced carbon pricing.

Patrick Brown

Patrick Brown, leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party.

The leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (Ontario PC), Patrick Brown, said to the party faithful at a convention this weekend, “Climate change is a fact. It is a threat. It is man-made. We have to do something about it, and that something includes putting a price on carbon.”

It took great courage and leadership for Brown to declare the new position of the Ontario PC Party. According to a report in the CBC, the last line earned only a muted response and a few people yelled out “no.”

It got even better when a columnist in Canada’s largest conservative newspaper, the Toronto Sun, endorsed revenue-neutral carbon fees.  The Toronto Sun’s Lorrie Goldstein said that a carbon price’s “purpose is not to punish the public financially while fattening government and corporate coffers, but to give people a financial incentive for making less carbon-intensive purchases.”

Clean Prosperity

Conservatives all across Canada should take climate change and carbon pricing seriously. In the October 2015 Federal election, 53% of the voters Conservatives lost between 2011 and 2015 election supported government action on climate change.

In mid February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans for a nationally integrated carbon price. In Vancouver last week, the premiers agreed to work on carbon pricing. The fiercest hold-out for a national carbon price is conservative Premier Brad Wall of Saskatchewan. He faces an election this spring and will most likely dissolve provincial parliament and call an election this week. Barring something unforeseen, Wall will probably get re-elected in early April.

Premier Wall should note that the debate on carbon pricing is over. For 80 percent of Canadians — those who live in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and Alberta — carbon pricing is now legislated. As well, economist Trevor Tombe reports that, “a $30-per-tonne carbon tax in Saskatchewan would generate roughly $1.4 billion, enough to cut personal income taxes fully in half and still have money left over.”

Canada’s climate target is currently still the inadequate one set by the previous federal government (30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030). Over the next six months a national carbon pricing working group will outline Canada’s new plans for carbon pricing.

We are in a time of massive change. Critical issues must be treated in a non-partisan way or we risk doing nothing. Citizens’ Climate Lobbyists are fostering cooperation and collaboration in politics on non-partisan issues

Politicians can’t act until we tell them what we want. Much gratitude goes out to:

  • Everyone in Ontario who has built meaningful relationships with conservatives.
  • CCL Toronto for sending all those media packets to the Toronto Sun: 3 (2016), 18 (2015), 14 (2014) and 10 (2013).
  • To everyone who has ever sent a letter to the editor to a SunMedia newspaper.
  • Specifically, a lot of credit should go to Clean Prosperity, who have been working with conservatives.
  • To Climate Fast for bringing together 55 organizations pushing, amongst other things, for a non-cap and trade carbon pricing policy at the national level.
  • To all the other organizations out there doing their work.
  • To all the TV, radio and published media who hold our leaders accountable.

Think about it. Ontario politicians will now be debating what is the best carbon pricing policy and  what to do with the revenue. We are no longer debating if climate change is urgent nor if pricing carbon is the right thing to do.

The leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, Patrick Brown, by his declaration of the urgency of the climate crisis and a need for carbon pricing, has effectively brought the conservative voice to Canada’s carbon pricing table, and that is a very good thing.

Cathy Orlando
Cathy Orlando has put her words to work for the climate by getting letters and opinion pieces published in newspapers in every province in Canada. When she’s not safeguarding the climate alongside the best volunteers on the planet, you can probably find her stargazing, dancing, reading books not about climate change, hanging out with her husband Sanjiv, and mothering her three cherished daughters.