There are those -- particularly Elizabeth May -- who are furious that the Trudeau government plans to keep the Harper government's emission targets. As I argued yesterday, it gives the impression that the Harper government never left. Chantal Hebert takes a different tack. She points out that the majority of Canadians support a tax on carbon:
According to an Abacus poll done last month, less than one third of Canadians oppose the introduction of a carbon tax as part of a larger climate change strategy. An overwhelming majority of non-Conservative voters support or could accept such a measure.It is a rare tax that finds favour with a majority in the public especially on the heels of decade-long concerted federal effort to vilify the concept. According to Abacus, the rhetoric expended by Harper’s government on making a carbon levy politically toxic even fell on the deaf ears of almost four in 10 Conservative voters.
She argues that Trudeau is building a ladder for action on climate change:
It is hard to reach for the sky in the absence of a ladder.The introduction of a national price on carbon is a crucial part of the building of a Canadian policy infrastructure sturdy enough to achieve steady progress on curbing carbon emissions. This is a policy for which governments will need public support for the long haul.The popular consensus on carbon pricing was not born out of thin air. The fact that there is wide provincial support for the concept is an essential part of the mix.
And keeping Harper's targets, she argues, is not the same as keeping Harper's do nothing policy:
Keeping Harper’s targets is not the same as sticking with the Conservatives’ climate change plan. By maintaining the existing targets, Trudeau’s Liberals maximize the chances that the transition to a national price on carbon (complete with an escalator clause) is relatively seamless.Given a choice between setting goals that may or may not be attainable at a prohibitively high political (and economic) cost, or putting in place the conditions for meeting more ambitious ones on a consensual federal-provincial basis over time, the latter should logically take precedence.
In particular, the election of an NDP government in Alberta has altered the alignment of the stars.
All progress is incremental. Whether it will be too little too late remains to be seen.