Ecojustice Blog – Special update Posted on September 7, 2021 (updated: September 8, 2021)

Federal Election 2021: What the parties are promising (so far)

Tony MaasStaff
Photo of Canada's parliament in Ottawa - Canadian election 2021

The 2021 federal election is an opportunity for Canadians to elect the federal government they believe can chart a path toward a sustainable future for this country.

In advance of the upcoming leaders’ debates, the Bloc Québécois, the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Liberal Party, and the NDP have all released their policy platforms. The platforms outline some big and exciting ideas — and draw attention to the differences between what each party is putting on offer.

Ecojustice is a registered charity, which means we must be non-partisan in our commentary. While we cannot advocate for or against any political party or candidate, we continue to advocate strongly for better environmental laws and policies that will build a safer, healthier, and more sustainable future for everyone in Canada.

Ecojustice is calling on all parties to outline actionable, enforceable steps to fight the climate crisis, reduce pollution, and better protect the air, land, and water we depend on for our survival and well-being. We encourage you to ask your local candidates where they stand on these issues too.

Election day in Canada is less than 2 weeks away. Ecojustice's director of legislative affairs @TonyMaas breaks down the parties' policy commitments on climate and environment to help you make informed voting decisions. #Elxn44

To inform your own assessment of the party platforms, here’s a summary of how Ecojustice’s top issues align with what the parties have promised in their platforms.

Setting and meeting legally-binding climate targets

In June 2021, the Government of Canada passed the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, into law.

This law requires the federal government to set a legally-binding emissions reduction targets and establish plans to achieve those targets. Canada must hit its first target by 2030, making the next eight years crucial for climate progress.

  • The Bloc Québécois proposes amending the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act to clarify that the federal government’s 2030 emissions reduction target is legally-binding in order to force it to meet this target.
  • The Conservative Party commits to reducing emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels — a return to Canada’s previous target set under the Paris Agreement and one that is weaker than Canada’s current target of a 40-45 per cent reduction. The party says they will achieve this weaker target “but without the government taxing working Canadians and driving jobs and investment out of the country.”
  • The Green Party commits to ensuring a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 60 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels by setting clear enforceable targets and timelines starting in 2023. They also commit to aiming to achieve net negative emissions in 2050.
  • The Liberal Party commits to reducing emissions by 40-45 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. They also commit to ensuring emissions from the oil and gas sector are capped at current levels and setting five-year targets to keep the sector on track to achieve net zero by 2050.
  • The NDP proposes setting a target that would require Canada to cut its emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. They also commit to establishing multi-year national and sectoral carbon budgets.

Accelerating a just transition to a low carbon economy

To avoid climate catastrophe, Canada needs to transition away from fossil fuel extraction and exports while supporting sustainable job creation in communities across Canada.

This means eliminating the export of thermal coal from Canada, including working with the United States to phase out the millions of tonnes of U.S. coal currently exported from Canadian ports. We need also need a plan to phase out the export of other fossil fuels and bring a complete end to federal funding for the oil, gas and coal industry.

  • The Bloc Québécois proposes to demand a climate test of all federal policies in order to measure their impact on the environment and climate change. The party also proposes to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline project.
  • The Conservative Party proposes a tax credit to rapidly accelerate the deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage technology for industries that heavily rely on fossil fuels.
  • The Green Party proposes to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking), end all subsidies to the fossil fuel sector, phase out existing oil and gas operations, and stop exports of U.S. coal from Canadian ports. They also commit to introducing a Just Transition Act before the end of 2021 and to replacing every high-paying fossil fuel sector job with a high-paying green sector job through wage insurance, retraining programs and early retirement plans.
  • The Liberal Party has committed to ending thermal coal exports from Canada, including U.S. coal, no later than 2030. It has also committed to a $2 billion Futures Fund to aid a just transition to a low-carbon economy.
  • The NDP commits to creating a Climate Accountability office to oversee federal climate action and end fossil fuel subsidies. The party promises to use money that would have gone into fossil fuel subsidies to fund low-carbon initiatives instead. They also promise to strengthen the federal environmental impact assessment process for new coal mines and mine expansion projects.

Updating the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and recognizing your right to a healthy environment

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) is one of Canada’s most important environmental laws. It is intended to protect people in Canada from toxic pollution and chemicals. But this law hasn’t been updated in more than 20 years and is not strong enough to protect Canadians from 21st century hazards.

During the last Parliament, the federal government introduced Bill C-28, legislation that finally introduced reforms to CEPA. Among these reforms was language explicitly recognizing your right to a healthy environment — a first for Canadian federal law. However, Bill C-28 did not pass before the election was called.

  • The Green Party commits to modernizing the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and to ensuring the right to a healthy environment is enforceable in law. They also promise to prevent exposures to toxics and pollution by requiring labelling of consumer products like cosmetics, cleaners and furniture.
  • The Liberal Party commits to a “strengthened Canadian Environmental Protection Act to protect everyone, including people most vulnerable to harm from toxic substances and those living in communities where exposure is high.” The party also promises to recognize the right to a healthy environment in a reformed CEPA.
  • The NDP has promised to strengthen CEPA and improve on the reforms tabled by the last federal government in Bill C-28, such as by including measures to better protect Canadians from toxic substances in everyday products like cosmetics.
  • The Bloc Québécois and the Conservative Party platforms do not mention updating CEPA.

Introducing a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights & addressing environmental justice

In the face of the climate, pollution and biodiversity crises, the federal government must protect all people in Canada adequately and equitably from environmental harm. This is especially true for people who are Black, Indigenous or who face other structural barriers due to their socio-economic status. These people tend to bear the worst consequences of poor environmental policies.

  • The Green Party has committed to establishing an Office of Environmental Justice at Environment and Climate Change Canada and supporting the passage of the proposed National Strategy Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice Act (introduced as Bill C-230 in the last Parliament). The party also promises to “ramp up programs to help all people in Canada benefit from nearby nature, especially racialized communities and others facing systemic barriers.”
  • The Liberal Party has promised to table legislation requiring the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to examine the links between race, socio-economic status, and exposure to environmental risk, and develop a strategy to address environmental justice. The party also promises to identify and prioritize the clean-up of contaminated sites in areas where Indigenous, racialized, and low-income Canadians live.
  • The NDP has committed to expanding protections for the natural environment, beginning with enshrining the right to a healthy environment in a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights to ensure clean water, land and air for all communities in Canada. The party also commits to creating an Office of Environmental Justice to address the disproportionate impacts that pollution and loss of biodiversity have on low-income, racialized and other marginalized communities.
  • The Bloc Québécois and the Conservative Party platforms do not mention the introduction of a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights or addressing environmental justice.

Supporting Indigenous-led conservation

The world faces an escalating biodiversity crisis, and Canada has a big role to play in preserving and protecting natural spaces. Of the estimated 80,000 known species in Canada, scientists have enough information on almost 30,000 species to know that at least 20 per cent are at-risk to some degree.

Indigenous communities have sustained biodiversity in Canada since time immemorial. The federal government must respect, recognize, and integrate their traditional knowledge and support Indigenous-led land use planning and the establishment of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs).

  • In 2010, the previous Conservative government committed to conserving 17 per cent of terrestrial lands. In this federal election, the Conservative Party has committed to achieving this target and increasing protections to 25 per cent of terrestrial lands. They commit to reaching this target by working with Indigenous communities to create more IPCAs that would be managed and stewarded by Indigenous Guardians.
  • The Green Party commits to protecting a minimum of 30 per cent of freshwaters and lands in each Canadian ecosystem by 2030 and 50 per cent by 2050, prioritizing carbon-rich ecosystems. The party also promises to support Indigenous-led protected and conservation areas and fund stewardship of these lands and waters by Indigenous guardians.
  • The Liberal Party promises to work with partners to ensure Canada meets its goals to conserve 25 per cent of lands and waters in Canada by 2025, increasing protections to 30 per cent of each by 2030. They say they will achieve these protection targets by working with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis partners to support new Indigenous Guardians programs, establishing new Indigenous Guardians Networks, and supporting Indigenous communities to build capacity to establish more IPCAs.
  • The NDP commits to protecting 30 per cent of Canada’s land, freshwater and oceans by 2030. They promise to support the creation and expansion of IPCAs in all areas of the country and expand the Indigenous Guardians Program.
  • The Bloc Québécois platform does not detail a position on Indigenous-led conservation.

The election is on! Here's how Canada's federal parties stand on 5 environmental categories: 1) climate targets 2) just transition 3) right to a healthy environment 4) environmental justice 5) Indigenous-led conservation. #Elxn44

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