Trudeau Liberals disappoint with disingenuous commitments to combat climate change

Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna under fire for failing to set tougher carbon targets.

By Leah Ching, Editor-in-Chief


Justin Trudeau campaigned on promises of “Real Change” and a bold plan to fight climate change. Now, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, has announced that the government plans to stick with goals of meeting the former Conservative government’s carbon targets. After calling these targets “unambitious,” “fake,” and “the floor, not the ceiling of what Canada should be doing” in the past, McKenna is coming under fire for announcing that the federal government plans to “at least” meet the target.

Far from a bold plan for “Real Change,” McKenna’s plans are to grow the economy, while meeting the Conservatives’ goals of reducing carbon emissions by 17% by 2020 (using 2005 as a baseline for measurement).

These goals are highly disappointing to many Canadians. The Liberals campaigned on a promise to set national targets to lower carbon emissions. To many Canadians, the Trudeau Liberals are no different from their predecessors in prioritizing economy over environment.

McKenna came under fire in the House of Commons, with NDP and Liberal MPs disappointed that the federal government did not aim to achieve a better target. NDP MP Linda Duncan said in the house, “Why is the government now breaking its promise to the world and to future generations of Canadians? Why is it backtracking?”

The former government, led by Stephen Harper, was widely criticized for withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol after it was clear that Canada would not be able to meet their Kyoto pledge. McKenna offered justification for the government’s plans, saying, “The Harper government had absolutely no plan to reach the target. That is not what we are going to do.”

The Liberals have announced that Trudeau will ratify the Paris climate treaty in addition to developing a national climate change strategy, including a national carbon price in cooperation with the provinces. The Paris treaty, while being a pleasant symbolic gesture, contains no binding targets for reducing carbon emissions, no timelines, deadlines, or penalties for failure to comply.

Still, the fact remains that the lack of meaningful commitment and action is a large disappointment to those that hoped that Trudeau’s election would come with substantial action against climate change. Student environmental activist Janna McDonald told The Argus, “This is especially disappointing to the youth constituencies of Canada that chose to vote Liberal.” The Liberals made a constructive effort to address young Canadians’ concerns on issues such as marijuana legalization, youth jobs, the environment, affordable and accessible post-secondary action, and LGBTQ+ rights. One study undertaken by Abacus Data suggests that young Canadians were critical to the Liberal party’s victory.

“It will be interesting to see if the Liberals will be able to count on the continued support of young constituents after their choices in regards to the environment, to the future of Canada, and the land they are leaving behind for us to live on,” said McDonald. With the Prime Minister’s plans to implement Youth Constituency councils across Canada, as well as one at the national level, the Liberals can be sure that young voters will be eager to hold McKenna and her counterparts accountable for their shortcomings in addressing climate change.

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